Longtime combat sports commentator Ray Flores didn’t have the time to dissect Oscar De La Hoya’s mic work during the pay-per-view broadcast of Triller Fight Club’s event. But from his chair, he wasn’t overly concerned about his colleague’s behavior.
De La Hoya’s loud, rambling and often incoherent commentary drew much online mockery. Former fighters also expressed concern for his well being, including ex-UFC champ Frank Mir, whose fight with former IBF titleholder Steve Cunningham was marred by De La Hoya’s words.
Flores concedes what happened on the Triller broadcast wasn’t standard operating procedure, but he can’t bring himself to join the pitchfork party .
“Oscar was funny,” Flores said on What the Heck. “He was trying to be funny, and I let him be who he is. So if he’s letting loose, he’s not fighting tomorrow, he’s not fighting a month from now – he’s fighting in July, so we are over two-and-a-half months until July. The typical training camp is about eight weeks when it comes to boxing. So if he wants to go out, if he wants to have fun, etc., etc., who am I to say, ‘No, you can’t have fun, sir. You’re a world champion. You were a Hall of Famer. You can’t have fun, Oscar.’
“No, who am I to say? I don’t care. He didn’t offer me anything. He wasn’t stumbling on me. He’s having fun. He was being open and honest, and he was actually giving some decent analysis during points of that fight.”
De La Hoya previously has struggled with alcohol and cocaine addiction. He has yet to comment publicly on his appearance. At a press conference for a July Triller event, he announced he would step back in the ring against an unnamed opponent. ONE Championship CEO Chatri Sityodtong has said a fight with ex-UFC Eddie Alvarez is a “real possibility.”
“If Oscar wants to have some fun, let him have some fun,” Flores said. “People are like, ‘Was he on a substance?’ I don’t know, and that’s none of my business. I was just there to ask him questions, and away we went.”
The Triller broadcast bounced between musical acts and boxing matches for over three hours. Critics alternately praised and savaged the event’s pacing and fights before a headliner between YouTube celebrity Jake Paul and ex-MMA champ Ben Askren.
A quick knockout by Paul brought a slew of fight-fixing allegations, all of which Flores roundly rejects.
“I don’t know of any man, no matter what they pay you, that’s going to allow another human being that’s built like Jake Paul, drill you clean and have your head bounce off the canvas,” he said. “Because there’s only a little bit of padding on that canvas. It’s pretty much wood and steel on the bottom. ... and say, ‘OK, I’m going to have my head bounce off the canvas,’ knowing what could potentially happen. How do you even choreograph that? That doesn’t happen. He got drilled. He lowered his hands, the jab came down and the right hand followed that, and he got lit up. That’s exactly what happened.
“It takes too much effort to even come up with something like that, and the way our world works, if one person knows, unless they keep it to themselves, it’s going to get out everywhere. So you don’t think it would have come out already from somebody’s camp?”
Askren’s reaction to the knockout, in particular his exit from the arena under his own power with his wife, generated more allegations that he was paid to take a dive against Paul. But Flores said the smile on the ex-champ’s face was one of a man happy to be in relatively good health.
“He’s happy because he doesn’t have to go to the hospital, or he’s able to walk out under his own power and not get stretchered out of Mercedes-Benz Stadium,” Flores said.
Flores concedes the headliner could have gone a little bit longer. But he would prefer fights be stopped sooner than later out of abundance of caution for the fighters.
“At that point, Jake Paul’s in a no-win situation, because if he drills him again and he seriously hurts Askren, then he didn’t show restraint, but the fact that the referee stopped it, ‘Oh, it’s an early stoppage,’” Flores said before raising his voice.
“It’s not even his fault! He finds himself in controversy when he had nothing to do it because of the referee. What do you guys want him to do? Tell the referee, ‘Oh no, I’m going to use my discretion and punch this guy in the face again?’ That’s not the way it works.”
Flores gives Paul all the credit for taking seriously a most unusual transition to boxing. Like others, he’s never seen one quite like it, but he doesn’t question its very existence.
Paul’s prowess, combined with Askren’s approach and career stage, created the outcome a reported 1.2 to 1.6 million people saw this past Saturday. If Paul and Triller want to keep the money train rolling, Flores said, they should tack to the Conor McGregor camp.
“If Jake Paul and Dillon Danis fight, can you imagine the leadup to that fight? Oh my gosh, it would be nuts,” he said. “If you thought the pay-per-view numbers were through the roof on this one, this one would be a monster.”