An impressive return by Oscar De La Hoya has prospective opponents lining up
On the same February day that Monica Lewinsky was spotted buying low-fat Rice Krispies treats at a New York City bakery, promoter Bob Arum bumped into her at a midtown hotel. Arum invited the onetime Clintern to last Saturday's bout between Oscar De La Hoya and Derrell Coley at Madison Square Garden. "Monica's look has changed," says Arum. "I'd say she's now between a welterweight and a junior middleweight."
Arum could just as well have been describing De La Hoya and his prospective opponents. The Coley fight was the first outing for the Golden Boy since he lost his WBC 147-pound title to Felix Trinidad on a disputed decision last September, and the latest Oscar performance figured to influence the plans of a number of fighters in boxing's two most talent-laden divisions.
It certainly clouded Coley's future. Though he entered the ring ranked No. 1 by the WBC, Coley was a virtual nobody to his opponent. "I haven't been ducking Derrell," De La Hoya said. "I'd never even heard of him." Scorned for the dancing that cost him the Trinidad fight, De La Hoya turned slugger at the Garden. He pressed Coley patiently and wobbled him in the fourth round with thudding body blows. Coley, his right eye swollen from left hooks, took a final withering left to the stomach in the seventh, slumped to his knees and was counted out just as the round ended. "I felt strong at 147," De La Hoya later said. "My plan is to fight four times this year and get four knockouts. Coley was the first."
The question is, Who will be the next? De La Hoya has tentatively agreed to a June 17 rematch with Trinidad, who has moved up to 154. Unwilling to fight at that weight, at which Trinidad presumably would be stronger, De La Hoya hopes to settle on a catch weight—say, 150. The bout hinges on Trinidad's beating WBA super welterweight champ David Reid, this Friday in Las Vegas.
If Trinidad gets by Reid, he'll abdicate his WBC welterweight crown, and De La Hoya, having beaten the top contender, will be declared champ. If Trinidad is beaten by Reid, De La Hoya plans to bypass him for Sugar Shane Mosley, the former IBF lightweight champ now two knockouts into his welterweight career. De La Hoya and Mosley have a history: 15 years ago the 12-year-old Shane outpointed the 11-year-old Oscar in a Pasadena tournament. "This time it would be the Battle of L.A.," says Mosley.
De La Hoya's reluctance to bulk up to 154 rules out Reid, whose most intriguing matchup would be a fellow Philadelphian, IBF middleweight champ Bernard Hopkins. Reid would just as soon go toe-to-toe with Anthony Hopkins. "Bernard can't sell more tickets than I can count on my fingers," Reid says.
The fighter Reid really wants is undefeated IBF junior middleweight champ Fernando Vargas, who next faces Ike Quartey on April 15 in Las Vegas. Vargas's promoter, Gary Shaw, finds Reid-Vargas as unappetizing as Reid finds Reid-Hopkins. "Trinidad would be a bigger draw," says Shaw. "He beat De La Hoya." Of course, the biggest draw for Vargas would be De La Hoya. "Oscar can't keep fighting the Derrell Coleys of the world," says Shaw. "He's got to move up and fight a somebody."
The weighting game has just begun.