As Oscar de la hoya He says, when you’re poised for greatness, there’s a chance you’re also destined for downfall. Oscar De La Hoya has seen both sides of success and now tells every detail of his life and career.
The boxing icon, now one of the sport’s most prominent promoters, uncovers all the championships and scandalous details in the new two-part documentary, The golden childwhich premieres on July 24 in HBO and HBO Max. For De La Hoya, coming clean with his demons is a kind of therapeutic cleansing of decades of kept secrets, and he says letting it out feels good. “It’s real and it’s raw,” De La Hoya tells M&F. “It’s not sugar coated, it’s me literally telling the truth.”
De La Hoya was quickly anointed a boxing prodigy, logging more time in the gym before reaching kindergarten than most people in his lifetime. At age 6, De La Hoya was already lacing his gloves, going for a morning run while other kids his age were learning math.
His day was consumed with boxing: sparring, lifting, and even going on a regimented diet before he was even 7 years old. The “military style” regimen, as he called it, continued throughout his youth, with a daily regimen of sprinting or six miles, followed by 12 rounds of sparring and culminating in an afternoon session in the weight room. All for the goal of Olympic gold.
“It was literally a 24/7 job,” says De La Hoya. “Your mind had to be laser focused 24/7. So when it comes to boxing, you are in it to win it and become a world champion. and it was a [full-time] job.”
He became a worldwide phenomenon in 1992, when he won the gold medal at the 1992 Olympics, his greatest moment as an athlete, he says. The greatest moment of his career, he says, was dedicated to his mother Cecilia, who died of breast cancer in 1990. “I literally felt numb on top of the podium,” he said. “When I heard the US national anthem, I literally couldn’t smile, I couldn’t laugh, I couldn’t cry. He was numb because all the hard work since he was 5 years old literally paid off at that moment.
From there, he won his first 31 bouts and immediately became the face of boxing. He went on to win 10 world titles in six different divisions, including victories over icons Julio Cesar Chavez and Pernell Whitaker. The last few years of De La Hoya’s 39-6 career were a bit more humble, with embarrassing knockout losses to Manny Pacquaio and Bernard Hopkins being some of the first signs that the golden era was coming to an end.
Now, as part of your winning Strategy, the key to De La Hoya’s happiness is balance. Although he works hard every day in the gym, the former champion is no longer in the line of exaggerating. Although his routine still consists of jump rope and shadow boxing, he’s changed the gloves (for the most part) and is getting out the golf clubs. “If he could do it every day, he would,” he says.
Winning Strategy: Oscar De La Hoya
1. Admission is better than suppression
I grew up with trauma from birth. When I was 6 years old, my inner circle labeled me the next great champion. And everyone treated me differently, so something changes inside of you. You keep winning fights and championships and everyone praises you, and you start to believe it. Then you start living a life, a life that is not your own.
So finally, after all these years, winning the gold medal, winning world titles, having the world on me, criticizing me and looking at me under a microscope, I always felt like I wasn’t being myself.
So to tell this story now on HBO Max in my own way is kind of liberating. It’s very therapeutic for me to just tell it like it was and tell the real story, the truth. So it’s like freeing myself from the world.
[Keeping it bottled] it was both physically and mentally exhausting. Fortunately, I had boxing as an outlet to vent my frustrations: I could go in there when I was angry and punch someone without getting arrested. It was my escape, my office, my safe haven. And so everything I lived and endured in my personal life, boxing was my outlet.
2. Stay fit through the madness
I was a robot, trained and conditioned from the start. I laced up my gloves at 5 years old and everything I did, including dieting at 6 and 7 years old, was for boxing. My parents conditioned me to be a fucking robot. And military style was all I knew: You did this at this hour, you go to sleep at 8 at night, you wake up at 5 in the morning to go jogging at a young age. It is part of my lifestyle.
