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De la Hoya, Hopkins 'Clash'

March 8, 2002
Copyright © 2002
PUERTORICOWOW. All Rights Reserved.

One was the best boxer in the world until Félix Trinidad beat him. The other did the same to Trinidad and now is recognized as the best pound-for-pound boxer in the world.

They are Oscar de la Hoya and Bernard Hopkins, who were in Puerto Rico on the same day. It all happened Tuesday, Feb. 26, when de la Hoya called for a press conference to promote his May 4 unification title bout with Fernando Vargas in Las Vegas.

The Mexican, who reigns as World Boxing Council super welterweight champion of the world, talked about everything. His spoke about his enmity with Vargas, the International Boxing Federation junior middleweight titlist, his new home in Puerto Rico, his wife, Puerto Rican singer Millie Corretjer, and his future in boxing and as a singer.

"First of all, I want to tell you that this beautiful island is my home now. I'm very glad to be here, to be part of this culture. I love it," said de la Hoya, who bought a house in Los Paseos urbanization in Río Piedras.

"I've been getting to know this island and, each time, I love it more. Millie has taken me to practically every part of it and I love it. The more places I visit, the more I like it here. This is my home now."

With those words, de la Hoya revived a recent controversy between Félix Trinidad Sr. and the Puerto Rico Boxing Commission. Trinidad Sr. took the PRBC to court, demanding the criteria for selecting John Ruiz as Boxer of the Year. Trinidad argued that Ruiz doesn't live in Puerto Rico and wasn't born on the island, although his parents are from Sabana Grande, so he shouldn't have won the award.

Nevertheless, commissioner José "Toto" Peñagaricano said the guidelines for selecting an award for a boxer states a boxer who is born of Puerto Rican parents and/or lives in Puerto Rico can be a candidate for any award.

Asked about de la Hoya's residence in Puerto Rico, Peñagaricano said the Golden Boy would be eligible for an award.

"He now lives here, so that makes him part of our boxing family. He could be considered for an award," said Peñagaricano. "We'll have to check on that. However, as I told you, he lives here now. So, I guess he has a right as a Puerto Rican citizen."

As for his fight with Vargas, de la Hoya said it was time for him to finally shut his big mouth. "I won't say I hate Vargas. But I don't like him. There's bad blood between us and I want to knock him out. I want to crush him because he hasn't shown me he respects me," said de la Hoya, who is 34-2 with 27 KOs.

"I'm not that kind of guy. I always greet my rivals after a fight. "But you all saw what Vargas did during the press conference. He was very violent and pushed me. That's the kind of rude guy he is."

De la Hoya said his fight against Vargas could be the start of his road to retirement, or his final fight. Definitely, if I lose, I'll retire. But I won't lose. I have said I will retire when I turn 30," said de la Hoya.

"If I win, I could be in a rematch with Trinidad or Bernard Hopkins. He [Hopkins] is the best boxer right now and, depending on how I perform with Vargas, then I would consider that. If I retire, I would like to go with my wife around the world, any place where she has to go to sing. Millie is my best support. She will help me take that step. She will be right along with me when that moment comes."

Meanwhile, two hours later that day, Hopkins was attending a World Boxing Organization charity event in Guaynabo. He also talked a lot. He spoke about his Puerto Rican flag incident and possible fights with Félix Trinidad Jr. and Oscar de la Hoya.

He even talked about Vieques.

"Every place I went, everybody talked about Vieques. I said to myself, what the heck is that," said Hopkins at the WBO Kids Drug-Free activity at Mario Jiménez arena.

"My wife told me about Vieques. That it was a small island off Puerto Rico being used as a military practice site by the U.S. marines, that citizens there were suffering from cancer, and babies were born deformed. For me, it looked like they were using it as sort of a toilet." But it was interesting, because everybody in New York, Miami, even in Philadelphia, talks about it."

Hopkins was visiting the island for a quick three days to deliver his excuses for the well-remembered Trinidad pre-fight press conference at Roberto Clemente Coliseum. Then, he had trashed the Puerto Rican flag and was forced to run from angry island fans."

"When I threw the flag down in New York, Trinidad told me that if I did that in Puerto Rico, I wouldn't leave alive. I took that as a challenge and I wasn't going to be threatened," said Hopkins.

Yes, it was part of the fight promotion. That's what led me to do that. But I came back here to say I'm sorry and to tell Puerto Ricans I respect them a lot. I came here by myself. I wanted to be present to tell Puerto Ricans I love them and respect them a lot."

Hopkins also said he understood the fight was a Puerto Rico vs. United States war.

"Trinidad Sr. told me his son had beaten four Americans and that I was going to be the fifth one. I said, 'Wait a minute, isn't Puerto Rico part of the United States? We are all Americans,' so why did they try to tell me with that," said Hopkins.

"I felt bad seeing everybody supporting Trinidad and not me, even my fellow Americans. No one talked about my career, my 15 title defenses, which are a record right now. It looked like I was battling against the whole world and I had to do whatever it takes to win."

On his future in boxing, Hopkins said a rematch with Trinidad and a possible fight with de la Hoya could be his final steps in the sport.

"He [Trinidad] gave me a chance. That's why I came here to give him back his championship belt. He can fight me whenever he wants. He deserves it," said Hopkins. "He now will have a very important fight, a comeback fight. Hope he wins. I truly want him to return to boxing with a victory. Oscar needs me if he wants to claim he's the best. But I'm 37 and I can tell you, I'll fight one or two more years. Then I'll retire with pride as a great champion and enjoy the rest of my life."

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