Monday, April 10, 2017


De La Hoya didn't pull the nickname " Golden Boy" out of the thin air. It was given to him, along with his gold medal, after the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, Spain. So when the 26-year-old Mexican wunderkind stepped into the ring to battle Ike Quartey at the Thomas and Mack Arena in Las Vegas on the eve of Valentine's Day 1999, he came prepared to prove the sobriquet given him years earlier wasn't just hype.

Boxing pundits agreed Quartey was De La Hoya's greatest ring challenge to date. Quartey, a 29-year-old former World Boxing Association welterweight champion, was undefeated in 33 prior bouts, and the stoic-looking pro from Ghana was also reputed to have, pound-for-pound, the most
powerful jab in boxing. In pre-fight interviews, Quartey threatened to mangle Oscar's handsome facial features while " breaking his bones." But De La Hoya was confident. After all, he was undefeated in his pro career. and he had lineage on his side. His grandfather, Vicente, fought as an amateur in Mexico; his father, Joel Sr., boxed as a professional lightweight in the '60's. ( His family remains very involved in his career).Oscar, who'd begun boxing at age six, won his first amateur championship at 15, becoming the Junior Olympic Champion in the 119-pound weight class. He captured a national Golden Gloves title the following year, this time in the 125-pound category. Fighting the same weight in 1990, De La Hoya won the U.S. amateur title and the gold medal at the Goodwill games that year. He continued to score victories as an amateur, amassing a record of 223 wins and five losses, with 153 knockouts, "A startling KO percentage in the world of headgear and 10-ounce gloves," as one observer noted.

De La Hoya suffered a notable defeat in November, 1991, losing the World Amateur title in Sydney, Australia, to German boxer, Marco Rudolph. He avenged this loss in his celebrated victory over Rudolph at the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona. Since turning pro in November 1992, with a first-round knockout of Lamar Williams, De La Hoya maintained a perfect record of 29 victories with no defeats going into his match with Quartey.

Along the way, De La Hoya had defeated several would title holders, including Jon-Jon Molina ( 1995); Rafael Ruelas (1995); Genaro Hernandez (1995); Jesse James Leija (1995); Julio Cesar Chavez ( 1996,1998); Miguel angel Gonzalez (1997). Despite this impressive string of victories, some critics frequently said De La Hoya had yet to meet a fighter with his own level of ability who was still in his prime. Ike Quartey clearly met that description. But De La Hoya was up for the challenge. He had unparalleled hand and foot speed and remarkable boxing skills.He wound up going 12 rounds wit Quartey. Both men were knocked down in the sixth round; De La Hoya won the split decision with a dramatic comeback in the last three rounds.

Team De La Hoya


 Boxing, in fact, is second nature to De La Hoya. But besides great genetics and his considerable ring talents, he has what might be called " secret weapons:" a behind-the-scenes conditioning team that enhanced and refined his pre-existing physical skills. The combined knowledge of this team, coupled with De La Hoya's fierce determination to be mentioned in the same breath as such great champions as Leonard, Hearns and Hagler, served notice that he was far more than just another "pretty face."

The conditioning team behind De La Hoya includes team leader Jon-Jon Park, a top-level personal trainer and former Olympic swimmer.  Park designs and supervises the weight-training part of De La Hoya's program. Jon Jon can be reached at . Jon-Jon has a background in resistance and strength training few can boast.

 The son of one of the world's most famous Mr. Universe title-holders, bodybuilding's own grand patriarch, Reg Park, mentor to Arnold Schwarzenegger. Jon-Jon knows well the benefits of strength training and conditioning. While growing up in South Africa, the younger Park was himself a world-class athlete representing Great Britain at the Montreal Olympic Games where he was a contender for several swimming medals. He later Instituted the first strength training program for South African swimmers

During Park's swimming days, his father designed a special machine to simulate swimming strokes so
he could become stronger by adding weights to the type of motion used in the pool. Remembering how effective that had been, Jon-Jon Park designed a machine for De La Hoya that would simulate uppercuts. This preserved his shoulders and kept them stable, while improving the strength in the outlying areas of his torso. Improving condition and building strength within the areas of the obliques, serratus and intercostals, the machine has been a large part of his training for protection in those areas.  "I create specific stress, and allow him to gradually, subtly, adapt to that over a period of minutes within a workout, a period of days within a week or month, and so on, " Park explains.

Mak Takano the in-house team representative at De La Hoya's training camp in Big Bear, California has trained numerous celebrities, including Brad Pitt, Robert
Redford and Lesley-Ann Warren. He facilitates
the day to day operations at the camp. "I make sure Oscar is eating on schedule, taking his supplements and getting his workouts in on specified days," says Takano. Otherwise , the whole system breaks down and we don't accomplish the goals we're trying to achieve."

Jerry Brainum, a nutrition expert who has worked with athletes for thirty years, handles De La Hoya's nutrition program including helping him make the 147-pound welterweight limit, then adding to his energy reserves in the hours preceding the bout. "Once he's weighed in, Oscar will tell me how much he wants to weigh for the fight," says Brainum. "I very nearly always hit that weight exactly. I've been doing it for so long, I just know how much food it will take to get to a particular weight." Although increasing De La Hoya's overall exercise recovery, and increasing his strength and his muscle endurance through the use of supplements and food is Brainum's immediate goal, he says "I do this so he can stay on top. However over the long haul, what I'm essentially doing is protecting Oscar from any of the damage he may incur in the ring."



Brainum in his own words:
"The teams introduction to Oscar came in 1996, shortly before he began preparations for his biggest fight to date, against Julio Cesar Chavez, a Mexican boxing icon, and Oscar's boyhood idol. We were approached earlier in the year by representatives of Oscar's promoter, Bob Arum, of top rank boxing. Arum had been impressed by the prior work we did with another boxer, David Kamau. With an undefeated record, Kamau, faced the biggest fight of his career against Chavez, a fight considered a warm-up against a future showdown between Chavez and De La Hoya. Kamau had plenty of heart, in the ring, but his managers contacted us because his energy seemed to fizzle after about three rounds. An analysis of his training and diet clearly showed why: David, born and raised in Kenya, ate only one meal a day, a type of porridge popular in his homeland, and ran over 10 miles a day! Jon-Jon Park designed a strength program for kamau, while I revamped is diet, increasing his protein intake while providing an extensive program of food supplements with the goal of increasing his energy, endurance, and strength. That the program was successful was evident as Kamau went the distance with Chavez. And although he didn't win the fight, many to this day think he should have. Immediately after the fight when I asked him about his energy level, Kamau replied, " I could have boxed another 20 rounds!" Our success with Kamau showed what a good program can do for even a world-class athlete, and led to a meeting with Oscar and his trainer, Robert Alcazar, at Oscar's camp."

Also on the team is Jorgen Persson, an exercise physiologist and masseur, who has aided Oscar's recovery after bouts through intensive sports massage.

When Park's team first met with De La Hoya an Alcazar, the fighter was on a strict program of chopping lumber, doing lots of push ups, pull ups and ab work, sparring and jumping rope. His trainer Jesus Rivera, had him logging 250 to 300 rounds of sparring in the two months prior to a fight and
engaging in brutal levels if interval training with some weight training mixed in. He did this all on a diet of cheeseburgers. (Now his favorite food is sushi). In short, De La Hoya was overtrained, exhausted, beginning to develop a shoulder injury and losing muscle mass.

The boxing community has always feared weight training will hinder a contender's performance. Most of the so-called elite athletes, who make upwards of $20 million dollars per fight, are still heading into the trees, axe in hand. Even boxing legend and infomercial grillmaster, George Foremen, still chops wood prior to a fight! Though outmoded ideas die hard, Alcazar knew even blue chip athletes can improve. He and De La Hoya listened to what Park had to say, but there were concerns.

Brainum tells it this way:

"When Jon Park and I first met with Oscar and his trainer at Big Bear, their biggest concern related to Oscar's losing one of his primary weapons through weight-training: speed. 'We don't want Oscar to turn into a bodybuilder', Alcazar said. I explained the various myths about boxing and resistance training. For example, Alcazar was worried that lifting weights would make Oscar 'slow and stiff ', I explained that flexibility wasn't adversely affected by muscle size gains, particularly if accompanied by a judicious use of stretching movements and a complete range of motion in is weight exercises. Besides, the program we envisioned for Oscar would not emphasize muscle hypertrophy, but would focus on increasing his local muscle strength and endurance, building up his weaker areas, while serving to protect him from possible injuries.

