When Oscar De La Hoya decided to make his return to the ring nearly 13 years after his retirement, he was ready to get into a fight again.
The now 48-year-old Olympic gold medalist ultimately selected ex-UFC champion Vitor Belfort as his opponent as part of the upcoming Triller Fight Club event on Sept. 11 but when the bout was first coming together it was being promoted as an exhibition.
Exhibitions have been all the rage in boxing lately with bouts involving names such as Floyd Mayweather, Logan Paul and Mike Tyson with all of them stepping into the ring to do battle but with a set of rules that don’t allow for winners and losers to be declared no matter the actual result in the fight, which means nothing gets added to anybody’s record.
De La Hoya wanted no part of that, which is why he insisted on a professional boxing match with Belfort that will be sanctioned by the California State Athletic Commission with judges scoring ringside. On Tuesday as part of a pre-fight press conference to promote the upcoming event, De La Hoya explained why he was only interested in a real fight rather than an exhibition.
“This is not a game,” De La Hoya said. “We don’t play boxing. We don’t play UFC. We don’t play MMA. I literally said if we’re going to do this, let’s do it for real. Let’s not do this song and dance. Let’s not do these exhibitions that we’re tired of. This is the real thing. The fact that Belfort feels great. Look at him. I feel amazing. I feel literally better than ever. The fact that we both agree that it’s going to be a real fight. It’s going to be a lot of fun. I have no sh*t to talk about Belfort whatsoever. I respect you, brother, like there’s no tomorrow.
“But I’ll tell you one thing — we’re going to kick the sh*t out of each other. That’s one thing for sure. That’s what I’m actually looking forward to. Call me crazy but I’m looking forward to it. I miss that getting hit. For some strange reason, I miss getting hit so come Sept. 11, it’s going to be a lot of fun.”
While some might call De La Hoya vs. Belfort a gimmick of some kind as it pits a multi-time boxing champion against a UFC veteran with only a single boxing match on his resume, “The Golden Boy” obviously disagrees in large part because this is being treated as a real fight rather than an exhibition.
That said, De La Hoya has no problem with the current influx of YouTube celebrities like Jake Paul or his brother Logan getting into boxing as long as they are taking the sport seriously.
“Look anybody who gets in the ring, you have to respect no matter what,” De La Hoya said. “I strongly feel if Jake Paul or Logan Paul or if there’s other YouTubers and if they want to get in the ring, just don’t let it be with legends. It’s like maybe you’re not ready for that yet. It becomes a circus. It becomes not real. Obviously I want no part of that and that’s one of the reasons why I wanted this to be a real, sanctioned fight cause everybody who knows me knows I’ve never been in a boring fight whatsoever. I go out there and fight. I leave it out on the line.
“The Mayweather-Logan Paul, unfortunately didn’t turn out the way they wanted it to turn out but that’s not us. We have too much at stake. When I see Belfort, I can see his eyes and I can see how proud he is of his legacy and I feel that same way, too. I respect that. That’s why I can say with true honesty, yeah we’re going to f*cking beat the sh*t out of each other. Yes, it’s going to be a lot of fun but that’s what we love doing. That’s what drives us. I’m looking forward to it, I really am.”
As he prepares for his return in September, De La Hoya promises he’s feeling better than ever and that only added to his desire to make it a real fight with Belfort.
Of course, while De La Hoya is absolutely keeping his primary focus on the Brazilian, he expects that this fight will hopefully serve as the first of many as he makes his full-time return to the sport of boxing.
“I’m going to do what I have to do in order to take myself to that next one, to the next level and challenge myself and continue to face the toughest challenges in my life,” De La Hoya said.
“Yes, do I want to fight Floyd again? Absolutely. Would I want to fight ‘Canelo’ [Alvarez]? Why not? If I get knocked out, I get knocked out. At least it was a fun fight. That’s my mentality.”