De La Hoya vs Belfort: The Golden Boy to look more like the Rusty Boy

Former six-division world champion Oscar De La Hoya is returning and it's not an exhibition bout...

In a time of boxing oddities, 48-year old Oscar De La Hoya will make a scarcely believable return to the ring next month when he takes on retired MMA legend, Vitor Belfort.

In what should prove to be an intriguing evening of veteran boxing at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, De La Hoya (39-6) will be fighting for the first time since an 8th round TKO defeat at the hands of Manny Pacquiao back in 2008.

For Belfort, 44 and a former UFC light heavyweight champion - his second step inside the squared circle comes three years after his last MMA contest at UFC 224 - 15 years after his only professional boxing bout.

Haye joins De La Hoya for veterans fight night

Also featuring on this Triller Fight Club promoted card as chief support is the somewhat less-anticipated return of former unified cruiserweight world champion David Haye. The Hayemaker will collide against billionaire friend and part-time boxer Joe Fournier.

In a night closely resembling a boxing senior citizens night out, 40-year old Haye and De La Hoya will be joined by MMA legends Anderson Silva (46) and Tito Ortiz (46), who will don the 10oz boxing gloves for the first time. It is being billed as some kind of dream MMA contest.

Strange, perhaps, that they should be fighting in a boxing ring.

However, despite it being a freak sporting occasion, there is little doubt that it will be the headline attraction that will grab most of the eyeballs come fight night.

Indeed, the once-great De La Hoya will be putting his stellar fighting reputation on the line against a dangerous and only recently-retired opponent.

Twenty years to the day from one of America's greatest ever tragedies, De La Hoya's return to the ring will undoubtedly tug at the heartstrings of the more sentimental stateside sports fan.

However, the once-hugely popular Los Angeles native is determined that this bout avoids being mentioned alongside some of the other strange "contests" we have witnessed over the past 12 months.

When and where?

The fight will take place on September 11 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

What's the weight limit?

The fight will be at a catchweight of 180 pounds and is scheduled for eight, two-minute rounds.

How can I watch it?

FITE TV will broadcast the fight card worldwide.

De la Hoya not interested in "exhibitions"

"These exhibitions that we're seeing are becoming a circus; I want no part of that. And that's why this fight is a real, sanctioned fight and not an exhibition.

"Everybody who knows me, I've never been in a boring fight. I go out there and fight. An exhibition isn't us; Vitor and I have too much at stake. When I see Belfort, I can see in his eyes how proud he is of his legacy, and I feel the same way too, and I respect that." De La Hoya explained.

"While I respect you, brother, (Belfort), I can tell you one thing; we are going to kick the shit out of each other, that's one thing for sure."

"This is not a game; I said if we're going to do this, let's do this for real. Let's not do a song and dance or these exhibitions that we're tired of."

"I've been in top challenges all my life, and I've been fighting since I was five years old. And I've had every challenge in the book, and I've fought the very best, from Pacquiao to Mayweather to Hopkins to Julio Cesar Chavez.

"I wanted a different challenge, and that's what Vitor Belfort presents. A challenge that's going to take my training and my mentality to a whole new level."

"Prediction: Knockout!"

Golden Boy craving legitimacy

Having claimed to have been inspired by the return of Mike Tyson to the sport in 2020, it is perhaps somewhat odd to hear De La Hoya be so dismissive of those exhibitions which have provided him with the platform to step back into the ring himself.

While it is undeniable that De la Hoya has one of the deepest resumes in the history of modern-day boxing, the Golden Boy surely has little to gain and plenty to lose.

A hugely respected and popular sporting figure in the 90s and earlier part of this century, De La Hoya has endured a tough retirement with personal addiction issues ensuring some of the glamour has been removed from his once shining star.

Despite a successful career as a promoter, and denying talk of a comeback for years, De La Hoya's desire to return is surely the craving of a former champion desperate for a redemptive story.

Of course, the lure of the boxing comeback is hardly a new phenomenon. That temptation has proved almost irresistible, even to our most decorated of champions.

However, almost 13 years since his last fight against Pacquiao, De La Hoya was far removed from his prime in that one-sided beat-down suffered at the hands of Pacman in 2008.

Having lost four of his last seven fights, it's easy to imagine that the Golden Boy might more closely resemble the Rusty Boy come September 11.

Still, whatever might be said by those sceptical of seeing middle-aged men fighting, even at 48, De La Hoya's return is sure to capture plenty of attention in the weeks leading up to next month's scheduled eight-round contest.

In the opposite corner, Vitor Belfort certainly seems to represent a tough challenge for Oscar, even if the Brazilian has fought just once under the Queensbury rules. A former UFC light heavyweight champion, Belfort stands two inches taller and boasts a naturally bigger frame than his opponent.

In addition, with a four year age advantage, coupled with his far shorter period of fighting inactivity, the Rio De Janeiro native has plenty going in his favour.

Indeed, the Brazilian certainly doesn't lack confidence and has promised a come-forward approach when the pair come face to face.

"When you step in the ring, you want the wars. I'm coming into the sport that Oscar has mastered, and I've learned in training boxing at a different level. My style is to come as a lion, and that's what I'm going to do, no changes now." Belfort claimed.

"There's a lot of mutual respect between the both of us, but once the bell rings, it's war. My heart, not my size, will make the difference in this fight. In my mind, I can beat any man, and that's how I feel about Oscar. I know he's left-handed and has a great jab, and I have to prepare for that. This is really the Best vs the Best!"

"I never look at the odds for my fights. I make my own prediction work for me. Prediction: Knockout."

Final thoughts...

Just under three weeks till fight night, De La Hoya is an odds-on favourite at 8/15 with Planet Sport Bet with Belfort available at 6/4 against.

However, It would surely be disingenuous to make any serious predictions for a fight like this. After all, what can you expect when in one corner, you have a 48-year-old boxing legend far removed from his best days returning to the ring, and in the other, a retired MMA fighter with just one professional boxing bout on his record.

While the last year has certainly brought plenty of new and somewhat unexpected attention to the sport, the question must be asked - when will one of these "exhibition" events turn ugly? Is it only a matter of time until one of our great former champions goes a step too far and suffers serious and long-lasting damage having decided to jump on a seemingly harmless bandwagon?

Of course, the desire to see our boxing heroes have one last fight is real and pervasive, but is this the best we can do for sporting entertainment in 2021? The sporting equivalent of the never-ending movie franchise.

Is it too much to hope that some of today's best fighters are given a real opportunity to become as celebrated as those who really should be passing the torch on, rather than relighting it?

Surely our fighting legends would be far better served to offer up their knowledge and skills inside gyms and boxing clubs across the globe, rather than donning up the gloves for one last night under the bright lights.

Sadly though, the circus seems certain to roll on a while longer with the almighty dollar once again reasserting itself on a sport that seems to have permanently resided in a house built on a bed of sand.

While Triller are certainly making big waves in the boxing industry with an unconventional, entertainment-based approach to the sport, the idea that boxing can be picked up and played with needs to end soon.

Still, PPV numbers will likely be high for a fight where the cheap seats start at $150, and despite legitimate concerns, we can only hope that all of the veterans on this boxing card emerge with both their health and dignity firmly intact.

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