ARLINGTON, Texas -- Oscar De La Hoya doesn't so much walk as he stops and starts. Like an aging car with a faulty transmission, there isn't a trip De La Hoya makes in public that isn't delayed and in need of some muscle pushing him in the right direction.
Eight years removed from his last fight, a TKO loss to Manny Pacquiao in December 2008, De La Hoya is still the biggest name at the news conferences, weigh-ins and promotional appearances he oversees for his fighters as the CEO and chairman of Golden Boy Promotions. So as he tries to navigate through a sea of people at AT&T Stadium, fans pull him in every direction with the ease and familiarity of a family member. They want a selfie or an autograph or both, and a smiling De La Hoya obliges every request to the worry of his senior advisor Julio Ramirez, who is anxiously looking at his watch as he tries to move De La Hoya toward the stage for the weigh-in before Canelo Alvarez's fight against Liam Smith.
"When I worked on campaigns we tried to get them in and out as quickly as possible," says Ramirez, who has worked for several politicians ranging from Bill Clinton to former Los Angeles mayor Richard Riordan. "Oscar loves his fans and the fans love him. I just want to make sure he's safe and doesn't trip and fall."
De La Hoya smiles as he hears Ramirez talk about his strategy in getting him from point A to point B as quickly as possible. "I'll be fine," he says. "Did Bill Clinton ever fall?"
As he shakes hands and signs autographs on his way to the stage, De La Hoya looks like a politician running for office, but he's more content selling himself and his fighters to the American people than a political platform. Every hand he shakes is a potential costumer, or in the case of Olympic gold medalist Clarissa Shields, a potential client.
"The only company I want to sign with is Golden Boy," Shields says as she shows De La Hoya her gold medals from the 2012 and 2016 Summer Olympics.
"That would be great. Let's do it," De La Hoya says as he holds the medals and sets up a meeting with Golden Boy Promotions senior vice president Eric Gomez.
Golden Boy Promotions has about 80 fighters under contract, but Shields would be the first female and De La Hoya sees a potential future star in Shields, who became the first American boxer, male or female, to successfully defend an Olympic title. There is, of course, a bond that binds De La Hoya and Shields before any contract might. De La Hoya burst onto the national and global stage at the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona when he fulfilled the dying wish of his mother, Cecilia, who would always tell her son, "Don't let anything stop you from getting that gold" when he would visit her in the hospital. She died in 1990, two years before "The Golden Boy" won the gold medal.
"I was looking at her gold medal and thinking, 'I got one of these,' " De La Hoya says before doing a string of interviews in English and Spanish. "It's pretty cool. She knew what I was thinking. There's a sense of pride that only we understand having won the gold medal. There's nothing else like it."
De La Hoya has been in the limelight for the past 25 years but after talking to Shields he is reminded that nothing prepared him more for handling the responsibilities that come with that attention quite like being thrown into the fire as a 19-year old gold medalist.
"When I think about it, the Olympics are what prepared me for everything," De La Hoya says. "Having a worldwide stage after winning the gold medal is what prepared me for all of this. It wasn't me fighting professionally or winning the world title. No, it was winning the gold medal and having to do all the interviews there and preparing myself for being in front of the spotlight and doing the Spanish and English interviews. That's what the standard is. And that's the same standard I have now in my new role."
There are fleeting moments when De La Hoya is promoting his fighters where he still wishes he could fight. Not that long ago there were moments when De La Hoya thought he still could.
It's hard for him to walk into AT&T Stadium and look down at the ring being set up and not envision himself making one last march toward the stage he owned for so many years, in front of a sold-out crowd and a record pay-per-view audience. As much as he wants those moments for Alvarez now, the competitor in him still wants those moments for himself as he takes a look around the Dallas Cowboys' $1.3 billion stadium.
"I think about it every day," De La Hoya says. "I wish I was fighting again. It would be a dream, but I know my body just can't take it anymore. When I reached the top, I loved staying at the top and fighting the best. If I were to come back I would want to challenge Canelo because he's at the top of the game, but I'm smart enough now to know that one punch from him and it's sayonara."
Whenever De La Hoya thinks about making a comeback he brings himself back to reality when reminded about his last fight against Pacquiao.
