<
>

Different opponents slated first for June 5

3/2/2004

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.