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De La Hoya's Fight Schedule Won't Take Him to a Ring Any Time Soon

November 11, 2000|STEVE SPRINGER

LAS VEGAS — Oscar De La Hoya's next fight is scheduled Nov. 27.

His opponent will be a man in his late 60s, the judge will be wearing a black robe and the handlers will all be dressed in slick suits.

There won't be any blood, but there might be quite a bit of sweat as De La Hoya and his lawyers anxiously await the result of the next round in their legal battle against promoter Bob Arum.

De La Hoya and his legal team will be going into the federal district courtroom of Judge Matt Byrne on that day, seeking a summary judgment in their suit to end the relationship between De La Hoya and Arum.

"We are asking that the contract between the two be declared unenforceable and void," said De La Hoya attorney Jeff Spitz.

Contractually locked in a three-partner relationship with Arum and HBO, De La Hoya has been unable to resume the career he put on hold last June after losing a split decision and his World Boxing Council welterweight title to Shane Mosley at Staples Center.

That was fine for a while. De La Hoya, bruised and battered physically and emotionally after the fight, wanted a break from the sport that has been his life since childhood.

He found it in a Florida recording studio, where he pursued his long-time secondary dream of a singing career. Last month, he released his first CD, which has been well received, particularly in the Latino community.

Still, he's not ready to exchange his gloves for a microphone full-time.

But having lost two of his last three fights, De La Hoya was determined to clean house before getting back into the ring. So, he replaced his long-time trainer, Robert Alcazar, with Floyd Mayweather Sr., and is trying to replace Arum with promoter Jerry Perenchio.

De La Hoya plans to return to the gym shortly, wants to fight in February and is pointing toward a possible rematch with Mosley next Cinco de Mayo.

If only he can find someone to fight. And someone to televise it.

So far, De La Hoya finds boxing people treating him as if he has a contagious disease. That's because Arum has promised to sue anyone who tries to do business with De La Hoya.

In happier times, rival promoters and fighters treated a phone call from De La Hoya as if it were a knock on the door from Ed McMahon, bearing word that the residents had won a multimillion-dollar sweepstakes. A fight with De La Hoya meant instant millions.

But in recent days, handlers of Arturo Gatti turned down an offer from De La Hoya of $1.6 million to fight him in February at New York's Madison Square Garden. The legal landscape just looked too shaky to Gatti's advisors.

HBO officials are caught in the middle. They certainly don't want to turn their backs on De La Hoya, still the richest cash cow outside the heavyweight division. But they also can't abandon Arum, to whom they are legally tied.

So now De La Hoya is hoping to get a quick--and favorable--court judgment.

There are two key elements in his contention that his contract with Arum is no longer enforceable. One is that the paperwork was not properly filed with the California Athletic Commission. The other is that the legal ties between De La Hoya and Arum, first established in 1992, exceed the five-year limit on such contracts.

Tom Girardi, Arum's attorney, maintains neither point will hold up in court. He has a letter from the California commission, stating that a contract between a fighter and his promoter need not be filed with commission officials in this state.

And Girardi says that the old contract has been redone several times, the last time in 1998, meaning, in his opinion, that the five-year clock starts all over again.

"Just because a contract is ending and the participants are free to go, it doesn't mean they can't enter into a new contract," Girardi said.

Countered Spitz, "Oscar De La Hoya never had a moment when he could walk away from that contract."

In an interview with The Times several months ago, De La Hoya praised Arum, but said he simply wanted to try a new approach with Perenchio.

"He has made millions of dollars under this agreement," Girardi said. "For him to say, right in the middle of it, that it's illegal is absurd. It was not illegal when he made $22 million off one fight. It was not illegal when he made $15 million off another fight. Their whole legal position is absurd."

The bell rings again Nov. 27.

TOO MUCH SUGAR COULD BE DEADLY

Mosley, coming off the first defense of his WBC title with a knockout victory last week over Antonio Diaz, also is interested in fighting Gatti.

But nervous HBO officials must first decide if they want to sign on for a match that would pit the smooth, lightning-quick Mosley, now at the top of his game, against the slow, battle-scarred Gatti in a match that figures to turn into an embarrassing mismatch.

If it doesn't happen, look for Mosley to fight either Vernon Forrest or James Page in February.

QIUCK JABS

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