By Keith Idec
Oscar De La Hoya can’t quite believe it has been basically 20 years since he captivated American sports fans by winning a gold medal at the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona.
“The Golden Boy” — inspired to capture gold by the passing of his mother, Cecilia, in October 1990 —launched one of the most lucrative, successful careers in boxing history in Barcelona. He made hundreds of millions in purses during his 16-year pro career and won world titles in six weight classes, but none of his achievements mean more to him than capturing the gold medal his mother said she wanted him to win before she succumbed to cancer.
De La Hoya is in London to scout talent for his promotional company’s venture with Showtime Sports and parent company CBS, which will showcase American Olympic boxers on free TV beginning October 14. With the 2012 Summer Olympics scheduled to start Friday, he offered them some advice on how to handle the Olympic experience during an interview with NBC Sports Network.
“I’ve won world titles left and right,” De La Hoya, 39, said. “I think it’s 10 or 11. [But] that gold medal is the most precious, prized possession I will ever have.
“I would just tell an athlete, ‘Just soak it all in. Enjoy it. Live it up. It might be just a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so just try your best, do it for your country, be extra proud for the USA and just go out there, whether it’s fighting hard or swimming fast or running faster, just go out there and just try your best, and make us proud.’ ”
De La Hoya won five fights in Barcelona en route to winning a gold medal. The East Los Angeles, Calif., native defeated Germany’s Marco Rudolph, 7-2, in the lightweight championship match.
One of his fondest recollections from his Olympic experience was having superstar basketball players from the famed American “Dream Team” come to watch his fights.
“They were huge supporters, all the guys,” said De La Hoya, who played in a celebrity golf tournament with Charles Barkley and Michael Jordan last weekend in Stateline, Nev. “I remember Magic … they were all there. It was a lot of fun for us as kids, going to a match, and then seeing these guys there, sitting down, ‘The Dream Team.’ It was just an honor. And you know, you fight harder. You go out there and you train harder. You want to perform in front of [them].”
Keith Idec covers boxing for The Record and Herald News, of Woodland Park, N.J., and BoxingScene.com.