Oscar De La Hoya
A champion in and out of the boxing ring
When Desert Golf & Tennis first featured Oscar De La Hoya in 2002 at 29 years old, he was already a legend in the boxing ring, a gold-medal winner, an avid golfer with an 11 handicap, a huge supporter of youth programs and the new founder of Golden Boy Promotions.
Sixteen years later and now retired from boxing, De La Hoya’s strength has grown outside of the ring as he continues to be quick on his feet while trading jabs with other professional titans in his role as CEO and chairman of highly successful Golden Boy Promotions, lauded as one of the most active promoters of boxing in the world.
Born and raised in the rough neighborhoods of East Los Angeles, De La Hoya took self-defense to a new level and made it into a multi-million dollar business with his current net worth around $200 million. Yet his persona as a soft spoken, courteous and fun-loving person has not changed, and neither has one of this true joys in life, helping others.
In 1995, the Oscar de la Hoya Foundation was created to bring a better quality of life to the people of East Los Angeles. Today, the foundation serves thousands of people annually via the Oscar de la Hoya Ánimo Charter High School, the Cecilia Gonzalez de la Hoya Cancer Center (named after the boxer’s mother) and the Oscar De La Hoya Children’s Medical Center.
The question we’re dying to ask this successful entrepreneur, philanthropist, husband and father of five is, “Do you still play golf?” Without hesitation De La Hoya replies, “Absolutely. Golf is a game you can always improve on, whether it’s having the worst round of your career and then having the best shot on hole number eighteen, golf always brings you back for more! In fact, all of these years have passed since our last interview and I love the game more than ever. It’s my escape from the craziness of my world. I take my clubs everywhere I go.”
And go he does. If you think you saw De La Hoya out and about in the Coachella Valley you probably did. In partnership with Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, Golden Boy Promotions now brings world-class boxing to the valley on a monthly basis.
“I sold my home in Bermuda Dunes some years ago,” De La Hoya says, “but I’m out here so much I’m thinking it’s time to build one. I belong to the Plantation Golf Club in Indio, so it all seems to make sense.”
As a natural left-handed golfer, De La Hoya is currently a six handicap but has been as low as a two. He’s had two holes in one. His first was 178 yards downhill using a new line of golf balls Titleist had provided. “The Titleist rep had just called me as I was getting ready to swing. I stop the swing, answer the phone and tell him to hold on. As he’s on the phone, I hit and made a hole in one. It was one of the most exciting things that’s ever happened to me.”
Back in our 2002 interview, De La Hoya stated that his goal was to “one day play on the senior tour.” When reminded of this, he gives a little sigh.
“Unfortunately, life has become so much busier now that I’m retired, which is kind of funny. I’m still competitive, still love the game and going out there and playing with my friends, but I realize on that level you have to somehow be born with it, live, eat and breathe golf. For me right now it’s impossible to do that.”
One thing he always makes time for is raising funds for his foundation. Next year marks the 19th year of the foundation’s Annual Golf Classic, a popular event among his celebrity friends and supporters that takes place at his home course of Lakeside Golf Club in Los Angeles.
“I am extremely thankful and proud of the monies raised at the tournament for services that benefit the community of East Los Angeles, with after school programs to help guide young people toward leading positive lives and away from circumstances of gang violence, juvenile delinquency and substance abuse,” De La Hoya says.
Acknowledging his own struggles as a youth and prior to winning a gold medal, De La Hoya carried a food stamp in his wallet as a reminder of hard times. Today, that very food stamp is framed and displayed on his office wall, now a potent reminder that life can change.
Putting little pressure on himself to play well and enjoying the game of golf more than ever, he considers our question, “Who would make up your ultimate foursome?” and answers almost immediately. “Joe Lewis, the Brown Bomber, one of the best boxers ever and a great golfer; Bill Clinton, just because of the mastermind that he is; and my best friend since childhood Eric Gomez, where you can’t help but laugh when he swings.”
No laughing matter is De La Hoya’s expanding empire. Few probably realize he is also owner of the Houston Dynamos, a major league soccer team, and he recently launched another new entity, the Golden Boy Fight Night series on Facebook Watch.
“I have been mining the media landscape for the past several years to find a broadcast and platform partner to change up the sport and to create a series that delivers fans across the world a new and engaging spin on the great sport of boxing,” De La Hoya says. “This collaboration with Facebook has been nothing short of amazing.”
Also nothing short of amazing for Oscar De La Hoya is the life that he has worked hard to create and which he humbly describes as “satisfying and fulfilling.”
Françoise Rhodes is a contributor to Desert Golf & Tennis