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Statues don't normally cause much controversy. They are usually reserved for a select few that have clearly done enough in their life to deserve them and are typically celebrated by those that look up to and revere the bronzed individual.
That Oscar De La Hoya's new statue in front of the Staples Center in Los Angeles is the cause of much controversy, however, shouldn't come as a surprise. Everything De La Hoya has done in his hometown of Los Angeles has gotten mixed reviews since he became the "Golden Boy" back at the 1992 Summer Olympics. Not because of anything De La Hoya has done wrong but because of the fickle East L.A. Latino community he was born into, which has often seen De La Hoya as nothing more than a commercialized pretty boy who beat up on Julio Cesar Chavez, an icon in the Mexican community, twice at the end of his career.
Even as De La Hoya looks to close the book on his storied career this Saturday against Manny Pacquiao, he is still searching for their acceptance. "Over the years with all the fights I've had, with Ike Quartey and Fernando Vargas, I think they've seen that I can fight," said De La Hoya. "Not that they forgot about it, but my performances have overshadowed, I don't want to say the hate, but that negativity they had towards my career."
While that may be true, don't mistake De La Hoya's 14-foot bronze statue that sits in front of Staples Center, between Magic Johnson and Wayne Gretzky as a sign of that acceptance. If anything it's another sign of his commercialization that has often rubbed those in his home city the wrong way.
There is no denying De La Hoya's greatness as a boxer; he will go down as one of the greatest pound-for-pound fighters of his generation and one of greatest draws the sport has ever seen. He probably deserves a statue somewhere at some time, just not in front of the Staples Center and certainly not while he's still fighting.
What exactly has De La Hoya done to deserve a statue of himself raising his arms victoriously over his head in front of the Staples Center? He's only fought there once, a loss to Shane Mosley back in 2000. In fact, he's only fought in Los Angeles twice since 1994, with the other match being forgettable decision over Steve Forbes, which actually took place at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif.
The odd decision to have a statue of De La Hoya, instead of, say, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West or even Luc Robitaille, probably has more to do with the fact that De La Hoya's last two fights in California took place at the Staples Center and the Home Depot Center, both owned and operated by AEG. And wouldn't you know it; AEG recently bought a minority stake in De La Hoya's Golden Boy Promotions. In fact, that announcement came a week after it was announced that De La Hoya would have a statue erected in front of the Staples Center.
The Staples Center is the house that Magic and Gretzky built and it was fitting that those were the only two statues sitting in front of the arena until this week. Now they are joined by De La Hoya, who wedged himself in between those two legends, not so much for his craftiness in the ring but his shrewdness outside of it. It's yet another example of why he will forever have a love/hate relationship with his hometown.