I’ve toned it down a bit. My life right now is more balanced. Before it was all boxing, just focusing on the big picture: becoming a world champion and a gold medalist and making everyone happy. And now my life and my lifestyle are in balance. There is nothing I have focused on more. There is nothing I focus less on. I just try to balance everything.
Today, I love jumping rope. At 50, after all the pounding on the pavement all those years as a kid, my knees and ankles are a little banged up, but jumping rope on soft pavement feels great. I do a lot of weight training, small weights and a lot of shadow boxing. Basically, I try to shadow box and jump rope almost every day. I only keep it for an hour. I have one of those thick heavy strings that weighs about five or six pounds. I can do that for maybe 12 rounds of three minutes. It keeps you in great shape. Your arms swell, the conditioning is great. And it’s funny
Back when I used to fight, in my prime I was in the gym all day. If I finished my sparring and weight training, I would still want to do something, because as an athlete you want to make sure you are ready, physically and mentally. Now I only keep it to an hour. As I said, everything is balanced. And I know in my mind that when I’m jumping rope when I’m doing weights like I’m doing a great job, but I don’t overdo it.
3. Evolution on complacency
I see myself in these children that I am promoting. I see his talent and his potential. You know, there’s not another promoter in the world that has put on the gloves like me, so I give him all this information, this knowledge in and out of the ring, so it’s been an easy transition for me.
I enjoy it. I love it so much that the sport has given me everything I have, and everything I have I owe to boxing. So you know the fact that I’m still in it, promoting these young guys, you know, like the Ryan Garcias of this world promoting Canelo. [Alvarez] and, you know, having to promote [Manny] Pacquiao and [Floyd] Mayweather and all that. It just keeps me in the game. It keeps me. It keeps me sane. And it keeps me at peace.
If I ever had complacency, I would have fallen easily because I was always fighting at the highest level. So every opponent he had was very dangerous. So if I ever got complacent after winning my first world title, I would have lost, I would have been eaten by the fighters who are training the hardest and who are most sought after.
I believe that mental strength is as important as physical work. It’s easy not to train. It’s easy to say, you know what, I’m going to take a day off, but it’s really hard to say that to yourself every day. I have to do this, I want to do this. And I want to stay at the highest level. I want to compete with the best.
Sometimes I am surprised that I have had that mentality for so many years after fighting so many world titles and so many world champions, but that is exactly what it takes.
4. Rebound from adversity better and stronger
One of my biggest regrets was when Bernard Hopkins knocked me out. I was moving up to middleweights and he was the king of the middleweights. And he was looking for my sixth division, my tenth world title. He hits me with a body shot. And you know, my biggest regret is not getting up. Not because I mentally couldn’t, but I didn’t have the strength either. But physically when he hit me, also, you know, he hit me in the body to deliver. It’s like, it was okay, in 11 seconds, but that’s a second too late, because now I’m calling it. That is the moment I regret the most.
I remind myself to always be mentally strong, you know, because the mind is very, very, very powerful. I mean, the mind can take you places you never thought you could physically and mentally go. So that’s the one thing I always remember is if it hurts, just push yourself. Push yourself because there is literally no tomorrow.
5. Mentor the next generation in mental toughness
We are living different times. You know, fighters like me, Floyd Mayweather. We have this toughness in us because of the way we grew up. It is a different era. The fact that I can talk to these children [about mental health] help Many children can withdraw so easily, and I tell these children that everything will be fine, they can train hard and they can balance their life. You have to push them and so as a promoter I try to be sensitive. I try to be balanced with my message to them. They appreciate it because I came from that path.
Is [also] about respecting what you’re doing. If you really want it, go out there and do it 1000 percent. Don’t take it halfway. Do not shorten yourself, because you are not different from me and I am not different from you. The only thing that is different is how you think, that is the end result. So I say to these kids, if you think you’ve pushed yourself to the limit, then guess what, you’ve got another 10 or 15 percent left in the tank. That is exactly what I tell them. And for most cases, it has worked.