"The Golden Boy" Oscar De La Hoya retired from professional boxing on Tuesday. KPCC's Brian Watt went to the announcement by L.A.'s greatest boxer .
Brian Watt: De La Hoya said he's been struggling with the decision to hang up the gloves for the last four months – ever since he was overmatched and overwhelmed in his last fight in December by boxer Manny Pacquiao. Boxing, says De La Hoya, is his passion. It's what he was born to do.
Oscar De La Hoya: And when I can't do it anymore, when I can't do it at the highest level, it's... it's not fair. It's not fair to me, it's not fair to, to the fans. It's not fair to nobody.
Watt: As much De La Hoya loves boxing, it's fair to say he also loves the spectacle of it. At his announcement, more than 300 people filled a seating area on the plaza at L.A. Live to watch a video that played like a movie trailer.
Video:Born to Mexican parents, and raised in the barrios of East L.A., Oscar De La Hoya had very few opportunities to conquer life.
Watt: And his life is the stuff that movies are made of. Before his mother Cecilia died of cancer, he promised her he'd win the Olympic gold medal. He delivered at the 1992 games in Barcelona.
He turned pro a few months later and went on to win 10 world championships in six different weight divisions. Oscar De La Hoya has movie star good looks – and on HBO, he made more money than any movie star – thanks to pay-per-view.
His 19 fights on HBO brought in nearly $700 million. De La Hoya had a lot people to thank for his success, but he broke down when he got to his father, Joel.
De La Hoya: Thank you father for always being there for me and thank you for – (crying) for pushing me as hard as you can. [applause]
Steve Springer: Well, his father put the gloves on him when he was 4 years old and put him in a makeshift ring in a family backyard at a barbecue. And Oscar got hit in the face, ran out of the ring, and said he'd never fight again.
Watt: Steve Springer co-wrote De La Hoya's autobiography, "American Son." The former L.A. Times sportswriter says the father stayed on the son – and kept the family together during some rough times.
Springer: Well, Oscar still carries a food stamp in his wallet to remind him of the fact that the family lived on food stamps at one point.
Watt: De La Hoya has created other reminders of his family and his roots in East L.A. Elsie Garcia of Boyle Heights is student body president at the Oscar de La Hoya Animo Charter High School in downtown L.A.
Elsie Garcia: He's very involved with our school. He pays trips for us to go to Six Flags. He invites us to his fights. He's at every graduation.
Watt: Garcia said her niece was born recently at the Oscar De La Hoya Labor and Delivery Center. That's in East L.A. at White Memorial Medical Center.
So is the Oscar De La Hoya Neo-Natal Intensive Care Unit and the Cecilia Gonzalez De La Hoya Cancer Center – named for De La Hoya's mother. Bianca Gonzalez – no relation – is student body vice president at the charter high school.
Bianca Gonzalez: He gives us opportunities that I don't think any other school in our community would be getting.
Watt: As for de la Hoya's retirement at the ripe old age of 36, Bianca adds:
Gonzalez: It's good to see when someone knows when to quit. And he's not going down as a failure. He said he's going down as a fighter.
Watt: For those who think De La Hoya might not really know when to quit, he said he made a promise to himself and his family.
De la Hoya: This is it. This is the end of the road for me inside the ring.
Watt: Outside the ring, Oscar De La Hoya will focus on his high school, his medical facilities, and the boxing promotion company he started seven years ago.