By Brent Matteo Alderson
After Oscar De La Hoya was dominated, and eventually stopped in eight rounds by Manny Pacquiao on December 6 - a mountain of rumors began to circulate all over the boxing world. Rumors that Oscar overtrained to make the welterweight limit, rumors that he was beaten up by sparring partners Victor Ortiz and Edwin Valero, and rumors that he came to ring with absolutely no plan of attack.
BoxingScene.com sat down with De La Hoya’s conditioning coach, Robert Garcia, to discuss all of the rumors, what exactly went wrong in De La Hoya’s fight with Pacquiao and whether or not De La Hoya has anything left in the tank. Garcia has been with De La Hoya since 2001.
BoxingScene.com: Talk to me about the fight, why did Oscar De La Hoya look so horrible against Manny Pacquiao on December 6?
Robert Garcia: We started two months before camp started so he was already in top shape before he got to camp. It was time for him to work on the boxing. I keep track of everything. I keep all the records. I have very tight records and when you do something for the first time you’re going to be a maverick. Most fighters his age move up in weight, they don’t move down and when they go down they have a problem because they have a problem making the weight. It was a total flip of the script, he was coming in the gym at fifty-two and leaving at forty-five. The only thing in that equation which would affect his weight is the work load.
How hard he’s training is what’s going to control his weight going up and down and we had a very tight record of that. He had a very high energy output all during camp and he was having no problems practicing for an hour and a half, doing all the things [trainer] Nacho [Beristain] required of him. The guy had more energy than he needed. He finished practices strong, fresh. You can blame whoever you want, but if a guy doesn’t use his energy correctly and doesn’t come out with the right game plan, he’s probably not going to win the fight.
If someone is looking for answers to why Oscar didn’t win this fight it comes down to sparring. We started camp with Victor Ortiz and he only stayed up there for ten days and for whatever reason he left. With his southpaw style and Oscar will tell you, he put it on him.
Edwin Valero was also sent home and he’s the closest thing you are going to see to Manny Pacquiao and I’m talking about people that know this game. Valero had the right style, he had the right look. They brought him up for a reason. What they ended up doing for reasons out of my control, they sent him home. What we ended up with was a kid name Mooky who was a four round fighter and a kid from Atlanta who was an eight round fighter. They were nice kids and good southpaws for their experience.
For people that know the game and from my experience, the kind of sparring partners you have is very important. And for some reason Nacho thought that Valero was too rough. My whole argument is when you solve Edwin Valero you solve Manny Pacquiao. So we sent the two good southpaws home and Mayweather would have never went for that because he always believes in quality sparring and would always have guys that are very good sparring partners.
At the end of the day how you practice is how you perform and at the end of the day he looked confused. He looked like he couldn’t solve the southpaw style. He didn’t do that good solving Macho Camacho because he promised a knockout and he couldn’t deliver, he had a very hard time hitting Pernell Whitaker so he needed more exposure to the southpaw style which he didn’t get, not at that level.
Bob Arum isn’t dumb and I still think Bruce Trampler is the best matchmaker in the world and they knew Oscar had problems with those guys. You can’t fault Nacho because he came aboard for one fight and for you to know the working chemistry of your fighter - one fight is not enough time.
Victor was getting ready for his own twelve round fight, but there was no reason to send Valero home because he didn’t have a fight coming up and he was up there for sparring. I don’t care how rough he is, he’s a 130-pounder and he has 16 oz. gloves on. Oscar has fought at middleweight so how can a young guy like that beat him up unless it was the southpaw stance.
My theory was, let him figure him out and work with Valero until the end of camp because the closer he gets to feeling comfortable with a young fast southpaw, the better chance he’ll have when he gets in there with Pacquiao. Now that decision was made by a higher up than me.
BoxingScene.com: The day of the fight did you still think Oscar was going to win?
Rob Garcia: Oscar has a reputation for not being a gym fighter, he’s a prize fighter. So how he does in sparring doesn’t really shock us one way or the other. You could put on a big big show and you can hit the mitts for media day but at the end of the day it’s the type of work he puts in to get himself into condition and the kind of sparring partners he has to get himself prepared because that’s the closest thing to combat that you are going to have, the day to day sparring. We can do all the sit-ups in the world and run all the miles and do all that shit, but at the end of the day you better know how to be able to fight because that’s what you are doing - you are going to be in there fighting.
