Boxing's Man of the Year: Oscar De La Hoya

Kevin Iole
Yahoo Sports
Oscar De La Hoya is introduced at the official weigh-in for Canelo Alvarez and Erislandy Lara in July. (Getty)

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Oscar De La Hoya is introduced at the official weigh-in for Canelo Alvarez and Erislandy Lara in July. (Getty)

Oscar De La Hoya looked anything but comfortable at a questionably timed, poorly run, news conference he called in Las Vegas on May 3.

It was held in a ballroom at the MGM Grand, only hours before Floyd Mayweather Jr. was to meet Marcos Maidana. Undercard fights were going on while De La Hoya spoke to the media en masse for the first time since being released from a rehabilitation clinic.

Richard Schaefer was running Golden Boy Promotions, and if the media that met De La Hoya that day had been polled, it would have been unanimous in Schaefer's favor about which man was best suited to run the company.

In a month, De La Hoya would be inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame as a tribute to his brilliance as a fighter.

But since his retirement following a 2008 battering from Manny Pacquiao, he'd been anything but brilliant as a promoter.

He was in and out of rehabilitation, seemed disinterested in the business aspects of boxing and played a key role in the nonsensical feud with Top Rank that threatened to further erode the sport's remaining credibility with the world at large.

Promoter Oscar De La Hoya (R) poses for a picture with Bernard Hopkins. (AP)
Promoter Oscar De La Hoya (R) poses for a picture with Bernard Hopkins. (AP)

Nearly eight months later, though, it is a very different De La Hoya. He is decidedly in charge of his company. He won a staredown with Schaefer and regained control of the company he founded, invested millions in and which bore his nickname.

He took the first steps toward d├ętente with Top Rank, mending fences with its CEO, Bob Arum.

He repaired relations with HBO, which in early 2013 had booted Golden Boy from its airwaves. Given that 14 of the 15 most widely viewed non-pay-per-view fights in the U.S. in 2014 were on HBO, it was a prudent decision to end that dispute as soon as possible.

And he immediately began campaigning for the best fights to be made, fights his customers demanded, once he was firmly back in charge.

For that work, and much more, De La Hoya is the Yahoo Sports Boxing Man of the Year in 2014.

The year wasn't a great one for the sport from a business standpoint. Pay-per-view sales were down dramatically. None of the major bouts hit a million sales, or seriously threatened the mark, and fights involving stars such as Mayweather, Pacquiao, Miguel Cotto and Sergio Martinez came in significantly under projections.

Unlike 2013, when Showtime and HBO went head-to-head with spectacular shows on an almost weekly basis, the quality of the events was far more uneven in 2014.

Efforts by both De La Hoya and Arum to make major bouts were compounded by the roadblocks thrown up by the abstruse Al Haymon, the powerhouse manager/adviser whose contract with his fighters gives him the ability to approve opponents.

Given that Haymon is believed to be working on putting together some sort of deal with NBC for fights in 2015, he wasn't too interested in having De La Hoya throw his charges into difficult challenges.

Yet, despite it all, De La Hoya kept working. He made himself more accessible than he'd ever been as he preached for the best to fight the best.

Promoters often say that, and in most sports, it's exactly what fans want. College football fans have complained for years that polls and the bowl system prevented the two best teams from meeting for the national championship.

In boxing, though, what they really mean when they say best-versus-best is, in most cases, stylistic matchups that figure to produce great action.

De La Hoya used his pulpit to not only call on others to do that, but also to commit himself to doing the same.

A prime example was his work with Canelo Alvarez. Alvarez is a major star in boxing who, unlike Mayweather, Pacquiao or Cotto, met his pay-per-view expectations in 2014.

It's difficult to overstate Alvarez's importance to Golden Boy. He's the one true star, the surefire ticket-seller and gate attraction, under the company's banner. Yes, there are others, but Haymon has his hooks in most of them and that makes it difficult to maneuver.

Canelo Alvarez (L) poses for a photo with Oscar De La Hoya during an Alvarez training camp. (Getty)
Canelo Alvarez (L) poses for a photo with Oscar De La Hoya during an Alvarez training camp. (Getty)

Alvarez, though, is not affiliated with Haymon. So it wouldn't have been a bad business decision for De La Hoya to look to put Alvarez into some winnable pay-per-view bouts that may not have hit the jackpot but would have made the company money and would have kept Alvarez a viable star.

But De La Hoya instead set Alvarez on a path to chase Cotto, a bout the public was demanding.

It showed De La Hoya's leadership and vision.

He's really only just begun the fight. It promises to be a very difficult year in 2015 as he attempts to sort out his contractual status with the many Haymon-managed fighters on his roster.

He needs to remain sober, a battle he struggles with every day and remains very open about, in order to have a chance. If he falls off the wagon again, he doesn't have a shrewd and savvy businessman like Schaefer around to save the company.

Though they eventually wound up at odds, De La Hoya desperately needed Schaefer from 2011 to 2013. As De La Hoya was fighting his own personal battle, Schaefer was building the company into a powerhouse.

It's not going to be easy for De La Hoya, but he did brilliant work in 2014 against staggering odds.

For that, he's the easy choice as the Boxing Man of the Year.

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