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Oscar De La Hoya Fights to Bring Cultures Together

The Olympic champion uses his sport to give back to the community that raised him

spinner image Oscar De La Hoya with his fist raised
Cindy Ord/Getty Images

This country is everything to me. It gave me the opportunity to represent the U.S. in the Olympic Games, which started my career and launched the dreams I had as a child. But I had to work hard and never give up. I had to wake up at 4 a.m. to run my six miles. I had to put in all the sweat and tears in the gym.

Growing up in East Los Angeles as a child of Mexican immigrants who crossed over to the U.S. when they were 16, I learned the value of hard work, respect towards your parents and their mission for us: to get our education and have a better life.

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I owe everything to my cultural heritage, how I grew up, where I grew up and the values my parents instilled in us, which I still live by. To this day, I work as hard as I can every single day, but make sure I'm always well balanced and happy.

I am proud to be born in the USA, but my Mexican roots are my foundation and what make me never give up, always keep fighting and finish the fight till the end. 

As a way to show my appreciation for my roots, I got my Mexican citizenship in 2002. It was very important for me to show my family, my fans and everyone that I’m very proud of my heritage and where I come from.

My father was a fighter, my grandfather was a boxer, so I come from the third generation of fighters. And boxing has always been a sport that has been able to unite us as families. You can’t imagine how many people write to me or will come up to me and tell me, “Thank you for bettering my mother’s and father’s relationship with me; you know, you brought us together,” because they would have family over and gather around the television to watch my fights.

Without boxing, my life wouldn't be complete. When I was inside the ring fighting, I felt at peace and safe. I felt I could do anything I wanted, because I was prepared. I was a well-trained machine, mentally and physically. Boxing changed my life and gave my kids a better lifeIt also instilled in me the values that I teach my kids: the hard work, discipline and dedication required to become a world champion.  

Latin American boxing has always been the backbone of boxing on a global scale. For example, Mexico, Puerto Rico and Cuba have developed some terrific champions over the years. The beauty of boxing is that it's a global sport. When you step inside that ring, there's no nationality. Boxing brings people together whether you're rich or poor or old or young. Now, as a promoter, I feel a sense of responsibility to make some great fights and cultivate great fighters. We're developing new champions.

— As told to Verónica Villafañe

Oscar De La Hoya won a gold medal at the 1992 Olympics at the age of 19, earning him the nickname Golden Boy. As a pro, De La Hoya went on to win 10 world titles in six different weight classes before retiring in 2009. One of the most successful boxers in modern history, earning $700 million in pay-per-view income alone, in 2002 he founded Golden Boy Promotions, becoming a promoter while still active in the sport. He is involved in multiple charity and community service efforts, including the Oscar De La Hoya Foundation and a youth boxing center in the East Los Angeles neighborhood where he grew up.

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