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De La Hoya Religious Shot Shocks Arum

March 29, 2001|STEVE SPRINGER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Former welterweight champion Oscar De La Hoya has escalated his ongoing verbal battle with his former promoter, Bob Arum, by injecting race and religion.

"I don't have blue eyes and I am not white, but a Mexican arriving on the cusp of fame," De La Hoya told La Opinion, a Spanish-language newspaper, "and that is what they do not support.

"Arum's people hope that I lose because they can't see a Mexican above them, and also that he has defeated one of the biggest Jews to come out of Harvard."

The remarks appeared in Saturday's edition of La Opinion.

"I'm really shocked," Arum, who is of the Jewish faith and graduated from Harvard Law School, said Wednesday.

"In eight years with [De La Hoya], I never knew he harbored those kind of thoughts. It's really shocking. I'm just disappointed. This is something that really cuts to the core. He can lash out at me and say whatever he wants to say, but when he puts that word in [referring to Arum's religion], he knows what he is saying. That [Judaism] is irrelevant."

After eight years with Arum as his promoter, a period in which De La Hoya won titles in four weight divisions and earned in excess of $125 million in the ring plus millions more in endorsements, De La Hoya broke his contract with the promoter in court two months ago.

"He never, ever, ever said anything remotely like that before," Arum said. "I never sensed anything like this from anybody around him either, the father or the brother. That's what shakes me up . . . a stunner like this. . . . I don't know Oscar. I may have thought I knew Oscar, but I don't know him."

Richard Schaefer, De La Hoya's business manager, defended his fighter.

"Oscar has never made and would never make racial comments," Schaefer said. "That's not the Oscar I know. When I'm with him, race never comes up."

But Schaefer acknowledged that he was not with De La Hoya when La Opinion reporter Ramiro Gonzalez interviewed the fighter. Despite the denials, Gonzalez said he stands behind his story. De La Hoya was unavailable for comment.

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