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Summer Splash | Cover Story

Ringmaster

From East L.A. to Cabo Lucas, Oscar De La Hoya's success keeps him in a summer frame of mind.

May 20, 1999|KEVIN BAXTER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Growing up poor in East Los Angeles, Oscar De La Hoya had few options when it came to finding ways to pass those lazy summer days.

"I'd hang out with my buddies in the neighborhood," the boxing champ remembers. "We'd go to the park. Fly kites. That's all we could do."

One summer, just to break the monotony, he and a dozen friends slept on the roof of their apartment building for four or five nights. And then there was the infamous "paleta incident."

When De La Hoya was 11, a neighbor told him he could make a lot of money selling frozen fruit bars from a pushcart and splitting the profit with the cart's owner. So before dawn the next morning, De La Hoya was in line, waiting for a cart.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Friday May 21, 1999 Home Edition Calendar Part F Page 17 Entertainment Desk 1 inches; 28 words Type of Material: Correction
Parentage--Actress Shanna Moakler is the mother of boxer Oscar De La Hoya's 2-month-old daughter, Atiana Cecilia, but not of his 1-year-old son, Jacob, as was reported in Thursday's Calendar Weekend.

"I pushed it around for about an hour and didn't sell anything," De La Hoya says. "After a while, it started to get hot. So I ate a paleta." And then another. And another.

By the end of the day, De La Hoya's stomach was full but the cart was empty--and so were his pockets. In fact, he was 50 cents in debt since he'd eaten more ice cream than he'd sold.

Today, things are a little different. Well, OK, they're a lot different. De La Hoya is a four-time world boxing champion and a millionaire many times over. Now he spends his summers in a way befitting a young, single millionaire adored in the United States and Mexico.

"My favorite hangout is Cabo San Lucas," he says. "Golfing and fishing, that's all there is to do there. I'll take friends, golfing buddies, [and] just go out and have a great time."

Which is why he has a beach house in Mexico. Plus a condo in Whittier, a $3.9-million palace in Bel-Air and a home in Big Bear. And you can bet he doesn't have to sleep on the roof at any one of them to keep himself amused.

"I'm living a dream that any kid would want to have. I don't want to wake up," he says.

But wait, the dream's about to get better. Although a date has not been set, De La Hoya is engaged to marry actress Shanna Moakler, star of the USA Network's "Pacific Blue" and mother of his two children, 1-year-old Jacob and 2-month-old Atiana Cecilia.

For now, family night out generally involves trips to local restaurants. But no matter where they wind up, the fighter is often called upon to defend his one non-boxing title: King of the Kitchen. And the moniker has nothing to do with culinary skills.

"Shanna calls me that," he says. "Because whenever we go out, all the kitchen workers come over to shake my hand and get my autograph."

Not that it bothers him. De La Hoya, who fights Oba Carr in a World Boxing Council welterweight title fight Saturday in Las Vegas, may live with the millionaires but he clearly identifies with the working class. And they with him. In fact, he still hangs out with his old friends from East L.A. and has even hired some of them as personal assistants. That's because, for De La Hoya, the most important part of his personal journey was the start.

"If I grew up with money, I would have been a totally different kid," he says. "I'm just happy and fortunate that I grew up in the streets of East L.A. It's funny, because I can truly say that I was happier back then, having nothing. Because I had my freedom. I could be a kid. Nobody was looking at me with a microscope.

"I miss all that."

On the upside, however, it's going to be another scorching summer--and now De La Hoya can afford all the paletas he can eat.

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