An impressive return by Oscar De La Hoya has prospective
opponents lining up
On the same February day that Monica Lewinsky was spotted buying
low-fat Rice Krispies treats at a New York City bakery, promoter
Bob Arum bumped into her at a midtown hotel. Arum invited the
onetime Clintern to last Saturday's bout between Oscar De La
Hoya and Derrell Coley at Madison Square Garden. "Monica's look
has changed," says Arum. "I'd say she's now between a
welterweight and a junior middleweight."
Arum could just as well have been describing De La Hoya and his
prospective opponents. The Coley fight was the first outing for
the Golden Boy since he lost his WBC 147-pound title to Felix
Trinidad on a disputed decision last September, and the latest
Oscar performance figured to influence the plans of a number of
fighters in boxing's two most talent-laden divisions.
It certainly clouded Coley's future. Though he entered the ring
ranked No. 1 by the WBC, Coley was a virtual nobody to his
opponent. "I haven't been ducking Derrell," De La Hoya said. "I'd
never even heard of him." Scorned for the dancing that cost him
the Trinidad fight, De La Hoya turned slugger at the Garden. He
pressed Coley patiently and wobbled him in the fourth round with
thudding body blows. Coley, his right eye swollen from left
hooks, took a final withering left to the stomach in the seventh,
slumped to his knees and was counted out just as the round ended.
"I felt strong at 147," De La Hoya later said. "My plan is to
fight four times this year and get four knockouts. Coley was the
The question is, Who will be the next? De La Hoya has
tentatively agreed to a June 17 rematch with Trinidad, who has
moved up to 154. Unwilling to fight at that weight, at which
Trinidad presumably would be stronger, De La Hoya hopes to
settle on a catch weight--say, 150. The bout hinges on
Trinidad's beating WBA super welterweight champ David Reid, this
Friday in Las Vegas.
If Trinidad gets by Reid, he'll abdicate his WBC welterweight
crown, and De La Hoya, having beaten the top contender, will be
declared champ. If Trinidad is beaten by Reid, De La Hoya plans
to bypass him for Sugar Shane Mosley, the former IBF lightweight
champ now two knockouts into his welterweight career. De La Hoya
and Mosley have a history: 15 years ago the 12-year-old Shane
outpointed the 11-year-old Oscar in a Pasadena tournament. "This
time it would be the Battle of L.A.," says Mosley.
De La Hoya's reluctance to bulk up to 154 rules out Reid, whose
most intriguing matchup would be a fellow Philadelphian, IBF
middleweight champ Bernard Hopkins. Reid would just as soon go
toe-to-toe with Anthony Hopkins. "Bernard can't sell more tickets
than I can count on my fingers," Reid says.
The fighter Reid really wants is undefeated IBF junior
middleweight champ Fernando Vargas, who next faces Ike Quartey
on April 15 in Las Vegas. Vargas's promoter, Gary Shaw, finds
Reid-Vargas as unappetizing as Reid finds Reid-Hopkins.
"Trinidad would be a bigger draw," says Shaw. "He beat De La
Hoya." Of course, the biggest draw for Vargas would be De La
Hoya. "Oscar can't keep fighting the Derrell Coleys of the
world," says Shaw. "He's got to move up and fight a somebody."
The weighting game has just begun.
Last summer USA Boxing put its fighters through a battery of
tests to assess their strengths. In one test, sensors were
attached to a heavy bag to measure the force of the boxers'
punches. Among boxers in the eight lowest weight classes, the
highest score was registered by the smallest fighter, 106-pound
Brian Viloria. "My teammates couldn't believe it," says Viloria,
a 19-year-old native of Waipahu, Hawaii, whose soft voice and
wispy mustache belie his toughness. "Then they saw on slow
motion how I turn my hips."
Slow motion is not a phrase often heard in reference to Viloria,
who is as fast as he is powerful. Last Thursday night at the U.S.
Olympic Box-offs in Mashantucket, Conn., Viloria--whose nickname,
predictably, is Hawaiian Punch--dominated Karoz Norman of St.
Louis with stinging jabs and body blows to win 19-5 and sew up
the light flyweight berth on the U.S. Olympic team. "I've sparred
with him a hundred times," said a frustrated Norman, "but I still
can't get over his quickness."
Viloria roared into Mashantucket as the winner of his weight
class in last month's Olympic trials. The Box-offs pitted each of
the 12 winners from the trials against a challenger determined
through a losers' bracket; the trials champ had only to win once
in two matches to make the team. Now, to earn a spot in Sydney,
the Box-offs winners still must compete in the Americas Olympic
Qualifiers this spring. (Cuba, ranked No. 1 after the '96 Games,
was the only country from the region with an automatic berth at
each weight.) That process should be a mere formality for this
U.S. squad (chart, right), which observers are calling the
strongest in more than a decade. "People will compare this team
to '76 and '84," says Gary Toney, president of USA Boxing. "We're
stacked with talented boxers."
Perhaps none more so than Viloria, who learned to box when he was
six and sharpened his skills when his younger brother, Gaylord,
now a 250-pound high school football player, started pushing him
around. By 16 Brian had exhausted the local competition and was
venturing to the mainland to train. A 1999 world champion, he
enrolled at Northern Michigan to join the same program that
spawned five other fighters in the Box-offs. The program, he
says, was invaluable, but with snowdrifts up to his head, the
climate was an adjustment.
No Hawaiian boxer has made an Olympic team since 1956. Viloria
has taken this semester off to train full time at the Olympic
training center in Colorado Springs and isn't even returning
calls from promoters who want him to turn pro. "I've spent the
past 10 years preparing for this," he says, "so it's easy to
--L. Jon Wertheim
COLOR PHOTO: JOHN IACONO Criticized for dancing against Trinidad last year, De La Hoya KO'd Coley with a brutal body attack.
In This Corner...
At last week's Olympic Box-offs in Mashantucket, Conn., 12
fighters earned spots on the U.S. team. Here's a brief tale of
the tape on one of the strongest American squads in years.
LIGHT FLYWEIGHT (106 pounds)
Brian Viloria, Waipahu, Hawaii
Blindingly quick and packs a juicy Hawaiian punch
Jose Navarro, Los Angeles
1999 Pan Am Games silver medalist is brother of 21-1 pro Carlos
Clarence Vinson, Washington, D.C.
Two-time U.S. flyweight champion bulked up to 119 pounds
Ricardo Juarez, Houston
Even with pro-style body-punching attack, won 1999 world
Marshall Martinez, Fontana, Calif.
Good bet to emulate training partner Oscar De La Hoya with medal
LIGHT WELTERWEIGHT (139)
Ricardo Williams, Cincinnati
Unrelenting southpaw was USA Boxing's 1998 Athlete of the Year
Dante Craig, Cincinnati
Made team with upset of trials champ Larry Mosley (Shane's second
LIGHT MIDDLEWEIGHT (156)
Jermain Taylor, Little Rock
Strong pro prospect has big right hand and forces the action
Jeff Lacy, St. Petersburg
At 5'11", showed heart in beating 6'5" Arthur Palac in the
LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT (178)
Michael Simms Jr., Sacramento
The 1999 world champ is plodding but effective
Michael Bennett, Chicago
Oldest team member at 28, 1999 world champ learned to box in
SUPER HEAVYWEIGHT (201+)
Calvin Brock, Charlotte, N.C.
Undersized at 6'2" but strikingly agile for a super heavyweight