Oscar De La Hoya at Mandalay Bay: Then and Now


By Arne K. Lang
All is hunky-dory between Oscar De La Hoya and Bob Arum who have had their squabbles since Oscar left the Top Rank fold and then went into competition with Arum as a boxing promoter. De La Hoya had a ringside seat for Thursday’s match between Teofimo Lopez and Jamaine Ortiz at the Mandalay Bay casino-resort after sharing the dais with Arum at a press conference in the arena the previous afternoon.

The press conference was arranged to ballyhoo the March 29 bout in Glendale, Arizona between Yokasta Valle, a Golden Boy fighter, and Seniesa Estrada, a former Golden Boy fighter who is now in the Top Rank stable. It’s a delicious pairing, one of the best that could be made in women’s boxing, but hold that thought for a minute.

Lost on the gaggle of media folk in attendance at the Lopez-Ortiz event was that this was a homecoming for De La Hoya. It was he, the erstwhile Golden Boy, who christened the arena, or would have if the great Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti hadn’t beat him to the punch.

Mandalay Bay, which sits at the south end of the Strip, opened for business on March 2, 1999. Six weeks later, on April 10, Pavarotti headlined the property’s first concert and the following month, on May 22, in the first boxing show at the new Events Center (now branded Michelob ULTRA Arena), Oscar De La Hoya successfully defended his WBC world welterweight title with an 11th-round stoppage of Kronk Gym alumnus Oba Carr.

A bigger fight for De La Hoya was already in the works. It pit Oscar against Felix Trinidad and would be staged at Mandalay Bay on Sept. 18, 1999.

De La Hoya and Trinidad were both undefeated. Trinidad held the IBF version of the world welterweight title. How big was this fight? The promoters audaciously billed it as the “Fight of the Millenium.” (To refresh your memory, Trinidad prevailed on a controversial majority decision.)


This past Thursday’s card topped by the forgettable Lopez-Ortiz match drew an announced crowd of 6,207. To put that into perspective, De La Hoya vs. Carr drew 11,528 and De La Hoya vs. Trinidad filled the arena to the rafters. All 12,000 seats were occupied even though there was no public sale. The sponsoring resorts, Mandalay Bay and the Paris, situated about a half-mile up the road, scooped up all the tickets for their high rollers (Mandalay Bay wasn’t yet affiliated with the MGM Grand).

While the comparisons aren’t fair (Teofimo Lopez vs. Jamaine Ortiz wasn’t that big a fight), promoter Bob Arum and his collaborators had to be disappointed by the turnout. There was certainly no lack of promotion. The signage was omnipresent, including an eye-catching neon billboard that greeted visitors heading in from the airport.

300,000 visitors are expected in town this weekend (roughly four times the capacity of the football stadium). Many were already here in time to attend the fight and that may actually have been part of the problem. Mandalay Bay, the closest casino to Allegiant Stadium, was a beehive on Thursday with many NFL-related activities happening there. Getting in and out of the property was a hassle. That had to have curtailed the walk-up sale.

If anyone reading this is going to tomorrow’s big game, here’s a word to the wise: Don’t dawdle; get there early.

Yokasta Valle vs. Seniesa Estrada

As Thomas Hauser noted in a 2021 story that ran in these pages, the term “world championship” when applied to a female fight has often been a farce. But that’s becoming less true. Women’s title fights are becoming more and more competitive, consistent with the odds and the quality of opponents.

The forthcoming fight between Seniesa Estrada (25-0, 9 KOs) and Yokasta Valle (30-2, 9 KOs) is consistent with this trend. The victor will walk away with all the meaningful belts in the minimumweight division, but it matters more from a fan’s standpoint that both ladies are in their prime at age 31 and, on paper, evenly matched.

Born in Nicaragua but a longtime resident of San Jose, Costa Rica, IBF/WBO champion Yokasta Valle has won 17 straight since losing back-to-back fights on the road in Japan and Germany. This is her tenth title defense since capturing the IBF belt against a Spanish fighter in Marbella, Spain. All 10 went the distance, but she lost very few rounds. In eight of those 10 fights, at least one of the judges awarded her every round.

WBC/WBA belt-holder Seniesa Estrada hails from the boxing hotbed of East Los Angeles. Her signature win came in November of 2019 against former U.S. Olympian Marlen Esparza who has since moved up in weight and currently owns three pieces of the 112-pound title. Estrada dominated Esparza in a fight that went to the scorecards after nine THREE MINUTE frames because of a bad gash suffered by Esparza from an accidental clash of heads.

Estrada began her career at 112 and has since dropped down two weight classes. She hasn’t been as active as Yokasta Valle – this is only her third fight in 27 months – but is rated a slight favorite because she packs a harder punch.

As David Avila noted in a 2023 column, Valle had been chasing Estrada for three years. She will finally catch up to her on March 29 at the home of the Phoenix Suns of the NBA. The match shares top billing with the 12-round featherweight contest between Oscar Valdez and Australia’s Liam Wilson.


As is well-documented, Oscar De La Hoya has had a number of personal issues since hanging up his gloves. He recently purchased a hillside mansion in the Las Vegas border town of Henderson and, at age 51, seems to have put all that chaos behind him. At Mandalay Bay, he was cordial to everyone he met and had the look of a happy camper. That bodes well on many levels.

Photos credit: Mikey Williams / Top Rank via Getty Images
Last edited:
AS lousy as the fight was and will remain in people's memories and should by the way, i guess it is better then Oscar's behavior upstaging the whole affair talking outside the ring demon's and distress signals. Yea that is what two in a row for T. R. Boxing on Thursday nights fights ? Nobody likes a dancer and loud mouths only are heard after a good solid win not something that was put out on T. R. Thursday's ......Or are you trying to say that the only thing worth mentioning is that Oscar had a boxing history there and he was comfortable around Bob Arum. Because the card stunk up the place so much.