De La Hoya and Belfort to fight for real instead of bout just being an exhibition

But 8-round match will utilize 2-minute rounds

Forget about the exhibition tag to their fight. Unretiring boxing legend Oscar De La Hoya and former UFC champion Vitor Belfort will go at in an officially sanctioned boxing match when they meet on Sept. 11.

Triller Fight Club announced on Wednesday the change of status for the bout (PPV and FITE) and that it will take place at Staples Center in De La Hoya’s hometown of Los Angeles.

“The event will be a professional boxing bout, not an exhibition, testing the fighting skills and will of these two greats in combat sports history,” Triller said in its announcement.

According to the California State Athletic Commission, the scheduled eight-round fight is contracted at 180 pounds with the one adjustment being that the rounds will be two minutes in duration instead of the usual three.

De La Hoya, 48, who is ending a nearly 13-year retirement, has never boxed above 160 pounds. He and Belfort are scheduled to appear at a news conference on Tuesday in Los Angeles.

“I’m very excited to announce my comeback against Vitor Belfort in a mega-event celebrating Mexican Independence Day,” De La Hoya said. “Triller Fight Club and my team have been working together to bring the most epic event boxing has seen in a long time. I decided if I was coming back it was for real, none of this exhibition stuff. Two warriors, one walks out the other doesn’t. Vitor Belfort is clearly a very tough MMA legend and while I’m sure he will give me a good run, a knockout is in my plan.

“This isn’t that WWE theatrics we’ve been seeing in boxing lately. This is the real deal, a real fight with real knockouts for a real win. This is not to be missed as I’m in better shape than I was 15 years ago.” 

De La Hoya (39-6, 30 KOs) won world titles in a then-record six weight classes from junior lightweight to middleweight, won a 1992 Olympic gold medal, was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2014 in his first year of eligibility and was the biggest boxing star of his time. But he has not fought since Manny Pacquiao — the man who broke his divisional title record by winning titles in eight divisions — brutalized him in an eighth-round upset knockout loss in a welterweight fight on Dec. 6, 2008.

The 44-year-old Belfort, a southpaw from Brazil, is a former UFC light heavyweight champion with many other accolades as an MMA fighter. He faced a who’s who of the sport before retiring in 2018.

This will be Belfort’s second professional boxing match. In 2006, he knocked out Josemario Neves in the first round in Brazil.

“Oscar De La Hoya is a true superstar in the boxing world and one of the greatest and most popular fighters of our time,” said Belfort, the naturally much bigger man that De La Hoya. “While we both have a great deal of respect for each other’s accomplishments, on Sept. 11, I will make my MMA fans proud to show that MMA and ex-UFC fighters can take down even the best boxer in the world. I hope I don’t end up killing him but everything is on the table. This is a no holds barred, all out gladiator fight to the bitter end.” 

The fight went from exhibition to official bout when the fighters informed the California commission that they wanted to fight for real and the commission did not object.

“An exhibition in the state of California is when you don’t use your best efforts to win. They want to use their best efforts, so by definition it can’t be an exhibition,” Andy Foster, the executive officer of the CSAC, told Fight Freaks Unite. “They’re gonna box and we’re gonna score it.”

The fight will be De La Hoya’s second at his hometown arena. In 2000, he headlined the first-ever boxing card there, losing his welterweight world title by decision in a classic battle with friendly hometown rival Sugar Shane Mosley. The arena owners later erected a statue of De La Hoya in front of the arena.

De La Hoya photo: Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

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