Oscar De La Hoya’s planned comeback is placed hold – and could result in an entire show getting relocated.
BoxingScene.com has learned that De La Hoya has been removed from the September 11 Triller Fight Club Pay-Per-View event after reportedly testing positive for COVID-19. The Hall of Fame former six-division titlist was due to face 44-year-old Vitor Belfort—a former UFC light heavyweight champion who was to make his pro boxing debut—atop the PPV event scheduled to take place at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California.
Efforts to save the show have prompted a search of a recognizable name to replace De La Hoya, as BoxingScene.com has learned that canceling the show is a last-ditch option, if even one at all. That search has reportedly led to Hall of Fame former cruiserweight and heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield stepping in, according to TMZ Sports who was first to report the development.
Whether Holyfield gets the assignment remains unclear as this goes to publish. At least one source has informed BoxingScene.com that such a fight—even as an exhibition—will not get approved in time to take place on the currently scheduled show. Messages left with the California State Athletic Commission and Triller Fight Club seeking comment were not immediately returned as this goes to publish.
De La Hoya himself went on record to confirm the news Friday.
"Wanted you to hear directly from me that despite being fully vaccinated, I have contracted Covid and am not going to be able to fight next weekend," De La Hoya announced via social media Friday. "Preparing for this comeback has been everything to me over the last months, & I want to thank everyone for their tremendous support.
"I am currently in the hospital getting treatment and am confident I will be back in the ring before the year is up. God bless everyone and stay safe."
De La Hoya (39-6, 30KOs) was due to fight for the first time since 2008, when his Hall of Fame career ended in a crushing one-sided stoppage loss to Manny Pacquiao after eight rounds. The 48-year-old East Los Angeles native was approved for a renewed Federal ID earlier this year, fueling speculation of a planned ring return though at the time believed to be in the form of an exhibition bout.
News of an official comeback was announced March 26, during a separate Triller event promoting the April 17 PPV between Jake Paul and Ben Askren. De La Hoya was a surprise guest at the Las Vegas press conference, where he revealed plans to return to the ring.
Those plans are—at best—on hold given current circumstances.
The remaining sanctioned bouts on the PPV show include a pairing between UFC legends Anderson Silva and Tito Ortiz in a bout to be fought at a catchweight of 195 pounds, and a junior lightweight clash between Andy Vences and Jono Carroll. The show also includes an exhibition between Brits and close friends David Haye— a retired former lineal cruiserweight champion and heavyweight titlist—and unbeaten Joe Fournier.
While not as sellable as a PPV with De La Hoya at the top, at least representative involved with the show has considered the possibility of having Haye step up to face Belfort in a makeshift main event. Such a move would leave Fournier without a fight or on the hook to find an approved replacement opponent.
Should the event move forward with the 58-year-old Holyfield in the main event, it is a strong possibility that the show will have to relocate to another state. TMZ Sports referenced Florida as the leading option under such a scenario, though BoxingScene.com has not been able to verify that part.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox