LAS VEGAS -- Oscar De La Hoya is going to play coy until the very end, slipping the questions like he sometimes dodged incoming punches.
Boxing's biggest star plans to announce at a news conference in Los Angeles on Tuesday whether he will fight on in the wake of the December demolition administered to him by Manny Pacquiao, or retire and bring the curtain down on a remarkable career in which he won a 1992 Olympic gold medal, professional titles in six weight divisions and became the highest-grossing star in boxing history.
I believe De La Hoya is going to retire, and good for him. At 36, with a family, all the money he could ever need, successful business interests, and a Hall of Fame career, there's no point to fighting anymore except at the risk of damaging his health and legacy. It's not like De La Hoya is suddenly going to start beating top-echelon fighters again. He hasn't done that for years despite his popularity.
Besides, if De La Hoya isn't retiring, why the big, fancy news conference just to say you're going to fight when you don't even have an opponent lined up? Believe me, if he had an opponent lined up, or a date set aside or a venue on hold, the news wouldn't just leak out. It would rocket out.
De La Hoya, in Vegas because Golden Boy Promotions is co-promoting tonight's Paul Williams-Winky Wright card at Mandalay Bay, sat down with a few media members for about a half hour in the media center Friday afternoon to tease us about his plans.
"I'm excited because people will be shocked," he said, flanked by business partner and close friend Richard Schaefer. "You know I've always fought the best. That's all I'm going to say."
I have no idea what De La Hoya meant with that opening remark, but his comments became no more clear, so I asked him if he could be more specific. He couldn't.
"I haven't been this excited since winning the gold medal. It's a major move in my career," he said. "It's strategic and well-thought out. I've been thinking about this and it's firm. People ask me if I'm going to retire, and I didn't want to base my decision on my last performance because emotions are riding so high or so low after a fight, you don't want to make a decision like that. You don't want to think about it that night. You want to make an intelligent decision."
I asked De La Hoya (39-6, 30 KOs) why he even had to make a decision? Plenty of fighters take long periods off -- a lot longer than the few months it's been since De La Hoya's last fight -- and just see how they feel after a year or more. There is certainly no absolute need for De La Hoya to make a grand announcement other than he may be getting tired of the questions from fans and media everywhere he goes.
"I just felt I had to [make a decision]," he said. "My fans want to know. But my decision is based solely on how I feel, not how Richard feels, not how my wife feels. How I feel. I've had input from tons of people. Obviously, I'm going to pay more attention to people who are closest to me, but I literally was asking people in the street: 'Should I retire or should I continue?' It was split. 'Enjoy your family.' That was the No. 1 response from most people."
De La Hoya, who said he has the Pacquiao loss saved on his DVR but has never watched it, sure looked in shape. He said he weighed about 152 pounds and had recently gone to the gym. But he also said not to read too much into that because he would always keep himself in physically good condition.
He said his decision would not be based on the health of Golden Boy Promotions, either. With De La Hoya's name and Schaefer's business acumen, Golden Boy has emerged as one of the most significant promotional outfits in the world.
"There's no pressure whatsoever," De La Hoya said about the concerns for his company. "Golden Boy Promotions is a machine on its own. It's a company that is paving the way for the future of the sport."
De La Hoya said he paid attention to the hoopla surrounding quarterback Brett Favre, who stayed a season too long when he played one last forgettable season with the New York Jets instead of bowing out gracefully after a storybook retirement from the Green Bay Packers.
"I was thinking so much about Brett Favre. He retired and came back. Why?" De La Hoya asked.
Whatever the Golden Boy does on Tuesday, he said he is comfortable and firm with the decision.
"If I did decide to retire, I'm content with my career," he said. "I'm content with what I've accomplished. As an athlete who's very competitive, you always want more, but in the back of your mind you think about all the wins and what you've accomplished. That's what makes it so difficult. Whatever decision I announce on Tuesday will be the right decision for me."
Coy to the end. But I believe this is the end.