"I'll never forget walking to ring that night," De La Hoya says. "I knew that I was going to get beat up already. It was like walking into a slaughter house and knowing that this is it. I've never felt that before in my life. Imagine going into the ring, knowing that you're going to get beat. I might as well have run back to the dressing room and taken off, but I've always decided to fight but I was a dead man walking when I stepped into the ring against Pacquiao. I had nothing left."
Long before his body told him he could no longer fight, De La Hoya began thinking about life after boxing. He started Golden Boy Promotions in 2002 shortly after his fight against Fernando Vargas. He wasn't looking for an exit strategy at the time; just a way to capitalize on his success while setting the groundwork for a convenient off-ramp when it was time for him to exit the ring.
"I fought Fernando Vargas and it was a tough, grueling fight that was tough on body and afterwards I thought, 'It's time to think about life after boxing,' " De La Hoya says. "I first became a manager and it was like babysitting and that wasn't for me. I mean I need someone to babysit me. So I looked around and Bob Arum has been doing this for 40 years and Don King has been doing this forever, so I said let me look into promoting."
De La Hoya, who became the first American of Mexican decent to own a national boxing promotional company, has built Golden Boy Promotions into one of the most well-known promotion companies in the world. But like De La Hoya, it has been forced to come back after being knocked down. Last year, De La Hoya reached a settlement on the lawsuit against his former CEO Richard Schaefer, who abruptly resigned in 2014. Schaeffer was the only chief executive in company history and in the wake of his departure, the company lost about 20 fighters and 10 staff members. It was the kind of exodus that would've crippled most promotions, but De La Hoya gathered those who stayed during a company retreat in New York and asked them if they believed in him and the company and if they wanted to move forward with him.
"This is like a family," De La Hoya says. "We're not a regular business. If you wear a tie in the office I'm going to get a pair of scissors and cut it in half. Many of us grew up together. Some have left and some have come in but everyone gets along now. We work towards one goal and that's all that matters."
As De La Hoya sits in the atrium of the Gaylord Texan Resort, which is housing most of his staff and fighters for the week, he is awaiting the arrival of his favorite fighter, who has just arrived from Las Vegas.
"There he is!" De La Hoya says, getting up from his chair and giving him a hug. "This is the Platinum Boy."
Devon De La Hoya doesn't officially have a nickname yet, but the 17-year old son of De La Hoya is training to be a boxer just like his father. They are soon joined by Atiana, De La Hoya's 17-year-old daughter, and Jacob, De La Hoya's 18-year old son.
De La Hoya, who fathered all three children from previous relationships, will be the first to admit he hasn't always been there for his three oldest children. He's also the first to admit a few years ago he wasn't in the right place mentally after two rehab stints in three years to be the father he has become to not only Devon, Atiana and Jacob, but to Oscar, 10, and Nina, 8, whom he had with his current wife, Millie.
"It's awesome getting to enjoy this with them now," De La Hoya says. "My three oldest kids can now appreciate this and see papa in action and see what I do and the work that I have to put in. Fight week is a great time for us all to get together. Devon lives in Vegas, and Atiana and Jacob live in L.A. so whenever we can all get together it's always a blast. My two youngest ones will be watching the fight back home, but they'll come out here too when they're older."
After Friday's weigh-in, De La Hoya gets in a black Mercedes-Benz Sprinter with his kids and instructs the driver to take them to Meat U Anywhere BBQ, a barbecue joint in Grapevine where De La Hoya had previously dined.
"Guys, this is the best barbecue in the world," he says. "You're not going to believe it."
When De La Hoya arrives at the restaurant, everyone in the kitchen stops and waves and cuts up pieces of brisket and ribs for him to taste. De La Hoya orders something from the entire menu after trying the brisket, pulled pork, sausage and St. Louis cut ribs. "Oh, and mac and cheese," he says. "They have the best mac and cheese."
As De La Hoya sits at the table to eat, he turns to Devon and asks if he has any footage of him boxing. Devon smiles, licks the barbecue from his fingers, and pulls out his iPhone and raises it toward his father's eyes.
"Nice!" De La Hoya says in between bites of brisket as he watches his son's sparring video. "Nice! Look out for that jab. Good. Good."
