AP Sports Columnist
LAS VEGAS (AP) -- He was the Golden Boy, a fighter who brought in fans for decades after winning a gold medal at the 1992 Olympics. Oscar De La Hoya fought 45 times in 16 years as a pro, winning 39 of them along his way to titles in six different weight classes.
He made millions, and his huge fan base made other fighters who beat him stars in their own right. But success came at a price, including two stints in rehab for alcohol abuse, which De La Hoya says plagued him since his youth in East Los Angeles.
Some details about De La Hoya:
DRINKING: De La Hoya says he was drinking throughout much of his career, including at the Olympics and in the weeks before his final fight, a loss to Manny Pacquiao in December 2008.
RETIREMENT IS TOUGH: De La Hoya fought past his prime. Most boxers do fight too long, he said, mostly because they miss the attention. "I would always ask, 'Now what?'" De La Hoya said. "What's going to fill the void of the adrenaline, the excitement, and the cheers in the ring? It shows you can get lost when you stop doing something you love. You're not prepared to handle it and you can make some wrong choices." At least he kept and invested much of the $300 million he earned. De La Hoya says that was a lesson he learned from retired boxers.
PAY ATTENTION TO THE BAD STUFF: De La Hoya has some advice for any athlete, not just fighters. Take a look at the bad things that happen, learn from them, and try to avoid the mistakes others have made. "Take a look at my career and look at all the negatives and just don't do what I did," he said. "It's easier said than done but it's true. Don't look at the good things we did because that's too easy. Take the bad and what happens in our lives and learn from it."
MAYWEATHER ISN'T UNBEATABLE: De La Hoya might have won his 2007 fight against Floyd Mayweather Jr. if he would have kept using his jab late in the fight. Age and a bad rotator cuff prevented that, but De La Hoya says Mayweather can be had if fighters keep calm and follow a good game plan. "What happens now is they lose before they step into the ring," he said. "Mayweather outsmarts them."
BOXING ISN'T DEAD: The problems with boxing are simple and easily solved, De La Hoya says. Top boxers like Mayweather need to fight more often, and different promoters have to match their best fighters against boxers with other promoters to make more big fights. De La Hoya says he is all in now on his promotional company, Golden Boy Promotions, and believes the seemingly insatiable demand by sports programmers for live content will keep boxing popular for years to come. "We haven't even scratched the surface," he said. "This is a business that maybe one day, 20 or 30 years from now, I will sell and it will be big."
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.