Two of the most talked about boxing matches in 2020 — the return of a 54-year-old Mike Tyson to the ring and an exhibition fight between social media personality Jake Paul and former NBA player Nate Robinson — left boxing purists wincing.
But for former world champion and current mega-promoter Oscar De La Hoya, the sideshow fights brought welcome attention to a sport that has struggled to regain its must-watch status since its last slate of stars who came up during the 1990s began trading in their boxing gloves for AARP cards.
“It was entertainment,” De La Hoya, 47, said about Tyson’s Nov. 28 exhibition fight against Roy Jones Jr. “I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that, for the first time in a long time, fans and people were congregating to watch an event. Mike Tyson is such an inspiration, he got in good shape and looked good.”
Not one to disparage any means for pushing boxing back into pop culture, De La Hoya said that the sport could capitalize on the draw of unlikely fighters by creating a separate division where the Jake Pauls and Mike Tysons of the world can go toe to toe.
“We’re appreciative of a Jake Paul who is a boxer now,” said De La Hoya. “He’s creating attention that boxing hasn’t seen in a long time.”
Of course, De La Hoya’s primary focus is to advance the profiles of the stable of fighters he manages through his Golden Boy Promotions.
The next big fight on his docket is the Jan. 2 bout between Golden Boy’s Ryan Garcia, a lightning quick lightweight with knockout power, against Britain’s 2012 Olympic gold medalist Luke Campbell.
“Ryan’s got that ‘it’ factor that not a lot of fighters have,” said De La Hoya.
Garcia is trained by Eddy Reynoso, who also coaches Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez, ranked by De La Hoya as the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world.
Alvarez recently split from Golden Boy Promotions after a dispute over payments from a 10-fight, $365 million deal signed with streaming service DAZN. The promoter wouldn’t comment on terms of the settlement, but wished Canelo all the best moving forward.
“With the job we’ve done taking him to superstar status, our paths are destined to cross again,” De La Hoya said.
When and how that might happen is anyone’s guess, but at a time when past champions are lacing up their gloves well into their 50’s, don’t rule out a possible in ring reunion.
In an interview with Sky Sports, De La Hoya said Tyson’s return has inspired him to consider getting back into the squared-circle.
“Mike Tyson proved and showed the world that age is just a number,” said De La Hoya to Sky. “I miss it, I love boxing.”