LAS VEGAS – Oscar De La Hoya was tired of the talk, tired of people questioning his heart.
After what may have been the fight of his life against Fernando Vargas, he won’t have to hear it anymore.
De La Hoya stood and fought Saturday night when in the past he might have run, and it paid off in a spectacular knockout win over a younger, supposedly stronger fighter who didn’t know when to keep quiet.
“It was a very satisfying win because he was talking too much,” De La Hoya said. “I don’t understand why he was talking so much trash about a fellow fighter. Imagine in golf if Tiger Woods talked trash about Jack Nicklaus. It just doesn’t make sense.”
The win came behind a persistent jab and a pair of vicious left hooks, the second of which put Vargas flat on his back in the 11th round. Vargas got up, but was defenseless in De La Hoya’s corner and taking a lot of punishment when referee Joe Cortez finally stopped the fight.
Vargas had vowed to make it De La Hoya’s last fight. Instead, it may be the spark that ignites the rest of what some had thought was a fading career.
“That was the signature fight for Oscar,” promoter Bob Arum said. “This was his best performance ever.”
Arum is prone to overstatement, but it was hard to argue with the results. De La Hoya overcame questions both about his left hand and his ability to punch at 154 pounds to finally take apart a Los Angeles-area rival who did everything he could to irritate him.
He earned $14 million, added the WBA 154-pound title to the WBC belt he already held and established himself once again as boxing’s premier non-heavyweight attraction.
De La Hoya also promised there would be more to come.
“I’m hungry, hungrier than ever,” he said. “I feel fresh.”
De La Hoya needed to win what had become a neighborhood feud to set up two more fights he really wants – rematches against Felix Trinidad and Shane Mosley, the only two fighters to beat him.
Trinidad insists he’s retired, but Mosley was at ringside Saturday night and says he’s game. De La Hoya is most likely to fight a lesser fighter in January and then possibly take on Mosley in May.