Patrick Reusse: Family made De La Hoya golden

  • Article by: PATRICK REUSSE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 7, 2012 - 12:15 AM

Before he became one of the biggest names in boxing, Oscar De La Hoya was a teen out of East L.A. surrounded by his supportive relatives.

Oscar De La Hoya dedicated his quest for a gold medal in boxing in the 1992 Olympics to his mother, Cecilia, who died of cancer two years earlier.

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Three of the De La Hoya brothers owned houses on two lots in East Los Angeles. Raul and Vicente had houses side by side on the street. Joel's house was located directly behind Vicente's, and the families shared a driveway.

Eduardo was the independent brother. He lived in a house three blocks from the De La Hoyas' main compound.

The family had better reasons for congregating in this neighborhood, but for a visiting reporter from Minnesota this location was perfect: There was a King Taco on a busy street a couple of blocks away.

Believe me. Next time you're in East L.A., check out King Taco.

This was the late spring of 1992 and Joel's 19-year-old son, Oscar, was getting ready for his final push to be the 132-pounder on the U.S. Olympic boxing team. First, there would be the Olympic trials, and then the Olympic boxoff between the trials winner and the "most worthy opponent."

Oscar was sitting in the family living room one afternoon, between workouts, and was asked about living in the midst of all these De La Hoyas. He had that infectious smile, then as now, and showed it as he said:

"One of my strengths is family power. There are many fighters who have no family help. When I fight, there are uncles, aunts, cousins cheering for me. If I ever need help -- a ride to the gym or something -- there are so many people in my family for me."

By the spring of '92, Oscar was not much in need of rides to the gym, since he recently had become the owner of a black, low-slung Nissan 300ZX. Clearly, there was an expectation of revenue opportunities in Oscar's future, and the young man was able to secure reasonable payments for his new ride.

De La Hoya had his choice of several gyms within a few miles. One was the Brooklyn Boxing Gym in the Boyle Heights section of L.A. The gym was in a converted auto-repair garage.

Enrique Bolanos, a fighter from the 1940s, was a constant presence at the gym. He loved to show clippings and tell his stories of long-ago battles to the young fighters that came to the gym.

Oscar had heard these stories frequently, yet he greeted the old fighter and chatted for a few minutes. Later, Bolanos would say: "I have known Oscar's father for many years. It is a very good family. Oscar will be a world champion. Very good hands."

De La Hoya was about to show those hands in a workout with Robert Alcazar, a trainer chosen by his father. Al Stankie had been the trainer when a 17-year-old Oscar won a gold medal at the Goodwill Games in 1990.

Stankie ran into financial and other problems, and Joel didn't want those to become a controversy surrounding Oscar.

The De La Hoya-Alcazar workout was impressive, with Oscar firing lightning combinations and the trainer deflecting them with his flat catcher's mitts.

A day later, the De La Hoya delegation headed to Resurrection Gym in the middle of the East L.A. barrio. A new Resurrection Catholic Church had been built, with the old church converted to a boxing gym.

There were dozens of Mexican lads punching bags, jumping ropes and listening to instructions from a cadre of coaches. There were civilians crowding into the gym after word spread that Shane Mosley was making the trip from Pomona for a five rounds of sparring with De La Hoya.

Mosley, the best amateur 139-pounder in the country, would get upset in an Olympic trials quarterfinal and miss out on competing in the Barcelona Olympics.

De La Hoya would win the Olympic trials, defeat Patrice Brooks in the boxoff and head to Barcelona as one of the best U.S. hopes to get a boxing gold medal.

Oscar had dedicated this crusade to his mother, Cecilia, who had died from cancer two years earlier.

"I did not know she was so sick," De La Hoya said. "Our parents decided not to tell us until after the Goodwill Games [in Seattle]. I was so close to my mother. I'm still not over her death. She wanted me to win the Olympic gold medal. Before she died, I told her I was going to do that.

"For her."

De La Hoya succeeded. In Barcelona, he went through the Olympic field and defeated Germany's Marco Rudolph 7-2 on scoring punches in the gold medal bout.

Oscar turned pro after the Olympics and became the "Golden Boy." His 39-6 career record in 16 years as a professional included two losses to Shane Mosley.

He started Golden Boy Enterprises and has turned Golden Boy Promotions into a powerhouse. He has endured several controversies.

There was none of that two decades ago, when Oscar De La Hoya was home in East L.A., getting ready to write a great American story:

A good kid from a good family winning the Olympic gold medal in honor of his deceased and beloved mother.

Patrick Reusse can be heard noon-4 weekdays on 1500-AM. • preusse@startribune.com

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    Friday July 6, 2012

    Oscar De La Hoya won nine WBO, WBC, WBA and/or IBA world titles in the ring during his 16-year pro boxing career.

  • REMEMBERING 1992

    For three Saturdays in a row, columnist Patrick Reusse is looking back at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona.

    Last week: The Dream Team

    Today: Boxer Oscar De La Hoya

    Next week: Wrestler Dennis Koslowski

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