By breaking from his managers last week in an abrupt and muddled bid to seize "full control" of his career, Oscar De La Hoya—the only U.S. boxer to win a gold medal at the Barcelona Olympics and the sport's rising Golden Boy—has raised questions about both his judgment and his sense of loyalty. The 20-year-old De La Hoya, 11-0 as a pro and zeroing in on his first world title, was set to make his New York City debut last Thursday in a 10-round junior lightweight bout against Jes�s Vidal Concepci�n, but he canceled, citing "mental exhaustion." He then fired his managers, Robert Mittleman and Steve Nelson, and charged them with breach of contract. The announcement put on hold a 10-fight deal with HBO (worth as much as $13 million) that was to have been finalized on Dec. 10, as well as a reported endorsement contract with McDonald's and a movie deal for De La Hoya's life story.
After refusing to speak to reporters all week, De La Hoya called a press conference last Friday and showed up with a cast on his left hand. He said that a ligament injury was the real reason he had pulled out of Thursday's fight. Backed by his new lawyer, Michael Norris—who admits he had not even met the fighter before the previous Saturday—De La Hoya dismissed speculation that someone else was behind the firing of Mittleman and Nelson and laughed off reports that he had received a suitcase filled with $1.5 million from two mystery men.
Though De La Hoya insists that he now intends to manage himself, he also says he will be advised by his father, Joel, by a cousin, Gerardo Salas, and by L.A.-based advertising consultant Raynaldo Garza. Nelson and Mittleman have filed a $10 million interference-with-contract suit against Garza and Salas.
In all likelihood the Oscar express will roll on because boxing clearly needs bankable heroes. The cast will disappear from De La Hoya's hand, Mittleman and Nelson will get a settlement, HBO will sign its new star, and next spring De La Hoya will fight for a title. Whether the Golden Boy image will survive is another question.
Philadelphia entrepreneur Pete Klamka has created a line of 14 colognes, each designed to evoke a famous college sports program. The Florida State scent, for example, is "rugged, athletic, spicy," while the Alabama scent, according to Klamka, is "Southern and spicy." A Michigan grad, Klamka claims that the Wolverine fragrance "smells like 175 years of academic and athletic excellence."
Nevada-Las Vegas is among Klamka's choices too, which leads us to wonder: What does a few years of NCAA probation smell like?
The golf world, which recently lost Heather Farr to cancer (SI, Nov. 29), was further shaken last week by the news that Paul Azinger (below) has malignant lymphoma in his right shoulder. The timing seemed particularly cruel considering that 1993, which included a victory at the PGA Championship, was the finest year of Azinger's career.
Fortunately the prognosis for Azinger's recovery is good. The malignancy is in a small portion of bone rather than in the soft tissue that lymphoma normally attacks. The cure rate for lymphoma in bone is about 90%.