Oscar De La Hoya came to put on a show for his adoring fans. He ended up giving a boxing clinic, with a little help from an outclassed Patrick Charpentier.
Fighting before a frenzied crowd of 45,368 at the Sun Bowl, De La Hoya was at his brutally efficient best Saturday night in stopping Charpentier in the third round to retain his WBC welterweight title.
A six-month layoff because of an injured left wrist didn't bother De La Hoya, and neither did Charpentier, the No. 1 challenger who gamely got up after two knockdowns but wasn't given the chance after being dropped a third time in the final round.
"I thought I was better than ever," De La Hoya said. "I had no problems out there. After I hurt him I knew the knockdown was coming."
De La Hoya, displaying power in an array of punches, knocked down Charpentier three times in the final round before referee Laurence Cole stopped the bout at 1:56 of the third round after the challenger went down sitting on the canvas from a final right hand.
The carnage started with a left hook that put Charpentier down 53 seconds into the round. De La Hoya then dropped him again with a left uppercut, and finally put him away with a right hand.
"Everything worked perfect," De La Hoya said. "I took my time. I was a real professional out there."
It was the fourth title defense for De La Hoya, whose Oscar's Night promotion drew one of the largest crowds to see a boxing match in the United States.
And it didn't figure to last long after De La Hoya came out from the opening bell throwing a stinging left jab that pushed back Charpentier's head. Charpentier was game but outclassed, and there was never any doubt what the final outcome of the fight would be.
The fans who screamed De La Hoya's name as he entered the ring dressed in a Mexican cowboy outfit and sombrero had barely settled into their seats and the fight was over. But they still screamed for him as he thanked them from the ring.
"I thank the city of El Paso for giving me the strength and opportunity to fight here before all these beautiful fans," De La Hoya told the crowd.
Charpentier, the top-ranked WBC challenger, had never won a fight outside his native France and found himself cast as the role of the villain before a city that spent a week going wild with anticipation over the fight.
Still, he fought gamely in the first few rounds, although he took far more shots than he landed. De La Hoya was efficient and calm as he stalked the challenger around the ring, digging left hooks to the body and pushing his head back with the left jab.
After the second round, Charpentier turned to go back to his corner and seemed to breathe a huge sigh of relief.
It wasn't to last long, however, as De La Hoya caught him with a left hook in the next round that put Charpentier down. He got up at the count of five but De La Hoya put him down quickly with perfect left uppercut.
Charpentier got up once more, only to take the final right hand that put him down a third time.
"He was hurt," referee Laurence Cole said. "He was definitely dazed."
Charpentier had little to say as he sat on his stool as the crowd erupted in delight when the fight was finally stopped.
"I'm OK," he said. "It was the head shots."
De La Hoya, who fought five times in 1997, hadn't fought for six months after injuring his left hand in training. But the hand did not bother him against Charpentier.
"If you hurt this guy you can take your time and take him apart," trainer Gil Clancy told De La Hoya between rounds.
That's exactly what De La Hoya did, efficiently taking apart the 20-1 underdog.
De La Hoya, who weighed the class limit of 147 pounds, earned $4 million for the fight while Charpentier, 146, was paid $600,000.
On the undercard, Mexico's Cesar Bazan won a split decision over Stevie Johnston to win the WBC lightweight title. Bazan, the top-ranked challenger, used his six-inch height advantage to keep Johnston away and take the fight by a 115-113 margin on two cards. A third judge had Johnston ahead 116-112.
It was the first loss for Johnston in a 25-fight professional career. He was defending the title for the fourth time.
The undercard was delayed for about 30 minutes when the ringside area had to be evacuated after the first fight because gusty winds were threatening to send the light standards over the ring falling to the ground.
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