Oscar De La Hoya is glad his proposed return to the boxing ring got derailed.
In 2021, De La Hoya was set to end his retirement from professional boxing for a bout against Vitor Belfort under the Triller Fight Club promotion. Unfortunately, a week before the bout, he contracted COVID, forcing him out of the fight. Apparently, his bout with the virus proved difficult in its own right. But even so, the boxing Hall of Famer says it may have been better for him in the long run.
“[My bout with COVID] was actually bad – it was really, really bad,” De La Hoya told Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour. “It was very unfortunate, because I was in great shape. I was in great shape, but I have admit, I was lying to myself.
“When I was sparring, I was getting hit a lot. So it was kind of like, I was being stubborn. I was in great shape, my reflexes — the videos that I posted, they were legit — they were fast, I felt my reflexes were incredible, but when I was sparring, I was getting hit too much.”
When De La Hoya withdrew from the bout, former undisputed heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield stepped in on short notice to replace him against Belfort. That bout was changed from an official boxing match to an exhibition, but Belfort still knocked out Holyfield all the same, finishing the fight in the first round.
Given the issues he had in the lead up to the bout, and the size disparity between he and Holyfield, De La Hoya admits he probably got lucky in not fighting Belfort.
“Everything happens for a reason,” De La Hoya said. “It didn’t take place, unfortunately, but I’m glad I didn’t fight this monster of a fighter, because he’s a big guy, he knows what he’s doing, he’s talented. As old as we were, we still can throw punches. We saw it with Evander Holyfield, where he knocked him out, so I think I dodged a bullet there.”
And De La Hoya says it’s the last bullet he will ever have to dodge. Realizing what a bad idea it was in the first place, “The Golden Boy” has no further plans of returning to the squared circle.
“No, no, no – I’m done,” he said. “Like I said, everything happens for a reason and I’m actually glad I didn’t come back. I think my ego got a little bit of me as a fighter, because being in the ring, to me, is my safe zone. Boxing, the ring, it’s everything to me. Nobody can touch me in there. I feel safe. So the fact that I wanted to get in the ring, and train, and feel that adrenaline, it kind of took over me, mentally. I believed that I can really do this, and that’s obviously the nemesis of a fighter, when your mind tells you you can do it but your body is just not responding.
“It’s a love-hate relationship that I have with boxing, but everything happens for a reason. I got COVID really bad, I’m glad I survived it, and here we are. I’m not going to come back any time soon, that’s for sure.”