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Gladiator
S.L. Price
June 19, 2000
HE SAYS HE'S A GLADIATOR, BUT OSCAR DE LA HOYA HAS YET TO GIVE A DEFINITIVE RING PERFORMANCE THAT PROVES HE HAS THE HEART OF A GREAT CHAMPION
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June 19, 2000

Gladiator

HE SAYS HE'S A GLADIATOR, BUT OSCAR DE LA HOYA HAS YET TO GIVE A DEFINITIVE RING PERFORMANCE THAT PROVES HE HAS THE HEART OF A GREAT CHAMPION

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No physical evidence links De La Hoya to the acts alleged by Rao. Yet, for De La Hoya, any court proceeding promises embarrassment. A motion by Rao's lawyers dated May 15 contains a statement by former De La Hoya bodyguard Eric Purvis, who worked for the boxer in 1995 and was later arrested and sentenced to two years in prison for impersonating a police officer. Purvis described an incident in which De La Hoya and a male friend "were trying to take [a] girl's jeans off and she was saying 'no, no.' She seemed scared." Another time, Purvis stated, he was "awakened in the middle of the night by a girl who was yelling 'stop, stop' to De La Hoya, who was attempting to have sex with the girl in the same room [in] which I was sleeping." Purvis also said, "Among De La Hoya, his friends and his brother Joel, these incidents of De La Hoya meeting younger girls at nightclubs and getting them drunk and having sex with them were not kept secret, but were actively made jokes about."

Worse, the May 15 motion includes sections of depositions taken from De La Hoya, his brother and the boxer's friend Joey Gonzalez that seem to give differing accounts of what happened in Cabo on the night of June 26, 1996. Oscar's version is that he and Rao and a group of 10 to 20 people left a bar after midnight and went back to party in Oscar's condo, that he had no sexual relations with Rao and that she was escorted by someone else into a guest bedroom, where, he assumed, she passed out from drinking. Joel states that he remembers no such party being held at the condo after midnight. Gonzalez states that there was a party but Rao did not get so drunk that she had to be put in the guest bedroom.

Being Oscar means never acting concerned. Although the Cabo case is still in discovery, he says his lawyers have already made it "disappear." His day in the ring at Big Bear is done, his hair is wet and clean; he wears only a thin shirt against the cooling mountain air. Asked if he knew Rao, he says, "No, no." Then, "Wait. I met her...." Reminded that a photograph of the two of them was taken that night, De La Hoya says, "Oh, yeah, of course. We met in Cabo. Oh, my god. Nothing happened." You didn't sleep with her? "Zero happened. It's false allegation, all the way down the board." His daughter toddles across the porch to his left leg. Oscar blows her a Bronx cheer. "It frustrated me at first," he says, "but then I said, 'What do I have to hide?' I'm going to pay legal fees, headaches, but I'm not worried.

"People who know me—my family, my fans, the general public—know I would never, ever do anything like that. You can round up the few girlfriends I have had, and you can ask them, 'Is Oscar like that?' They'll say, 'Oh, Oscar is such a pussycat.' " He stops, babbles at Atiana: AHH-pap-pap-pap-pap! "I respect women too much."

Moakler says what everyone around De La Hoya says: "Oscar doesn't have to rape anyone." Moakler can be walking down the street with De La Hoya, and women will run up and kiss him as if he were some athletic Elvis. She'll go to the bathroom at a restaurant, and by the time she returns to their table he's holding 20 phone numbers. Once, a woman brushed by her and began rubbing herself against De La Hoya. Moakler broke in, "Excuse me, but we're together?" The woman ignored her.

Now, though, De La Hoya insists, "I'm like a kid in a candy store with no money. I want it, but I can't have it." He will be faithful to Moakler, he promises, yet his experience with women has made him wary even of her. "To this day, I ask myself, 'Why is she with me?' " he says. "But...it's real love." He turns to his daughter, banging on his knee with her little fist. "Hi, you little s—," he says softly.

One is tempted to believe he can keep himself out of trouble, but the women will always be out there, and Rao is still looming, and some of the testimony in that May 15 motion leaves a chill. Two of Rao's schoolmates tell of seeing her and De La Hoya together that night in 1996, of seeing him ply her with beer at a nightclub and dance with her later at another club, of seeing her personality darken and her weight drop in the days and weeks after. Both friends also remember seeing De La Hoya and Rao leave the first club together, and both remember the cries of others in their crowd as he led her to his sports utility vehicle.

"Oscar, what are you doing?" one of the schoolmates yelled, according to his testimony. "She's only 15 years old."

Several other people yelled the same thing, according to the statements in the motion. One girl said it in Spanish just as he walked past her: "Oscar, quince a�os!"

De La Hoya gave the people a smile, according to the testimony, and then he and the girl stepped into the car.

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