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THE INSIDE TRACK | PAGE TWO / RANDY HARVEY

De La Hoya Remembers East L.A. With a Passion

September 10, 1997|RANDY HARVEY

As he entered the old Resurrection Church on South Lorena Street in East Los Angeles, Art Torres was visibly touched as he looked above the altar and saw the restored fresco of Jesus.

"This is the church where I used to come," said Torres, California's Democratic Party chairman and a former state senator. "The nuns used to rap me on the knuckles."

His companion, Oscar De La Hoya, smiled. He doesn't remember it as a church but as Resurrection Gym. It's the place he first had his knuckles wrapped, training there from the time he was 10 until he won his gold medal in the 1992 Olympics.

On Tuesday, it reopened as the Oscar De La Hoya Youth Boxing Center. The World Boxing Council welterweight champion bought it in 1996 for $450,000, then spent $500,000 turning it into a sparkling after-school refuge for young boxers from the neighborhood.

"I know there were people here who used to say, 'Oscar forgot about us,' " said De La Hoya, who's fighting Hector Camacho on Saturday night in Las Vegas.

"That was never the case. Providing something for the youth in this neighborhood has always been my dream, more than winning a gold medal or world titles. This is their gym."

Watching the ribbon-cutting ceremony from the back of the gym, Tony Gonzalez said De La Hoya has been a godsend.

Gonzalez has that from a reliable source. I should say Father Gonzalez. He's the priest from the Assumption Church in a neighboring parish.

"I've read that our community is split on Oscar," he said. "Maybe some people are jealous. But most people love him. I know, because I listen to them. They tell me.

"In the homilies I preach, I use him as an example. We hear the news of a city councilman who represents our people and his drug issue. A woman told me the other day, 'His mother died, he's sad.' I told her, I know someone whose mother died, and he was sad. He went on to win a gold medal.

"People make choices. In our community, we must celebrate the people like Oscar who make the right choices. He's our hope and our light."

*

The Kings are not for sale. . . .

The team's president, Tim Leiweke, apologized Tuesday for suggesting owners Philip Anschutz and Ed Roski might sell the Kings if they don't get approval for a new downtown arena, saying he was "passionate" and "emotional" when he made the comment. . . .

Even if Councilman Joel Wachs manages to kill the downtown arena deal, Leiweke said Anschutz and Roski are committed to the Kings and will build a facility elsewhere in Los Angeles County. . . .

How committed are they? Sources say Pittsburgh Penguin owner Howard Baldwin was intrigued by the Kings' cash offer for Jaromir Jagr. . . .

Not intrigued enough to make the deal, however, without also receiving several promising young players. . . .

Mighty Duck Coach Pierre Page called the other day to talk about his team. . . .

I probably should have warned him that one reason Ron Wilson was fired was because he was too press friendly. But I didn't. . . .

As Calgary's coach last season, Page said he didn't like facing a Duck line that included both Paul Kariya and Teemu Selanne. So he's not likely to separate them now that he's their coach. . . .

That assumes the Ducks will sign Kariya, a restricted free agent. . . .

"Where did the Bulls go to sign Michael Jordan, Las Vegas?" Page asked. "I'll pay the air fare for Jack [General Manager Jack Ferreira] and Paul's agent to go there and settle this." . . .

The Ducks had better hurry. Kariya's price is going up, if those reports out of Philadelphia are true about Eric Lindros' seven-year, $60-million extension. . . .

Luke Walton, a 6-foot-8 forward from San Diego University High, has home visits scheduled with UCLA, USC, UC Santa Barbara, Arizona, Utah and Boston College. . . .

Bill Walton's son a Trojan? . . .

In 1995, former Japanese Professional League home run leader Orestes Destrade said of Hideo Nomo: "The first year he came up, no one could hit him. He dominated the league in 1990. But by the second or third year, we started figuring him out." . . .

Hmmm.

*

While wondering if Kansas City's mayor thinks Elvis Grbac is an embarrassment to humankind, I was thinking: The 49ers could use him now, I still wish the Angels had traded for Mark McGwire, I like De La Hoya over Camacho in six.

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