As Oscar De La Hoya, the International Boxing Hall of Famer, trains for a possible comeback he said he was serious about in August, it remains to be seen just who he might fight if his return becomes reality after 12 years in retirement.
But if former welterweight world titleholder Ike Quartey, who has been retired for 14 years, has his way he will be the one standing across the ring from De La Hoya. Quartey heard that De La Hoya was making plans to return to the ring and said he very much wants the fight.
“Vengeance is the sole motivation,” Quartey told BoxingScene.com. “With the controversy surrounding the winner of the first fight, it would be of benefit for Oscar to set things straight by fighting me since so many fans believe he lost. I’m a perfectionist and regarded Oscar as the only fighter that belonged in my class. The loss, my first, was emotionally destabilizing to me. Like many people, I thought I won the fight. It would be redeeming to get another crack at Oscar and win.”
On Feb. 13, 1999, at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, De La Hoya retained his welterweight world title by a heavily disputed split decision against Quartey, who had given up his version of the 147-pound crown to facilitate the bout, in a well-received HBO PPV fight.
Both men got knocked down in the memorable sixth round and De La Hoya, seemingly in need of a big 12th round, delivered with another knockdown and wound up winning 116-112 and 116-113 on two scorecards while Quartey won 115-114 on the third scorecard. There was a split among other ringside observers as well with the Associated Press, for example, scoring the bout 116-112 for De La Hoya and the late unofficial HBO judge Harold Lederman having it 114-113 for Quartey.
There has been contact between De La Hoya’s team and the adviser of former two-division world titlist Marcos Maidana, who has been retired since 2014, about being a potential opponent. Maidana (35-5, 31 KOs), 37, of Argentina, has been seeking to return to the ring after being retired since 2014.
But Quartey, who turns 51 on Nov. 27, said he is not looking to return for any fight other than a rematch with the 47-year-old De La Hoya (39-6, 30), who won 10 world titles in six divisions and now runs Golden Boy Promotions.
“I have no desire to come back except to fight Oscar if Oscar decides to come back,” Quartey said. “An Oscar fight is the only one worth my time because of how appealing and promotable it is. It’s been over a decade since my last fight, but I am a fighter through and through and if I got the fight, I’d come to win and win big.”
If De La Hoya does return he plans to fight in the junior middleweight/middleweight neighborhood, which Quartey said is no issue.
“I walk around at about 160 pounds, so weight will not be a problem,” he said.
Quartey (37-4-1, 32 KOs), nicknamed “Bazooka” because of his devastating jab, won a welterweight world title in 1995 and made five defenses before vacating to fight De La Hoya. Quartey’s only other defeats were also by decision, a close one challenging Fernando Vargas for his junior middleweight title and nontitle fights with the late Vernon Forrest at junior middleweight and Hall of Famer Winky Wright at middleweight. After the loss to Wright in 2006, Quartey retired to life in his native Ghana, where he is a boxing legend. He currently serves as an advisor to the Ghana Boxing Association and is a businessman. He deals in real estate and owns hotels. He is also building a hospital.
All these years later, Quartey still recalls his heavily-hyped showdown with De La Hoya well.
“The fanfare and sheer size of the fight are memorable,” Quartey said. “I had finally arrived. (Top Rank promoter) Bob Arum heightened my brand in order to sell the fight. I was recognized in the streets of New York City. The sixth round was the most exciting because I was knocked down for the first time and I also knocked Oscar down in the same round sending Oscar a message that kept him on the retreat.”
De La Hoya nearly stopped Quartey in the 12th round. He had him draped on the ropes taking punishment, but Quartey showed enormous will to survive and finish the fight.
“My performance in the 12th round was the result of being inactive for about 15 months,” he said. “I was tired, but knew I had to close the show too. A lot of people believe I won the fight irrespective of the 12th round. I had piled up points before the 12th. It was Oscar’s first split decision. I watched an interview that Oscar gave after the fight and Oscar indicated during that interview that one of the reasons he left Bob Arum was that our fight was one he felt he should not have to take.”
Quartey would have liked a rematch at the time but understands why he did not get one.
“Oscar and Bob dictated the terms. They had the upper hand,” Quartey said. “If I was declared the winner there probably would have been a rematch, but with a huge fight against (Felix) Trinidad waiting for Oscar, there was no way he was going to fight me again. I believe that the possibility of a rematch against me was used to help make the Oscar-Trinidad fight.”
Quartey said that even though he’s been retired for years and is closing in on age 51 he has kept himself in good condition and believes a rematch with De La Hoya would intrigue the public as did their fight more than 21 years ago.
“I’ve stayed in good shape and have taken good care of myself. I feel that I would be very effective,” Quartey said. “It was one of the most controversial wins of Oscar’s career and many people think I won to this day. It’s a chance to set the record straight. The fight is very promotable.”