Devon has been training with Fernando Vargas, who was once a bitter rival of De La Hoya's but is now a friend and someone he frequently does business with in promoting his fighters. Vargas not only trains Devon but his own 16-year-old son, Amado Vargas.
"That's what life after boxing is, we were competitors 14 years ago, but we've become good friends, and now Devon works out with him from time to time," De La Hoya says. "Vargas' kid I think is in Devon's weight class so, hey, De La Hoya-Vargas II."
De La Hoya is staring at his iPhone as he paces around a black Chevrolet Suburban waiting to drive him to AT&T Stadium on fight night. The plan is to get there before the start of the pay-per-view, but De La Hoya has spent much of the day watching the undercard on his phone while getting updates on tickets sold.
"How is it looking?" De La Hoya asks after a call interrupts his live stream of Sadam Ali's unanimous decision win over Saul Corral. "That's good. OK. Keep me updated."
As his car drives underneath the stadium, it pulls up directly outside of the locker rooms of the fighters. De La Hoya wants to visit his cousin, Diego De La Hoya, who has a match against Luis Del Valle to open the pay-per-view.
"My cousin is a hot head," De La Hoya says as he enters the locker room. "In the ring, he'll want to knock you out. He's very skillful but when he gets hit you can see it in his eyes, there's a fire there."
Diego takes a break from sparring with his trainer to hug Oscar as soon as he walks into the room. As Oscar watches Diego get his final instructions, he looks down at his iPhone.
"I bought the pay-per-view a few times on my phone just to make sure it works," De La Hoya says as he looks at the countdown until the start of the show which is now under eight minutes. "I want to make sure everything is running smoothly. We have a lot of people watching tonight on their mobile devices."
With Diego getting ready to go to the ring, De La Hoya is asked if he wants to go to his ringside seat or visit Canelo Alvarez. De La Hoya laughs. "Canelo," he says. "Always Canelo."
Alvarez is preparing for his main event fight against Liam Smith in the Dallas Cowboys' oversized locker room with photos of Hall of Fame players such as Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin on the walls. De La Hoya hugs Alvarez as soon as he walks in and puts his arm around him as they smile for a photographer.
"When I was a fighter and my promoter would come into the locker room, I'd say hi and that was about it," De La Hoya says. "It's just showing support. There are no last-second motivational speeches in boxing. All the work is done. If you need motivation from your promoter five minutes before you go out, then something is wrong."
De La Hoya then walks to the ring just before Diego De La Hoya's fight and is seated between Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and former middleweight champion Bernard Hopkins, who is minority partner with Golden Boy Promotions.
Jones secured the Alvarez fight after meeting with De La Hoya in Las Vegas during Alvarez's last fight against Amir Khan in May. Jones is hopeful that AT&T Stadium can be Alvarez's new home for big fights.
"This has everything to do with our Latino and Mexican fans," Jones says. "I know how passionate Mexico is about fighting. I was going to walk to Las Vegas or Los Angeles or wherever I needed to in order to make this fight happen. I think this is the beginning of a long relationship with Oscar."
De La Hoya knows the fight Jones wants is Alvarez against unified middleweight titleholder Gennady Golovkin. After Alvarez dismantles Liam Smith, concluding with a ninth-round knockout in front of 51,240 fans, it's the only question De La Hoya gets.
"Canelo is the biggest star in boxing today," De La Hoya says. "We'll definitely make the fight happen. It's going to happen. He's going to fight in January and May and then hopefully it'll happen in September."
After the post-fight news conference, De La Hoya gets into the back of a black Chevrolet Suburban to head back to the hotel. It's just past 2 a.m. and De La Hoya's phone is filled with e-mails and texts he tries to respond to while trying to stay awake. Everyone wants to know when Canelo will fight Golovkin.
"I get it," De La Hoya says. "Everyone wants to see that fight. It's going to happen, but the ball is in their court. We've made them a significant offer so the ball is in their court now."
As his car pulls up to the hotel around 2:30 a.m. De La Hoya asks what time he needs to be in the lobby for his flight home. He's told to be down in three hours as his car is leaving at 5:30 a.m. De La Hoya's head drops as if he has been hit by a knockout punch.
"Why so early?" De La Hoya asks. "Can we leave later and get some more of that barbecue tomorrow?"