By Robert Morales
Hall of Fame fighter and promoter Oscar De La Hoya was all smiles as he sat down with yours truly Friday in Carson, Calif. Many topics were discussed. Among them were his battle with alcohol and drugs, his induction into the International Boxing Hall of Fame and the early June resignation of his longtime CEO - Richard Schaefer.
De La Hoya not long ago had a second stint in a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center. Since his first stint didn't take, we asked De La Hoya if he is finally convinced he can no longer have a drink. Not even one.
"I'm convinced 1,000 percent, a thousand percent, that I can't," he said. "That's in my heart, that's in my head. And that's why I continue do work every single day.
... That's what it is. For the rest of my life. What that means is several things.
"I'm going to work harder than ever, I'm going to work honestly, I'm going to do what I really love doing, with passion. I'm going to have a great family life. I'm going to live life and do what I love doing. And that's boxing. I can't wait. I'm excited. I really am."
De La Hoya also has used cocaine, but he said that was not the worst part of his ride through addiction hell.
"It was mainly alcohol," he said, when asked if it was both alcohol and cocaine. "It was bad. It was getting bad. It was ... it was ... it was bad. It got dark really fast."
De La Hoya didn't want to say exactly how long he has been sober. Only to say it was more than three months. But he knows.
"Oh, I count the hours," he said. "Believe me. But I don't like going on the record with that. Let's just say that life is unbelievable right now. Look, I don't care if
it's alcohol, I don't care if it's depression, I don't care if it's obesity - anything. If you don't know how to handle it, you don't handle it, it can take you to a dark place. All these different issues that one might have.
"This goes across the board to anybody and it's like OK, first of all nobody can tell you to do it. You have to do it for yourself. A lot of people all over the world have problems, have issues and they don't know where to start, or how to start. 'OK, how do I take the bull by the horns today? How do I do that?' You know what? It takes courage. It takes a lot of courage.
"It takes a lot of courage to want to change. Oh, boy. Life knocked me down. I was down and almost out. But you know what? I found the courage, I found the courage to get back up and I'm going to raise my hand in victory. Just like the ring. I'm going to do that. That's exactly what I'm going to show everybody. I'm ready."
Q & A about Schaefer
Schaefer was with De La Hoya's Golden Boy Promotions since its inception in 2002. He was the rock of a company that grew to be a giant. Schaefer - a former Swiss banker - pretty much ran the company, brokering all its fighter contracts as well as fight deals.
But De La Hoya and Schaefer have been having problems for some time, though De La Hoya spoke in somewhat guarded tones in this regard because of professional advice from his lawyers.
De La Hoya said he believes the last straw was when he began saying he wanted to end boxing's "cold war" with fellow promoter Bob Arum, and once again begin doing fights together. Their companies are boxing's two strongest and have been at odds for years.
Schaefer had no intention of ever working with Arum again, as the two have had quite a verbal back-and-forth over the years.
It should be noted De La Hoya is the major shareholder of Golden Boy. Schaefer retains stock, as do others.
A little Q & A as it pertains to Schaefer:
Question: Word has it that you were surprised when Schaefer left. But amid all the rumors, you could not have been completely surprised, could you?
Answer: "I was taken aback by it. I was very surprised. You hear rumors, you hear rumblings - the boxing world is a small world - and so I started to hear some rumblings years ago. But you don't want to believe them. Call me naive, call me innocent or whatever you want to call me, but I just didn't want to believe them. So when you have a CEO, you put all your trust into the CEO and the CEO runs your company for you. That's basically what was happening. So to me, when he resigned, it was an instant shock at the time. But I heard rumblings many years ago."
Q: Have you started looking for a replacement, and do you plan on bringing someone in to do what Schaefer was doing?
A: "I haven't started, I haven't looked for anybody. See ... the way I look at Golden Boy Promotions is as a well-oiled machine. Rome wasn't built by Caesar alone. You have all these great people that are working at Golden Boy as a team, making fights, putting the fights together, putting events together, from marketing to PR to doing the every day leg work, I mean, we're a team. We haven't lost a beat, we haven't skipped a beat. We're moving forward, like a freight train. And on the contrary, everybody's taking a deep breath and just working happy and working with no stress and just all united and working. We're moving forward."
Q: So you don't feel the necessity to bring in someone to fill Schaefer's shoes?
A: "No, none whatsoever because look, I've been at the office every single day since way before this happened. I've been there taking care of business."
Q: It seems you are taking a more hands-on approach with Golden Boy than you have in the past. Is that correct?
A: "Oh, absolutely. I've had more meetings, I've seen colleagues of mine more in these last few months as I've seen them all year. I'm more hands-on, making decisions, making fights, taking a role of hey, 'This is not my company, this is our company.' But that logo, that silhouette, that's me. That's me."
Q: Among other things, there have been rumors that Schaefer might have been trying to orchestrate a power move to take over Golden Boy. Is that true?
A: Well, it will be really difficult to talk about that because of, you know, obviously, there's lawyers involved. And a lot of legal issues. I would rather not talk about it. But let's just put it this way, that I'm not going to leave any stone unturned. I'm going to look at everything. Now that I can, now that I have the ability to do so, I'm going to look at EVERYTHING. And we'll see what comes out."
Q: Was Schaefer still under contract when he left? Can he go to work for another (boxing) company? (Thinking non-compete clause).
A: "He's under contract until 2018."
Q: Now that you and Bob Arum have mended fences, are you now hopeful you two can co-promote some big cards together?
