'The Golden Boy' shines in H-town

July 2, 2008 6:52:09 PM PDT
Three hours before Oscar De La Hoya was scheduled to attend to appear at Barnes & Noble to promote his book "American Son" on Father's Day, a line of about 35 people had already formed at a far corner of the store.Two women at a makeshift "front desk" directed customers who purchased De La Hoya's book to the growing line. It's business as usual for the bookseller on Westheimer and Voss. Visitors showed up to get their books (and other memorabilia sneaked in) autographed by a boxing icon who is also part-owner of the Houston Dynamo, the two-time defending Major Soccer League champions.

Oscar De La Hoya is more than an Olympic gold-medal winning boxer and world champion in six weight classes. He promotes other fighters as the founder of Golden Boy Promotions, which signed former lightweight champion Juan Diaz of Houston in late March.

In addition to his ownership stake with a winning team, tack on the title of "author" to his Renaissance-like repertoire.

"It's actually fun," De La Hoya said. "It's a lot of hard work but I've always felt that with being a champion, not just inside the ring but outside the ring as well, there's a lot of responsibility."

The Golden Boy's sense of responsibility is not lost on his fans, who steadily filled the Barnes & Noble aisles during the afternoon hours before the book signing.

Ico Gonzalez, of the border town of Zapata, said he drove the 350-plus miles to Houston and arrived at Barnes & Noble at 1pm on Sunday, early enough to be the first in line for the 7pm book signing event.

"I got (to Houston) early this morning. I stayed with my brother-in-law here in Houston. He went to the baseball game (Astros-Yankees at Minute Maid Park, which the Astros lost 13-0). I came to see the champ," Gonzalez said.

Asked what he did to pass the time, Gonzales replied, "It was totally empty. I bought five books ... I bought the Spanish and English versions. And I came inside, right here. I said, 'I want to be No. 1.'"

For David Garza of southeast Houston, who got in line at about 3:45pm, meeting De La Hoya was worth the wait.

"He's a personal childhood idol. When I was a teenager, watching him since the (1992) Olympics and being a fan of the fight game, he's No. 1 for me," said Garza, a boxing trainer.

While fans waited in the bookstore, a pre-book signing reception hosted by the Houston Dynamo took place across the street at Doneraki's. VIPs at this restaurant had the chance to get up close and personal with De La Hoya before the book signing event.

Dynamo president and general manager Oliver Luck, who hosted the reception, marvelled at De La Hoya's appeal.

"He's really and icon, both in the Anglo world and in the Latino world and I think, quite honestly, just overall in the sports world," Luck said.

When De La Hoya arrived at the reception, he was met with a hero's welcome. At about 6:45pm, after photos, handshakes and pleasantries were exchanged, De La Hoya made his way from the restaurant to Barnes & Noble, where fans lined much of the bookstore's perimeter indoors, hundreds deep.

Given that Houston's other sports events on Sunday included the Yankees-Astros game at Minute Maid Park and the World Cup qualifier between Belize and Mexico at Reliant Stadium, the turnout at De La Hoya's book signing was impressive.

Tony Diaz, director of Houston's Nuestra Palabra, which showcases Latino writers, put the event's attendance into perspective.

"We're talking over a thousand people today, for books. This is not for music or partying ... This is to celebrate our literature, our culture, one of our heroes."

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