The Beckham of boxing?
On this side of the Atlantic, I have sometimes heard Oscar de la Hoya referred to as the 'David Beckham of Boxing'. The comparison is never meant to be flattering.
De la Hoya, say his critics, was a triumph of style over substance; a cynical money-making machine (boxing historian Bert Sugar calls him the sport's "ATM"); a great brand, but not a great boxer. Beckham is familiar with such accusations, although the AC Milan midfielder, who's every bit as pretty as the 'Golden Boy', probably dismisses them as envy.
Another charge often laid against Beckham is that he's come up short on the biggest stage: five major tournaments for England and outshone at all of them. De la Hoya, too, was found wanting in many of his biggest engagements.
Pernell Whitaker made him look wretched, he squeaked by Ike Quartey, he threw away the decision against Felix Trinidad, the judges robbed Felix Sturm. He fared well against Floyd Mayweather Jr, but he was demolished by Bernard Hopkins and made to look pathetic by Manny Pacquiao in his last fight last December.
True, De la Hoya won world titles in six different divisions, but it is difficult to make a case for him being all-time top-10 in any of them. Perhaps at welterweight, but with the likes of Ray Robinson, Ray Leonard, Tommy Hearns and Henry Armstrong as competition, he's hardly a shoo-in.
Furthermore, there were some Mexican fans (De la Hoya, although born in Los Angeles, was intensely proud of his Mexican heritage) who considered him slightly effete, an affront to the tradition of blood-and-guts fighters as epitomised by their beloved Julio Cesar Chavez, who De la Hoya beat twice.
But an Olympic and 10-time world champion deserves more than mean-spirited nit-picking, and the fact is De la Hoya was the most popular boxer of his age: 19 pay-per-view broadcasts in the United States, 14.1 million buys, $700m in revenue. That's a lot of people who think he's great, even if some of the beard-strokers disagree.
It should also not be forgotten that while De la Hoya didn't always come out on top in his biggest matches, at least he was always involved in the biggest matches. Quite simply, De la Hoya fought them all.
For much of De la Hoya's career, he acted as boxing's life support machine, providing regular spikes when many assumed the sport had flatlined. As recently as 2007, he and Mayweather set the boxing pay-per-view record with 2.5 million buys.
"As an attraction I don't see any way he could have been bigger," said Bob Arum, who promoted De la Hoya for much of his career. "He was huge. He was the attraction in boxing, certainly after Mike Tyson."
At least De la Hoya, unlike most fighters when they hang 'em up, has something to throw himself into, namely his own company, Golden Boy Promotions, now the most powerful in its field. Ricky Hatton's clash with Pacquiao on 2 May will now benefit from De la Hoya's undivided attention.
Like Beckham, De la Hoya may not have been the greatest. But, like Beckham, he mixed it with the best, achieved great things and was an upstanding ambassador for his sport.
"I am firm on this decision," said De la Hoya on Tuesday. "I'm convinced I'll never, ever come back." Unlike Beckham, guilty of making an ill-judged exit when he still had much to give, De la Hoya's got his timing right. Unlike Beckham, let's hope there'll be no U-turns.