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Oscar De La Hoya did nothing to change W

December 7, 1997

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) _ Oscar De La Hoya did nothing to change Wilfredo Rivera’s opinion of him.

Before the fight Saturday night at Convention Hall, Rivera called De La Hoya a great champion. He said it again, not long after De La Hoya knocked him down, turned his face into a bloody mask and stopped him with 12 seconds left in the eighth round of De La Hoya’s WBC welterweight title defense.

``This was Oscar’s night,″ the 28-year old Rivera said. ``I am a great challenger.″

He certainly was a game one on this cold night along the Boardwalk.

Rivera was battered almost from the opening bell in failing for the third time to win the WBC’s 147-pound title. He failed twice in 1996 against Pernell Whitaker, from whom the 24-year-old De La Hoya won the championship April 12.

But this wasn’t an entirely successful night for De La Hoya and promoter Bob Arum.

Arum’s plans were for Terry Norris to give up the WBC super welterweight title after defending it against Keith Mullings, then drop down and challenge De La Hoya in June.

But Mullings, a 7-1 underdog from Fayetteville, N.C., ruined that scenario when he knocked down Norris in the eighth round and stopped him at 51 seconds of the ninth.

The IBF junior middleweight championship also changed hands before 11,221 fans, when Yory Boy Campas of Mexico stopped Raul Marquez of Houston at 2:29 of the eighth round.

The De La Hoya fight ended when referee Joe Cortez stopped the action at 2:48 of the eighth round with blood streaming from a cut over Rivera’s right eye. Cortez called Dr. Howard Taylor into the ring to examine the wound, and he recommended the fight be stopped.

``I couldn’t see out of my right eye,″ Rivera said. ``The ref had to stop it.″

After seven rounds, Judge Richie Davies of England had De La Hoya leading 70-63. Judge Sergio Silvi of Italy favored the champion 68-63. John Riley of New Jersey had De La Hoya up 69-63.

The AP had De La Hoya ahead 70-62. A compubox punch analysis of the fight showed De La Hoya landing 176 of 375 punches while Rivera connected on only 84 of 494.

De La Hoya, who weighed the class limit, opened the cut over Rivera’s eye with a left hook in the second round. The cut bled from then on.

De La Hoya knocked down Rivera with a right hand at 2:36 of the fourth round. Rivera got up at the count of 5 and lasted the round, but took severe punishment thereafter.

``He was the strongest fighter I have ever faced,″ De La Hoya said. ``He had a big heart.

``When I had him cut badly, my corner told me to behave like a champ, like Sugar Ray Robinson, take my time and get him out of the ring.″

De La Hoya, who now must make a mandatory defense against Patrick Charpentier of France on Feb. 28 at Las Vegas, boosted his record to 27-0 with 22 knockouts. He earned $6 million, increasing his total earnings in five fights this year to $33 million.

Rivera, who lost two title bids on decisions to Whitaker in 1996 when Whitaker was the WBC welterweight champ, earned $350,000 for his third defeat. He also has 27 wins with a draw and 18 knockouts.

``They are both great champions,″ Rivera said when asked to compare Whitaker and De La Hoya.

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