Vincente De La Hoya fought at the Olympic Auditorium. His son, Joel, fought there. Joel's son, Oscar, won his first title there. And on Dec. 8, the family tradition will continue when the walls of the historic old building at 18th and Grand once again echo the cheers of De La Hoya fans.
In a surprise move, Oscar De La Hoya has agreed to defend his World Boxing Council 154-pound title against Roman Karmazin of Russia in the Olympic Auditorium, which hasn't hosted a fight in three years, and hasn't been the focal point of L.A. boxing for decades.
"I think it is an awesome idea," De La Hoya said. "I am going back to my roots. There is so much history there."
De La Hoya had a wide choice of sites for his mandatory defense against Karmazin, the WBC's No. 1 contender. Just down the street is Staples Center, where officials had expressed a strong interest in De La Hoya's next fight. There were negotiations with San Antonio's Alamodome and Miami's American Airlines Arena. And, of course, there was Las Vegas, where either the MGM Grand Garden Arena or the Mandalay Bay Events Center could have hosted the fight.
Unlike the other venues, the Olympic was not offering a site fee. Nevertheless, De La Hoya agreed to return to the venue where, on Mar. 5, 1994 in his 12th professional fight, he beat Jimmi Bredahl to win the World Boxing Organization junior-lightweight championship, the first of six titles De La Hoya has won in five weight classes.
The Olympic, which has been largely used for film making in recent years, will hold just over 7,000 for its return to live boxing. In the last fight held there, on Aug. 15, 1998, Melchor Cobb Castro won the International Boxing Assn. flyweight title with an eighth-round knockout of Tomas Rivera.
"The Olympic is kind of the home of boxing in L.A.," said Howard Rose, De La Hoya's co-promoter. "So we figured, let's go home. It's like what they are doing with Madison Square Garden to try to get boxing back to New York.
"The Olympic looks beautiful. It's clean, spotless. We decided, why not go for it now? Who knows if the Olympic will still be standing a year from now? With all the redevelopment going on downtown, it could get torn down."
The decision might revive not only boxing at the Olympic, but also interest in a fight that figures to be a tough sell. After a nine-month hiatus from the sport, De La Hoya returned to face two opponents--Arturo Gatti and Javier Castillejo--who were seriously overmatched. Nevertheless, the buying public shelled out their bucks, accepting the fact that De La Hoya needed some tuneups to regain his peak form.
De La Hoya was expected to face a big-name opponent this time, and that nearly came to pass when a match against Fernando Vargas was all but made. But, with the contracts drawn up, negotiations collapsed before the signatures were affixed.
So De La Hoya turned to Karmazin, little known and lightly regarded.
"Going back to the old days," De La Hoya said, "going back to the old training mentality, going back to the Olympic will give me the motivation I need to get up for this fight."
And for fans, perhaps, the motivation to buy a ticket. If people aren't talking about whom De La Hoya will be fighting, at least they will now be talking about where he will be fighting.