When sparring is out of control that’s when you get hurt so it’s up to the coaches regulate the high levels of sparring. They are controlling the sparring so the fighters don’t get injured. That’s a trainer’s job, to mediate the sparring. To slow things down, to work on things that need to be worked on and let the two boxers continue to work together.
Valero was there longer but when he was there they weren’t even using him, they were giving him a couple rounds here and there. And if you look at whatever footage we have, he was doing as well in sparring as Pacquiao did in the fight. Valero was getting in and out with his speed; he was confusing him with the left handed style. When they sent him home I told them how I felt, “Let Oscar get the upper hand on Valero before we get him out of here at least for confidence purposes,” but Nacho had other plans and he was the head trainer.
There was no reason to leave Mayweather out. Mayweather knows how to motivate Oscar. He has taught him the right way to prepare defensively for fights and switching coaches at 35-years-old is not the wisest choice. If something isn’t broken then don’t try to fix.
In camp you should spar so much that fighting should become a reflex, if you have to use your brain to think in there, then you’ve already lost because this sport happens at such a fast pace.
Not taking anything away from Nacho, but Nacho hadn’t left Mexico City since 1964 so all of his fighters were groomed by him from day on and that’s a situation where you developed trust over a long period. Mayweather was very good at having that minute there to look at what was going on and telling Oscar how to get the upper hand with a good set of instructions, but that’s something that needs time to develop. Nacho wasn’t given the opportunity to develop that trust in order to know his fighter and know what kind of instructions to give.
The diet was proper and his body went down and gravitated to the weight because Oscar is a natural welterweight. I didn’t starve him. I didn’t take water out of his diet. He ate regularly after every practice. He would have fruit before workouts so he would have the appropriate blood sugar level. This was at the scientific level so when he gravitated to that 145 he was basically coming to the gym in top shape at 152 pounds and leaving at 145 pound after a one hour and twenty minute workout.
BoxingScene.com: How long have you been with Oscar?
Robert Garcia: I’ve been with Oscar since the Gatti fight, me and Mayweather started with him in 2001.
BoxingScene.com: Did Oscar grow old overnight? What happened that night?
Robert Garcia: It was confusion. He didn’t tell me he didn’t have it that night as far as energy. You know what happened and it never happened to him and it happened a little with Steve Forbes, he got lackadaisical and got hit with clean shots. And from what I hear from Joe Chavez, the left hand that hit him in the first round was so clean he was already dazed. Oscar is a hard guy to get to, so the confusion with the southpaw style added to the fact that Manny was hitting him flush with that straight left hand took him mentally out of his game and for the first time he was fuzzy in his head, he was kind of dazed from some of the punches he took. I mean Oscar is a hard guy to get a glove on, he knows how to slip and slide and get out of there, he uses his feet, but because of the southpaw style he wasn’t stalking him or retreating the way he normally does because he was confused. All the big shots Manny landed that night had a snow ball effect. So number one it was frustration.
BoxingScene.com: There has been rumors about a possible fight with Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. Does Oscar have anything left?
Robert Garcia: Yeah Oscar has two more fights in him if he does what he needs to do. Go back to Mayweather, get the right sparring. From his reflexes, from his speed, from all the things he still possesses he’s not a shot fighter - he had a bad outing.
Favorite Quote: Jake LaMotta once commented, “I fought more blackmen than probably any white fighter who ever lived.”
I would like to thank Juan Carlos Gomez’s advisor, the young Akbar Muhammad, for facilitating the interview with Robert Garcia.
Brent Matteo Alderson, a graduate of UCLA, has been part of the staff at BoxingScene.com since 2004. Alderson's published work has appeared in publications such as Ring Magazine, KO, World Boxing, Boxing 2008, and Latin Boxing Magazine. Alderson has also been featured on the ESPN Classic television program “Who’s Number One?” Please e-mail any comments to [email protected]