Associated Press - March 2, 2004
LOS ANGELES (AP) - Oscar De La Hoya is ready to take on the bigger boys before calling an end to his career.
De La Hoya and undisputed middleweight champion Bernard Hopkins are on a collision course to meet Sept. 18 in a fight many, including Hopkins, thought
De La Hoya would never take because of the risks involved.
First, though, each must win on a June 5 card in Las Vegas, where De La Hoya will fight undefeated Felix Sturm of Germany, and Hopkins will meet
Robert Allen, whom he's faced twice already.
``This middleweight division is scary, but I love it because it's a challenge, a new challenge to step up with the big boys,'' De La Hoya said of
moving up to the 160-pound (72.575-kilogram) class.
De La Hoya, beaten once by Felix Trinidad and twice by Shane Mosley while going 6-3 in his last nine bouts, said he faces a difficult task. For the
first time in his career, he's likely to be an underdog going into a fight.
``I'm the one who made these challenges and I have to prove to the world - and to myself - that I can do it,'' the 31-year-old De La Hoya said Tuesday
at a news conference formally announcing his and Hopkins' two-fight deal at Las Vegas' MGM Grand hotel-casino.
``These last fights of my career are going to be the defining moments of my life. I know there are a lot of people who feel I can do it. And there are
a lot of people who do want to see me get beat up.''
De La Hoya has held titles at five lower weight classes.
Hopkins, who holds the WBC, WBA and IBF middleweight crowns and has defended his titles 17 times, is pleased De La Hoya wants to fight him. Hopkins
handed Trinidad his only loss in September 2001, and has not lost in 11 years.
``He understands it's a risk. I've got to respect this move,'' Hopkins said. ``Roy (Jones) isn't trying to kick down the door and do it. Sugar Shane
wasn't trying to kick down the door and do it.
``Any other guys that you want to name in the top five, six aren't doing it. He (De La Hoya) understands that even though he's pretty, fighting
Bernard Hopkins, he might wind up looking half like me. But that's cool.''
Hopkins reportedly will earn at least $10 million for the two fights. De La Hoya, who signed his contract during the news conference, is expected to
receive up to $30 million.
Hopkins chuckled and said the payday may have played a role in De La Hoya's decision to fight him.
``Thirty million would make a man get out of the old folks' home and try to hit you with his cane,'' Hopkins said.
Hopkins doesn't need a cane, but he is 39.
``This is going to be my chance to show the world that Bernard Hopkins is getting younger, not older,'' he said.
Hopkins seems assured he and De La Hoya both will win their fights this summer and meet in September, saying, ``I don't use the word `if' much.''
Hopkins is 43-1-2, with 31 knockouts. He stopped Allen (36-4, 27 knockouts) in February 1999 after their first bout, Aug. 28 of the previous year, was
declared a no-contest. In that fight, Hopkins fell and hurt his ankle when the referee accidentally pushed him out of the ring while breaking the
``It's recycling; here he comes again,'' Hopkins said. ``How many times do I have to see this guy? After June 5, Robert Allen won't be recycled again.
I'm ending his career.''
De La Hoya will take a 36-3 record, with 29 knockouts, in against Sturm (20-0, nine knockouts), who has fought outside of Germany only once, but is
regarded as a champion by the fringe WBO. He insists he won't take his German foe lightly.
``Every single fight I have is a tough fight because every opponent always gets ready and prepares himself to give it his all,'' he said.
``I'm not looking toward September, because just going up to a different division is hard in itself. Facing the WBO champion at that weight class is
``I'm going to fight as hard as I can, because these are the moments that are going to make me - and I know that.''
Sturm said he's excited to have a shot at De La Hoya.
``Oscar is a superstar, and to beat him would be incredible,'' Sturm said, speaking through an interpreter. ``But I have seen in videotapes that he
has certain vulnerabilities.''