Alcazar then expressed concern that Oscar may add too much muscle, hampering his ability to make the weight cutoff. I explained that the program planned for Oscar would emphasize the development of sports skills, rather than muscle hypertrophy which is of more concern to a bodybuilder. Any initial strength gains made by a person new to resistance training are more the result of increased neuromuscular efficiency, rather than actual muscle gains. As a result, Oscar was in no danger of putting on too much muscle; it would be a tightly controlled situation. In addition, the nutritional program I planned for De La Hoya would also help him maintain his weight in the desired category.

A concern about losing vital hand speed also came up. To assuage these fears, I provided scientific studies showing that boxers who added weight training to their regimes displayed augmented punch velocity and increased punching endurance. Few people realize that punching power is derived mainly from the lower body, and increasing strength in that area makes even a power-puncher such as Oscar that much better. One Russian study that examined the biomechanics of the straight right jab punch found that 76 percent of the power behind the punch came from the torso and lower body, with only 24 percent derived from the arms. Another Russian study found that most boxing punches begin with a nerve impulse in the big toe of the supporting leg as the fighter shifts his weight before throwing the punch. I believe one of the primary advantages of weight training for boxers lies in injury prevention. The rapid, powerful, repetitive movements typical in boxing take a toll on the fighter's connective tissues, such as tendons and ligaments. For example , a 10-year study of injuries sustained during sparring, training, and competition at the U.S. Olympic Training center showed that upper body injuries involving the hand, wrists, shoulders, and elbows were most common among boxers, followed by  lower extremity injuries. Oscar, who had never previously lifted weights, was already showing signs of strain in areas such as his lower back and shoulders. Without a preventive and strengthening program, these injuries were bound to get worse. Oscar was particularly prone to such injuries, since he has a light bone structure for his 5'10" frame. Resistance exercise is is know to increase bone density.

The program designed for Oscar was highly sports-specific. several exercises were designed to mimic actual punching movements, with varying speeds of movement to increase punching power. Certain muscles were emphasized over others because of their utility in the ring. Such muscle groups included neck, forearms, abdominals and shoulders. Strengthening exercises were also included to bolster Oscar's previous muscle weaknesses in the lower back an legs. Increased neck strength is especially important for boxers.The thick neck girths of fighters like Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield provide testimony that these men have not neglected neck training. A strong neck helps to absorb the impact of head punches, and serves to decrease the rapid acceleration, deceleration, and turning forces that often result in a knockout. Training the abdominal muscles serves to cushion body blows to the cluster of nerves located in the solar plexus area. A strong punch to this section of the torso can render a fighter powerless quite rapidly."



De La Hoya's supplement regimen includes about 60 pills a day. as a fight gets closer, Brainum tries to making it as efficient as possible, and minimizing lactic acid burn. "I've developed a theory after studying some of the medical aspects of boxing," says Brainum. "Even champion boxers are prone to damage in a part of the brain that produces dopamine, in an area called substantia nigra. Ali  is an example, but he's a different kind of case. There are a lot of boxers who just don't seem clear." De La Hoya's supplementation supports that area of the brain. Brainum includes a large volume of antioxidants because much of what happens over time is oxidative damage. He also suggests that increasing concentrations of vitamin C and E in the tissues will, theoretically, help preserve neurons if any oxidative damage has occurred as a result of blows to the head. " I want to make sure Oscar keeps his marbles when his boxing career ends, " he says.
build up a buffer system so De La Hoya gets an increase in anaerobic threshold. That way, if he's throwing a lot of punches, he doesn't get as tired. the intent is to maximize the anaerobic energy cycle (Kreb's Cycle)

Shortly after beginning the program designed for him, De La Hoya told reporters he felt his behind-the-scenes team was responsible for a 20 percent increase in speed. By then he was convinced of the advantages of a sensible resistance, nutrition and cardiovascular program. "They're all experts in their fields, and I'm the expert in boxing." De La Hoya says of working with the team, " Of course, Robert Alcazar is my coach, but he pretty much allows Jon and his team to take care of the conditioning and nutrition outside of the boxing training I do with him. He's a believer in it at this point."

