The Oscar Nation used just about any reason Saturday--baptisms, poker parties and birthday celebrations--to gather to watch its hero, Oscar De La Hoya, fight Felix Trinidad in Las Vegas.
When De La Hoya lost a split decision, the joy of cheering him on turned to disbelief at one Claremont gathering.
A chorus of "Oh no! Oh no!" burst through the living room.
"I can't believe it," one man shouted. "I hate boxing," another disgruntled fan pronounced.
The Claremont gathering, hosted by Montebello lawyer Raul Ayala and public relations executive Valerie Martinez, started early in the afternoon with the baptism of their 2-year-old son, Antonio Jesus.
After the ceremony, talk among the 50 friends and family turned to the fight.
The Claremont party was one of numerous fight gatherings throughout Southern California; the fight has dominated sports headlines and Spanish-language TV and radio airwaves for days.
Much of the hoopla centered on Latino themes: A Puerto Rican challenging L.A.'s Golden Boy or Puerto Rican nationalism personified by Trinidad vs. De La Hoya's identification as an American hero who is of Mexican descent.
Underlying the hype, however, is the realization among many outside East Los Angeles that De La Hoya is not universally loved within his own community.
His hometown critics say he has forgotten his Eastside roots, cringe at his "pretty boy" image and say he has become consumed by his own hype.
"He's a punk and he believes his own hype," said Julian Mendoza, 25, of City of Commerce.
A Chicano studies professor who lives on the Eastside said De La Hoya can't satisfy his critics, who are likely jaded by other issues: distrust of government, political scandals, poor schools.
"Oscar is a shining white knight," Cal State L.A. professor Lou Negrete said. "No one in the past has the kind of reputation and following that Oscar has. But there are these distractions in his private life."
Negrete pointed to the fact that De La Hoya has fathered one child out of wedlock and was accused of raping a 16-year-old girl in 1995 in Mexico.
"It looks like a drama that is not complimentary," said the professor, who boxed as a youth at Cathedral High School near downtown.
At the Claremont gathering, 19-year-old Erica Chavez of Whittier, was quick to forgive.
"Everybody makes mistakes, nobody is perfect," said Chavez. "He's living the classic dream."
But Amanda Romo Chacon, a Claremont customer service manager, disagreed.
"He is no role model," she said. "If his mother was alive, none of this stuff would have happened because she would have made him tow the line. . . . I am definitely a critic."
Another knock repeatedly used against De La Hoya by his critics--that he has turned his back on the Eastside--is unfair, Negrete said, noting that the fighter has supported several charities and made appearances at local events.
Nevertheless, those arguments in Oscar Nation were heard Saturday as fight aficionados gathered around TV sets.
East L.A. resident Dan Ortiz, who is pro-Oscar, blamed the lack of support on plain envy. Ortiz said many wish they could also get out of East L.A. and make it on the world stage like De La Hoya, who gained international acclaim when he won a gold medal in boxing at the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona.
"He represents the Americans of Mexican descent who are living the American dream," Ortiz explained while others at an Eastside fight party nodded in agreement. "People say he's not a good fighter. Well, if he won a gold medal in the Olympics, then he must be doing something right."
"Sure, he's from East L.A.," said Sergio Alvarez of El Sereno, "but he seems to be spending more time in Big Bear [where he has a training camp] and Hollywood. I think it's gone to his head. He's a pretty boy who has forgotten where he's from.
"I always root against him."
There has been little talk about anything else in recent days except the fight and the get-togethers.
Ortiz, a veteran who fought in the Persian Gulf War, said he was invited to five gatherings, but decided to watch the fight with fellow veterans at a local hall.
Sally Amaya, 19, of Los Angeles said she and two friends were going to a friend's house in Long Beach to watch the fight. Who was she rooting for? "Oscar, of course," she said. "But my two friends are for the other guy."
At the Claremont gathering, attorney Roland Tijerina said he had bought two $900 tickets to see the fight in person, but decided against it "because I couldn't do that to Raul" on the day of his son's baptism.
He said he gave his tickets to a friend, who immediately jumped on a plane to Las Vegas.
"They are having a good time on me."