"It all depends on what we can work out. I'm really looking forward to working with any promoter. Obviously Arum, because he has fighters that we can fight and build these great cards together. And I keep saying this all along, let's leave ego aside, let's leave all that aside and let's just do it for the fight fans, do it for the sport of boxing because if you make big fights and you make competitive fights, I've always said this all along, everybody wins. Yes, we have a few issues we have to deal with. Obviously, TV and sponsors. Those are major issues. Is it impossible? Nothing's impossible. But it's a matter of just sitting down and talking and figuring something out. I'm looking forward to, after this week, sitting down with Bob Arum and sitting down with any promoter where we can make fights happen. For the fans."
Q: Are you and Richard Schaefer still friends?
"I haven't talked to him in months."
Q: Mayweather's next fight date is Sept. 13 at MGM Grand. Was that reserved under the Golden Boy banner? (Golden Boy has helped Mayweather promote his past nine fights).
Q: So if Mayweather wants that Sept. 13 date at MGM Grand, is it going to have to be fought with Golden Boy Promotions as part of it?.
A: "All that I can say about that is that Floyd, I recognize and I realize that we're looking at history, something special, if he stays undefeated, if he continues to keep fighting everybody they put in front of him. I recognize that, I respect that and I accept that. Whatever was said in the past, whatever differences we had, you know what? I would personally right now want to apologize to him and bury hatchet. Because we're fighters, it's a difficult sport.
I understand the business outside the ring and it can be very cruel, I understand the business inside the ring, which can be even worse as a fighter. So why not work together? Why not come together and make these great events happen and just make the best fights possible. So whatever decision Mayweather makes, whether we're going to be included or not, yes, those are facts, that Golden Boy does have that date reserved. So as far as I know, we are going to have to work together because we do have the date reserved - at least for that one fight. But like I said, it would be a pleasure and an honor to work with Floyd."
Q: Could you ever do business with Schaefer again if he starts his own company or joins another?
"If it's going to mean making the best fights for the fans, then I'm open to anything. I mean, the bottom line is it's for the fans. That's how it is. I fought everybody there is to fight, because I always put the fans first. What are the fans going to think of me? What are fans going to think about this fight? What are they going to think about my performance? I did it because of that reason and it worked out great because I never ducked anybody.
Nobody can say I ducked anybody. I wanted to fight these guys. I wanted to make sure the fans were happy. The bottom line is, without fans there's no sport, there's no events, there's no nothing. So I mean, boxing ... what it needs is for everybody to come together. Whether it's promoters, managers, whatever. And just think about the fan first."
Q: What was the starting point of your beef with Schaefer?
"I still am surprised and shocked where it really started. Everything. Because like I said, rumors were swirling years ago. But when I did announce I wanted to make amends with Arum and any other promoter out there - so I put the fans first - then I guess that's what broke the camel's back."
De La Hoya's biggest win
De La Hoya said recently being inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame was a validation of all the hard work he put in since he was a kid, running five miles a day on the streets of East L.A. during the wee hours of the morning. We asked him what his most satisfying victory was. His answer was not surprising.
"I mean, Ike Quartey was gratifying because I showed a lot of people the huevos," he said. "And to me that 12th round to win the fight ... I mean, my most satisfying win would be (Fernando) Vargas, obviously. But yeah, those two fights there, it's like ... honestly, because of what was at stake with Vargas, that will always be my most satisfying victory."
There was no love lost between De La Hoya and Vargas, that's for sure.
'Canelo' chimes in on Schaefer departure
Saul "Canelo" Alvarez of Mexico fights under the Golden Boy banner, though All-Star Boxing is suing Golden Boy for his promotional rights and that trial starts in October. For now, Alvarez is a Golden Boy fighter and so we asked him what his initial reaction was when Schaefer resigned his post.
"That's something between them," said Alvarez, who will tangle with Cuban Erislandy Lara in the super welterweight main event July 12 at MGM Grand in Las Vegas (on Showtime pay-per-view). "As long as it doesn't affect me, my career, I'm very happy working with Golden Boy and very happy working with Oscar and I'm focused on my career."
Speaking of that lawsuit with All-Star Boxing, Alvarez insisted it is not messing with his head one bit.
"I'm very relaxed, I'm very tranquil, it's not bothering me at all," he said last week during a telephone interview. "I've been dealing with this for a long time and the attorneys have it in their hands."
Golovkin stoked about fight with Geale
Gennady Golovkin was ever hopeful the WBA would grant him an exception so he could defend his middleweight title against Daniel Geale of Australia instead of another Aussie - unknown yet mandatory challenger Jarrod Fletcher.
Golovkin, in his mind, believes Geale will be his toughest opponent when they square off July 26 at Madison Square Garden in New York City (on HBO). That's the way he likes it.
"First, he's ex-champion," said Golovkin, of Kazakhstan. "He's a very smart guy. He thinks. He's a good fighter. I think it's a great fight us and it's a big test for me."
Geale (30-2, 16 KOs) is no joke. He may not have the power of Golovkin (30-2, 16 KOs), but he has shown his mettle and is 5-1 in world-title fights.
"I've been in big, hard 12-round fights where I've had to dig deep, especially late, to win titles," Geale said. "And if we get into that sort of territory, then I'm comfortable with that. We'll see if he is."
Golovkin, who has knocked out his past 16 opponents, has never had to go 12 rounds.
Robert Morales covers boxing for the Los Angeles Daily News and BoxingScene.com.