Park tells a story about De La Hoya's current level of conditioning. "About two weeks prior to his fight with Quartey, we were running intervals. We did 200's in succession with about thirty seconds' rest in between. Oscar's heart rate only reached 116 beats per minute! That's unbelievable! What's more, his recovery back down to 62 beats per minute occurred within minutes. It's almost unheard of. That is all about genetics." According to Park, "fast-twitch fiber people are explosive and fast, while slow-twitches fiber people are more endurance-based. Oscar is probably in the 70% fast twitch area, because he's very quick an strong. But a person who has this ability shouldn't have endurance, yet Oscar has incredible endurance. So, in my opinion, the slow twitch fibers he does have are incredibly oxidative. This means that he has a huge oxygen capacity within a limited amount of fiber. Had he not been a boxer, I think he would have been a middle distance runner."

Takano is impressed by De La Hoya's ability to focus. "He likes to joke around a lot, and at one moment, you'll see him do this between rounds of sparring," he says. " but when the bell rings, Oscar is right back in there and focused and has his mind only on what is at hand. It's rare for anyone to be able to have that kind of focus an discipline to always snap back and forth between being casual and being serious. He's isn't the type of person who has to sit down and think about what he's going to do."

What's ahead for the Golden boy "My plan is to win seven world titles in seven different weight classes." De La Hoya has said. "It would be impossible to do it without weights and the proper nutrition. I've gotten faster as I've moved up in weight." But he still believes he has work to do. "I
don't think I'm the perfect fighter at this point, no matter what my record is. A lot of people in the boxing world call me 'the best fighter, pound for pound', but personally, I don't think I'm there yet." He sees himself comfortable as a junior middleweight, a level he'll move up to in September. "I think that's the weight I should be naturally, where I'll feel strong and healthy. At that weight, I'll call myself the "pound-for-pound champion". 

De La Hoya might meet Felix Trinidad, winner of the undercard fight at the De La Hoya/ Quartey match. Some say he'll fight both Quartey and Trinidad, but the De La Hoya camp has not released any concrete commitments. One thing's certain though: he'll keep supporting the foundation he set up in East L.A. to keep kids off the street through boxing and other activities. He likes giving something back.

Jon Jon Park, son of Legendary body builder Reg Park, mentor to Arnold Schwarzenegger. Jon Jon is a former Olympic swimmer and besides growing up in the fitness industry, he has been a  coach in swimming and soccer and a trainer for over forty two years. He has worked with many world class and top level amateur and professional athletes designing programs and weekly schedules in preparation for competitive events or specific goals to be achieved. Jon Jon believes in total balance with regards to a health and fitness program which he calls the wheel of and fitness. The wheel has seven components with all of them being of equal importance (see attached), He has all clients answer a questionnaire before starting on a program and based on how they answer the questions he then graphs them in each segment with one being the lowest score and 10 being the highest and then he connects the dots. The object is to achieve a perfect circle as a wheel can only work efficiently, if it is a perfect sphere. If there are weak segments Jon Jon has his clients place more emphasis on these segments.

Today Jon Jon places a huge emphasis on postural training whether it be doing resistance training or specific spinal stretching and corrective exercise for those who have structural imbalances. His programs also include physical therapy using his own techniques for those who have had injuries with great success. He believes that most people over train and he emphasizes more quality training than quantity especially considering peoples busy lifestyles today. 

Jon Jon can be reached at  


  ©,2017 Jerry Brainum. Any reprinting in any type of media, including electronic and foreign is expressly prohibited

Have you been ripped off  by supplement makers whose products don’t work as advertised? Want to know the truth about them? Check out Jerry Brainum's book Natural Anabolics, available at


The Applied Ergogenics blog is a collection of articles written and published by Jerry Brainum over the past 20 years. These articles have appeared in Muscle and Fitness, Ironman, and other magazines. Many of the posts on the blog are original articles, having appeared here for the first time. For Jerry’s most recent articles, which are far more in depth than anything that appears on this blog site, please subscribe to his Applied Metabolics Newsletter, at This newsletter, which is more correctly referred to as a monthly e-book, since its average length is 35 to 40 pages, contains the latest findings about nutrition, exercise science, fat-loss, anti-aging, ergogenic aids, food supplements, and other topics. For 33 cents a day you get the benefit of Jerry’s 53 years of writing and intense study of all matters pertaining to fitness,health, bodybuilding, and disease prevention.


See Jerry's book at


Want more evidence-based information on exercise science, nutrition and food supplements, ergogenic aids, and anti-aging research? Check out Applied Metabolics Newsletter at


                            Please share this article on facebook