GOLDEN BOY by Tim Kawakami


The Fame, Money, and Mystery of Oscar de la Hoya
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This solid piece of journalism goes the full 12 rounds in detailing the personal demons that fuel Oscar de la Hoya’s fists of fury. Kawakami, former boxing reporter for the Los Angeles Times, begins in the rat- and roach-infested barrio of East Los Angeles, where this grandson of a Mexican immigrant grew up in poverty. Oscar was a natural lefty who learned at the Eastside Boxing Club to fight like a righty with a surprisingly powerful left. Often at odds with his tyrannical father, he was close to his nurturing mother, who succumbed to cancer in her 30s. After his mother’s death, Kawakami writes, “pent-up anger turned into rage, into frenzy, into destruction.” Oscar won the Olympic gold medal in Barcelona, then turned pro, hooking up with premier promoter Bob Arum and dismantling a series of highly rated opponents on the way to the major championships in his weight class. (The book contains a chart listing the date, location, and full decision of de la Hoya’s 29 pro fights since 1992.) At the same time, he wrecked a serious romance by constant philandering; the girlfriend suggests that after his mother he was afraid to love and lose another woman. Treating his subject as a tragic figure, the author portrays de la Hoya flirting with defeat in a repeat bout with his rival Latin star, Julio Cesar Chavez, and, more recently, barely taking a decision against Ike Quartey, the imposing former WBA champ from Ghana. Kawakami’s prose is sometimes embarassingly self-conscious, and he pads the text with a lot of unnecessary background. Still, his book offers valuable insights into this extraordinary middleweight champ with the marquee looks and the multimillion-dollar wins. It would have been easier for Kawakami to stand and deliver an inspirational, Up from East L.A. saga; it’s to his credit that he gets out of the fighter’s corner to assess de la Hoya from the stands. (16 pages photos, not seen)

Pub Date: March 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-8362-6941-1
Page count: 336pp
Publisher: Andrews McMeel
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 1999