NEW YORK — Even here, at ground zero for Saturday night's undisputed heavyweight championship fight between Evander Holyfield and Lennox Lewis at Madison Square Garden, Oscar De La Hoya was the main topic of discussion at a news conference Thursday.
The speaker was International Boxing Federation junior-middleweight champion Fernando Vargas, who'll make the first defense of his title on Saturday night's card against Howard Clarke (26-10-2, eight knockouts) of West Ham, England.
But Vargas (15-0, 15 knockouts) spent most of his time talking about De La Hoya. It is, of course, in Vargas' best interests to speak ill of De La Hoya since Vargas would like to lure De La Hoya into a big-money fight. But Vargas seems to genuinely dislike De La Hoya even though both are from Southern California, Vargas from Oxnard and De La Hoya from East Los Angeles, and both are Mexican American.
"He gets so scared in the ring," said Vargas of De La Hoya, the World Boxing Council welterweight champion, "that he reminds me of a kid whose lunch money I used to take when I was a bully as a kid. De La Hoya doesn't want to fight. He is a sissy. Everybody knows that. If someone was saying the things about me that I've been saying about him, I'd be up there in the ring in a second."