De La Hoya-Belfort now will be sanctioned fight

Boxing

Oscar De La Hoya’s comeback fight at 48 is now exactly that — a fight.

The Hall of Fame boxer’s Sept. 11 return against former UFC champion Vitor Belfort, originally planned as a boxing exhibition, now will be a sanctioned fight, Triller Fight Club founder Ryan Kavanaugh told ESPN on Wednesday.

The boxing match, which will be staged at Staples Center in Los Angeles, will be contested over eight two-minute rounds at 180 pounds. De La Hoya and Belfort can weigh within five pounds of the limit.

The event has been approved by the California State Athletic Commission, executive director Andy Foster told ESPN, subject to De La Hoya and Belfort passing comprehensive medical testing for 40-plus fighters that includes an MRA and MRI of the brain, an EKG, cardiac testing, neurocognitive testing and an ophthalmologic exam.

“I decided if I was coming back, it was for real, none of this exhibition stuff,” De La Hoya said.

Once officially sanctioned, the bout will count against De La Hoya’s record, a sterling career that ended at 39-6 with 30 KOs. “The Golden Boy” retired after an eight-round thrashing at the hands of Manny Pacquiao in 2008.

An Olympic gold medalist and five-division champion from Los Angeles, De La Hoya turned his attention to his company, Golden Boy Promotions, which remains a major player in boxing. GBP promotes Ryan Garcia, Joseph Diaz Jr., Vergil Ortiz and Gilberto Ramirez among its top fighters.

Golden Boy and boxing’s top star, Canelo Alvarez, divorced last year after a legal battle that grew among a personal dispute between the superstar fighter and De La Hoya. Golden Boy, which holds an exclusive deal with streaming platform DAZN, won’t promote this event, which instead will be a Triller Fight Club show available on pay-per-view.

This will be Triller’s third fight card following a wildly successful exhibition featuring Mike Tyson versus Roy Jones Jr. in November followed by a fight between Jake Paul and former UFC combatant Ben Askren in April.

Triller’s planned fight between undisputed lightweight champion Teofimo Lopez and George Kambosos, scheduled for June 19, was postponed after the champ tested positive for COVID-19.

“It’s important to transition from exhibitions. … This is as real as any fight Oscar or Belfort has had,” Kavanaugh said, “not some staged wrestling event.”

Belfort, 44, will be boxing for the second time in his career. His pro boxing debut came in 2006, a first-round KO in Brazil.

The Brazilian is a former UFC light heavyweight champion who owns a black belt in Brazlian Jiu-Jitsu under Carlson Gracie. Belfort also owns a black belt in judo.

Known for his explosive power, he’s tied for the third most finishes in UFC history with 14. Belfort’s third run with UFC ended in 2018, a KO loss to Lyoto Machida at UFC 224.

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