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Oscar Isn't Thinking Outside of the Box

In wake of controversial loss to Mosley, De La Hoya appears unlikely to follow through on vow to retire.

September 15, 2003|Steve Springer | Times Staff Writer

The day after his controversial loss to Shane Mosley, Oscar De La Hoya was no longer talking about retirement, but his promoter, Bob Arum, was still addressing the subject, vowing he will never again promote fights in his home state of Nevada unless a federal boxing commission is formed to regulate the sport. Arum said he will decide at year's end if he will retire from the sport in which he has been a central figure for 40 years.

"Oscar will decide in the next few days what steps he takes," said his business manager, Richard Schaefer, "and what strategy he follows in terms of fighting, but right now, he is not talking about retirement. I don't think he will retire."

Before Saturday's loss by unanimous decision, the third defeat in 39 fights for De La Hoya, he had said retirement was a certainty if he failed to beat Mosley.

"Three strikes and you're out," De La Hoya had said.

And in the frustrating hours after the loss at Las Vegas' MGM Grand Garden Arena, De La Hoya thought about following through on that vow. But he doesn't consider Saturday's fight a loss despite the verdict of judges Duane Ford, Stanley Christodoulou and Anek Hongthongkam, all of whom gave the decision to Mosley, 115-113.

Would Arum advise De La Hoya to retire?

"I would say so, yeah," the promoter said, "but that's certainly up to him. My advice has to be tempered because he has to make his own decision."

Arum pointed to the punch stats, which were heavily in De La Hoya's favor, and the pro-De La Hoya view of the fight's outcome by the HBO broadcast crew as proof that the decision was wrong. He also spoke in mysterious terms of a changing betting line.

"Something is not right," Arum said.

The line at the MGM Grand changed only half a point in the final few days before the fight, De La Hoya going from a 2 1/2-1 favorite to a 2-1 favorite.

"It's a joke," Arum said of the fight. "People just can't believe it. I can't say gambling had anything to do with it. I'm just saying the scores are totally different from the fight I saw and millions around the world saw. What is going on? It's completely outrageous. I don't understand what this sport is about anymore."

Boxing judges in Nevada are appointed by the Nevada State Athletic Commission.

"I know things are said in the heat of battle," said Marc Rat- ner, the commission's executive director. "It was a very emotional loss, but I, Marc Ratner, take a lot of pride in what I do. I thought we had the right judges in place and the right referee [in Joe Cortez].

"I would assume that, if the decision had gone for Oscar, I would be hearing the same complaints from Shane's side. I don't like to see the integrity of the commission come under fire, but I will not respond to all the talk by the principals on both sides until everybody has cooled down."

Arum's declaration not to promote in Nevada for the rest of the year is misleading. He has an Oct. 4 fight card featuring Erik Morales at Staples Center, a Nov. 1 show featuring Floyd Mayweather Jr. in Michigan and is part of a tentative show Dec. 6 in New York's Madison Square Garden, headlined by heavyweight Vitali Klitschko. He had no known plans to promote in Nevada.

Said HBO commentator Larry Merchant of Arum's threat to leave the sport: "We've been to that movie before. With Arum, when things don't go right, he tends to go overboard. An investigation into scoring is nonsense. All three judges came up with the same score. There is no indication there is anything to that other than Arum's frustration."

Part of Saturday's controversy centered on the punch stats. Compiled by an independent contractor, they are calculated by two men sitting in front of devices they use to literally punch in every blow thrown and those that connect, specifying jabs and power punches. The two men sit ringside at separate devices, one for each fighter.

De La Hoya had announced after the fight Saturday that he was asking his lawyers to launch an "investigation" of the verdict. By Saturday night, the word had been changed to "complaint" and then "review" by Stephen Espinoza, a De La Hoya attorney.

Schaefer said punch stats should be part of any examination. According to those stats, De La Hoya connected at a 36% success rate, landing 221 punches. Mosley had a 26% success rate, connecting on 127 punches. De La Hoya was overwhelmingly ahead in jabs, 106-33. He also was superior in power punches landed, 115-94.

"I think the boxing public deserves to understand how the fight is being judged," Schaefer said. "When punches that connect are so much greater for one fighter, when he is the more aggressive fighter, how can the decision go the other way? It is not only the boxing public. I am interested to know.

"Which is more important, three judges or millions of fans? Redemption has been done. In the end, the public makes the decision, not three judges."

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