Last night Oscar De La Hoya (30-0, 24 KO) passed the biggest test of his professional boxing career. In escaping with a close majority decision over Ike Quartey, De La Hoya did something much more important than simply retain his welterweight title.
For the first time in his career he was forced to overcome considerable adversity and demonstrate the heart of a true champion. He passed this test with flying colors. Sure the two judges who scored in favor of De La Hoya had him ahead by too wide a margin. Sure he got careless and was knocked on his butt in the sixth round while trying to finish off Quartey. And sure he appeared flat-footed and lethargic at various times during the bout. But with the outcome of the bout hanging in the balance, it was De la Hoya and not Quartey who came out in the 12th and final round and demonstrated to the judges and everyone else watching the fight that he wanted to win more than his opponent. He could have played it safe and let the judges determine his fate (and it turns out they would have given him the decision). Quartey chose this route and was left doing the only thing he could after the fight -- complaining about the scoring. Despite professing to know that he wouldn't be awarded a decision in a close fight with the 'Golden Boy', Quartey chose not to take matters into his own hands. You can dispute the judges' scoring, but you can't dispute that Oscar De La Hoya has the heart of a champion.
Coming into the fight, Quartey (34-1-1, 29 KO) was rightfully regarded as the toughest opponent the 'Golden Boy' had ever faced. De La Hoya's detractors refused to recognize him as one of the top fighters in the world, citing his list of conquered opponents as a virtual who's who of fighters either too old (Chavez, Whitaker, Camacho), too small (John John Molina, Rafael Ruelas, Genaro Hernandez, Jesse James Leija, Miguel Angel Gonzalez) or too lacking in firepower (David Kamau, Wilfredo Rivera, Patrick Charpentier) to truly test De la Hoya.
While it's not unreasonable to argue that effective marketing and shrewd matchmaking have contributed to De la Hoya's popularity and reputation, it's also undeniable that Oscar has passed every test so far in his young career. And unlike Roy Jones Jr., Oscar's only current rival for the title of best pound-for-pound fighter in the world, De la Hoya has a variety of possible opponents (Felix Trinidad, Fernando Vargas, David Reid) against whom he can stake a claim to being one of the all-time greats.
Oba Carr (48-2-1, 28 KO) scored a ten round unanimous decision over veteran Frankie Randall (55-6-1, 42 KO), earning what he hopes will be the next shot at a major payday with De la Hoya.
Erik Morales (32-0, 26 KO) successfully defended his WBC super batamweight title with a second round knockout of Angel Chacon (24-3, 14 KO).
Female boxer (and former Playboy model) Mia St. John (10-0, 6 KO) won a unanimous four-round decision over Amanda Skelton.
Eric ''Butterbean'' Esch (38-1-1, 29 KO) knocked out Patrick Graham (5-4-1, 4 KO) in the third round of (what else?) a scheduled four-rounder.