Boxing Hall of Famer Oscar De La Hoya has been forced to withdraw from his Sept. 11 return from a 13-year retirement after testing positive for COVID-19.
De La Hoya, 47, confirmed the original report from TMZ on Friday by posting a video on social media from his hospital bed. “The Golden Boy,” who wrote on Twitter that he is fully vaccinated, was scheduled to box former UFC champion Vitor Belfort in an eight-round bout (featuring two-minute rounds) in the main event of a Triller Fight Club pay-per-view at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
“I mean, what are the chances of me getting COVID,” a dejected De La Hoya said in the video. “I have been taking care of myself. This really, really kicked my ass.”
Triller’s Ryan Kavanaugh told multiple outlets his promotion is looking to replace De La Hoya with 59-year-old Evander Holyfield. The former four-time heavyweight champion has yet to be approved by the California State Athletic Commission to face the 44-year-old Belfort (1-0 in boxing, 26-14 in MMA) although Kavanaugh said the entire event would be moved to another state if that’s the case. TMZ reported that Florida would be the frontrunner.
De La Hoya (39-6, 30 KOs), who won world titles in five weight divisions across a 16-year pro career in which the former Olympic gold medalist became the biggest draw in the sport, initially retired following a 2008 defeat against Manny Pacquiao.
“I am currently in the hospital getting treatment and am confident I will be back in the ring before the year is up,” De La Hoya wrote on Twitter. “God bless everyone and stay safe.”
Belfort, who was originally set to face De La Hoya at a contracted weight of 185 pounds, has competed at the highest level over three divisions from middleweight to heavyweight in MMA. The native of Brazil won his lone professional boxing match in 2006 and last fought in MMA when he was knocked out via front kick by Lyoto Machida at UFC 224 in 2018.
Although Belfort went on to sign with MMA promotion ONE Championship in 2019, he was released from his deal the following year before ever appearing in a fight. Belfort had originally signed to make his Triller boxing debut on June 19 against social media personality Mike “The Real Tarzann” Holston but the card was later canceled.
Holyfield (44-10-2, 29 KOs) hasn’t boxed since 2011 when he defeated Brian Nielsen in Denmark. The former two-division champion has been in training for a comeback fight but saw his proposed Triller debut against former Mike Tyson conqueror Kevin McBride in an exhibition bout postponed on multiple occasions.
After the McBride fight was not rescheduled, Holyfield filed a demand for arbitration this week against Triller claiming breach of contract for more than $5 million reportedly guaranteed by the promotion for a trilogy bout against Tyson. The fight never came to fruition after Tyson cut ties with the company in the aftermath of his exhibition bout last fall against Roy Jones Jr., which led to Triller filing a lawsuit.
The Triller card headlined by Belfort is also set to feature a boxing match between MMA legends Anderson Silva and Tito Ortiz at a catchweight of 195 pounds.