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De La Hoya's Corner : Foreman Likes All He Sees in De La Hoya

Boxing: The senior citizen of the heavyweight division is impressed with the new young champion's poise and power.


LAS VEGAS — George Foreman, the most famous boxing champion in Las Vegas on this scorching Friday night, had nothing but praise for a young man fast becoming the hottest thing in the sport. And, perhaps in time, as famous as Foreman himself.

Foreman, the former heavyweight champion who has, perhaps more than any other boxer in the history of the sport aged like fine wine, saw lots to like about the new World Boxing Council super-lightweight champion, Oscar De La Hoya.

"Quite honestly, I was amazed about tonight," Foreman said. "I was amazed at how well he did, and how young he is while doing it."

Among the things that amazed Foreman, at ringside to do commentary for HBO's telecast, were De La Hoya's poise, the power in his punches and his ability to overcome what Foreman called "the Legends." In this case, the Legend was Julio Cesar Chavez, the 33-year-old champion from Mexico, who took the ring against De La Hoya with a record of 97-1-1 and with virtually all of Mexico rooting and cheering and lighting candles for him.

"I did not expect him to be able to handle this as well as he did," Foreman said.

"When he got a charge from Chavez, he stayed cool. He didn't get into the brawling that Chavez wanted. And for somebody his age, with all the things going on around him that were, that just amazed and impressed me."

Foreman, one of the biggest hitters of all time, was also impressed by the sting and power in De La Hoya's punches.

"It doesn't look like those punches are that hard, but I've seen it a couple of times now, and they really got the job done," Foreman said. "I don't know exactly what it is. It's like a whiskey bottle hitting you.

"That was one of the things I needed answered about him--can he hit hard. We knew he could box, but can he hit and cut? He answered that for good for me tonight. I want to take a look at what's in those gloves sometime. His hands really do more damage than they appear to be doing."

But the biggest question Foreman said he had was how De La Hoya would deal with "the Legends."

"I remember fighting an older Muhammad Ali," Foreman said. "I was better, quicker, younger, stronger--all those things. But I was fighting a legend, just like Oscar was tonight. And when you do that, you tend to have all sorts of things happen to you. You fall off the stool in your corner, you step wrong getting into the ring. That's why they are legends, because they have gotten through all that and they make you feel all those things just because they are who they are.

"No matter what sport you are talking about, there is one thing about legends: The wind is always at their back."

Foreman said he hoped that De La Hoya would stay in his current super-lightweight division, at his current weight of 139 pounds, even though the long-range plan for the next year or so is to take De La Hoya up one more division to welterweight, at 147, and get him into a match against Pernell Whitaker, sometime next spring.

"I really like him right where he is," Foreman said. "He looks good, his body looks good, nice tight stomach. I think they need to be careful with him. It's when these guys start jumping up in class that they sometimes get in trouble. Like the days of Sugar Ray Robinson."

Bob Arum, the promoter whose plan it is to take De La Hoya up to that next division, didn't seem fazed at all by the jump to 147.

"This kid just gets better and better," Arum said. "He's going to be the greatest of all time."

Well, perhaps. For the moment, just having beaten one legend and having another praise him in the aftermath should be enough for the young man born in East L.A.

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