Different opponents slated first for June 5

Originally Published: March 2, 2004
Associated Press

LAS VEGAS -- A tentative deal is in place for Oscar De La Hoya to move up in weight and fight undisputed middleweight champion Bernard Hopkins later this year in what could be one of the richest non-heavyweight fights ever.

De La Hoya and Hopkins would fight different opponents on the same June 5 card, then meet in either September or November for the middleweight title, a spokesman for promoter Bob Arum confirmed Tuesday.

De La Hoya, who hasn't fought since losing his 154-pound title to Shane Mosley last September, would likely fight unbeaten Felix Sturm of Germany on the first card, while Hopkins would defend his title against mandatory challenger Robert Allen, whom he has already fought twice.

Assuming the two fighters win, they would meet either Sept. 18, or in November.

Contracts for the fights have been drawn up, but have yet to be signed, Arum spokesman Lee Samuels said. The details of the fights were first reported on the Web site of USA Today, which said De La Hoya could make more than $30 million for the two fights, with Hopkins earning some $15 million.

De La Hoya said earlier this month he would return to the ring June 5, and he had been looking at Mosley, Hopkins, Fernando Vargas and Felix Trinidad as possible opponents. Mosley, who has beaten De La Hoya twice, wanted more money than De La Hoya was willing to give, and Vargas has a bad back.

Trinidad officially came out of retirement Tuesday.

Moving up in weight to fight Hopkins (43-2-1, 31 knockouts) would be a major challenge to De La Hoya, who has won titles in five different weight classes. Hopkins handed Trinidad his only defeat, stopping him in the 12th round of their September 2001 fight, and has made a division record 17 title defenses.

In his last fight, Dec. 13 in Atlantic City, Hopkins gave former champion William Joppy a 12-round beating in a lopsided win.

The 39-year-old Hopkins hasn't lost since Roy Jones Jr. beat him in 1993, but he has a history of hard-nosed negotiating tactics that have cost him several lucrative fights. For the Joppy fight he earned only $500,000, while complaining that De La Hoya was ducking him.

De La Hoya's June 5 opponent would be Sturm, who holds the lightly regarded WBO middleweight title and is unbeaten in 20 fights. Sturm, who has only nine knockouts and has fought only once outside of Germany, said De La Hoya is his idol and that it would be "charming" to fight him.

Arum would like De La Hoya and Hopkins to meet Sept. 18, but for that to happen De La Hoya would have to give up his announcing job with NBC for the Olympics, which would interfere with his training schedule.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press