Oscar De La Hoya spent the past week on a USO tour visiting American troops in Iraq and Kuwait, and said the "amazing experience" was "humbling" and changed him.
"Going on this USO tour and spending time with the servicemen and servicewomen who protect our country was a life-changing experience," said De La Hoya, the retired six-division titleholder, upon his return to the United States on Tuesday. "You don't realize what it means to be a participant in our military efforts and the sacrifices each one of them is making to fight for and protect our freedom until you see it firsthand.
"Hearing their stories and seeing what they go through on a daily basis has changed my life. The opportunity to see how our troops live and understand their ability to be ready for anything at a moment's notice showed me what it means to be truly brave."
De La Hoya, along with some of the prospects Golden Boy, his company, promotes -- junior lightweight Adrien Broner, middleweight Daniel Jacobs and heavyweight Seth Mitchell -- went to the Middle East on March 8 and visited eight military bases during the tour.
During their week overseas, the fighters mingled with troops, held a series of boxing clinics and signed autographs. De La Hoya also said the bases they visited came under enemy fire four times. In addition, because of the gunfire, they were unable to leave Iraq on schedule.
"I'm speechless on this whole trip," De La Hoya said. "It really made me appreciate life and [the] troops."
De La Hoya said the experience would not be his last with the USO.
"I hope that we were able to make a difference in the lives of the troops we met," he said. "I am dedicated to continuing to help the USO with their mission of uplifting the spirits of our nation's troops, sharing my experiences and encouraging others to support our brave servicemen and servicewomen in any way they can."
The experience also made an impression on the other fighters who accompanied De La Hoya, including Broner.
"I have to admit, compared to what I have learned our troops go through every day, I think my kind of toughness is different from theirs," he said. "I don't think I know anyone as tough as they are."