De La Hoya teases return, calls out McGregor

Martha Hammock

It remains to be seen whether Oscar De La Hoya is truly serious, but he said Monday he has been “secretly training” and called out UFC star Conor McGregor for his comeback fight after nearly a decade in retirement.

“You know I’m competitive,” De La Hoya said. “I still have it in me. I’ve been secretly training, secretly training. I’m faster than ever and stronger than ever. I know I can take out Conor McGregor in two rounds. I’ll come back for that fight. Two rounds. Just one more [fight]. I’m calling him out. Two rounds, that’s all I need. That’s all I’m going to say. You heard it on Golden Boy Radio. Two rounds, that’s all I need.”

De La Hoya made the comments on “Golden Boy Radio with Tattoo and the Crew,” a three-hour daily digital radio show that debuted Monday with De La Hoya as a featured guest.

De La Hoya (39-6, 30 KOs) won a 1992 Olympic gold medal and 10 world titles in a then-record six weight divisions as a professional boxer. He was the biggest pay-per-view star of his time and was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2014. But De La Hoya has not fought since being savaged in a one-sided eighth-round knockout loss to Manny Pacquiao on Dec. 6, 2008. He retired shortly afterward, having lost three of his last five fights.

De La Hoya, 44, did not specify a time frame in which he would be ready for his fantasy fight, but there is great irony in his mentioning McGregor, 29, of Ireland, who lost by 10th-round knockout when he crossed over from mixed martial arts for a boxing match against Floyd Mayweather, who came out of a two-year retirement for the junior middleweight megafight on Aug. 26 in Las Vegas.

The Mayweather-McGregor bout sold more than 4 million pay-per-view units — second all time to Mayweather-Pacquiao in 2015 — according to Showtime. But De La Hoya spent much of the summer shredding the Mayweather-McGregor fight and encouraging sports fans not to buy it, in part because he was concerned it would have a negative impact on the middleweight world title fight between Gennady Golovkin and Canelo Alvarez that he was trying to sell on HBO PPV three weeks later.

De La Hoya, now CEO of Golden Boy Promotions, went so far as to pen an open letter to boxing fans slamming the Mayweather-McGregor fight. He called it a “circus” and a “farce” and claimed that if it happened, “Our sport might not ever recover.”

De La Hoya further denigrated Mayweather-McGregor as nothing more than a money grab, which is how many would also view a De La Hoya-McGregor bout.

McGregor remains under contract to UFC. He said after the loss to Mayweather that he would consider all of his options, both in boxing and MMA, although there have been talks about his next fight being inside the Octagon and not a boxing ring.

“I don’t want to speak for him, but he’s in shape and I’m sure he has been thinking about it,” Eric Gomez, De La Hoya’s best friend since childhood and president of Golden Boy Promotions, told ESPN of a possible De La Hoya comeback. “The itch is there, has been for a long time.”

Another person close to De La Hoya told ESPN that De La Hoya is in fact seriously considering a return to the ring, even if it’s not to fight McGregor.

De La Hoya said if somehow a fight with McGregor could be made, it would be as a boxing match. De La Hoya said he has no intention of going into the cage for an MMA bout.

“Let’s get it straight: In the cage, he would freaking destroy me. He would freaking destroy me. Only in the ring,” De La Hoya said.

“I’ve been working out for the last five months. [My confidence] is how I feel now from my training. I don’t know what it is, but I’ll tell you now that I’ve never felt so good before in my life.”

De La Hoya has battled drug and alcohol addiction, has been to rehabilitation multiple times and currently faces charges stemming from a DUI arrest earlier in the year. But De La Hoya said in Monday’s interview that he is doing well now.

“Every day just keeps getting better. Life is good,” De La Hoya said. “Life is a struggle; life is hard. It’s not all peaches and cream, but life is life and you have to think about the solution of what you have to do to keep walking.”

This is not the first time De La Hoya has publicly toyed with the idea of coming of out of retirement. In June 2015, De La Hoya told ESPN he was considering a return to the ring.

“It’s got to be worth my while, but this is very serious,” De La Hoya said at the time, mentioning a desire to face either Golovkin or have a rematch with Mayweather, who outpointed him in a 2007 fight that set the since-surpassed pay-per-view record. “I have to make sure I am fighting the very best. I don’t have to come back for financial reasons or the lights or the glamour. The only reason I would come back is because I miss the competition of fighting the very best.”

Soon after, De La Hoya said he would remain in retirement.

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