By Larry Fine
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Oscar De La Hoya sees golden times ahead for boxing and his Golden Boy Promotions, envisioning his fighter Canelo Alvarez becoming a star, new heavyweights arising at the Rio Olympics and Ronda Rousey in the ring.
De La Hoya, who won 10 world titles in six weight classes after claiming 1992 Olympic gold at age 19 in Barcelona, believes in "daring to be great" and said hard-hitting Alvarez faces a pivotal opportunity on Nov. 21 against Miguel Cotto.
Alvarez, a 25-year-old red-haired, freckle faced Mexican with power in both hands and a 45-1-1 record with 32 knockouts, is taking on veteran Cotto (40-4, 33 knockouts) for the WBC world middleweight title in Las Vegas.
"Right now, the 'next guy' is Canelo," De La Hoya told Reuters about the new wave to follow the likes of Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao as boxing's headliners.
"November 21 is so important. If he wins in spectacular fashion, we have the next superstar in boxing. It’s a great launching pad."
Mexican-American De La Hoya, nicknamed "Golden Boy" for his run to Barcelona gold, now boasts a stable of 90 boxers as a promoter with Alvarez the apple of his eye.
He sees something of himself in Alvarez, whose only career loss came in a 2013 majority decision against Mayweather.
De La Hoya said Alvarez was not ready to beat the defensive wizard but the boxer wanted the match, wanted to test himself and had no regrets despite losing his WBC and WBA super welterweight titles to the American.
The promoter knows Cotto could emerge victorious, but that does not stop him from dreaming big about a clash against Kazakhstan knockout artist Gennady Golovkin, another world middleweight title holder.
De La Hoya believes that boxing thrives when the best take on the best and said he could see Alvarez in a championship slugfest against unbeaten Golovkin within a year or 18 months.
"It’s interesting to see how long we’re going to take to build, the need for it to marinate just a bit," he said. "I like my meat medium rare. I’m not a guy who likes to over cook my meat.
"In the meantime, Triple G (Golovkin) is now fighting with tough guys, Canelo is fighting with tough guys. They might lose, they might win. That’s the risk we have to take. The vision, the game plan, is to have them meet, sooner than later.
"It will be like two Mack trucks colliding. It will be the next super fight for the sport of boxing."
De La Hoya said fight fans love the big hitters and particularly bemoaned a lack of excitement in the heavyweight ranks. But the promoter believes a renaissance could be born at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
"The Olympics are important to identifying the next superstars.
"We’ve had our struggles in the past Olympics," De La Hoya said about poor U.S. results at recent Games, "which I blame on the Olympic system, which has been changed now back to the old scoring system."
Now instead of computerized punch counts, which reward volume, ringside judges will score along the lines of professional boxing to better integrate technique and punching power into the judging.
"I believe that in Rio and the following Olympics, America is going to have our next great Olympic champions who are going to carry the sport for years to come," said De La Hoya, who plans on being in Rio as a spectator and talent scout.
"I strongly feel that in Rio the United States is going to identify the next heavyweight champion that America needs to bring excitement and more attention to the sport."
De La Hoya also sees a boost in excitement should mixed martial arts star Ronda Rousey try boxing.
He went so far as to suggest to editors of Ring Magazine, the Bible of Boxing which is owned by Golden Boy Promotions, that Rousey grace a recent controversial cover of the magazine.
"Ronda Rousey is the hottest athlete right now. She's the 'It Girl'. The fact is that she wants to be a world champion in boxing, she’s mentioned it. She wants to try it out.
"When Ronda Rousey is ready to become a boxer, I told her Golden Boy Promotions is ready to welcome her with open arms," said De La Hoya.
"I’ve spoken with her a few times, she’s interested in becoming a boxer. If the UFC ever gives her permission, we're here," he said, noting that Ultimate Fighting Championship chief Dana White is a huge boxing fan.
"Maybe some collaboration. It would be very interesting. We can shatter records. I can imagine four million pay-per-views for Ronda’s very first fight."
(Editing by Steve Keating.)