IKE QUARTEY was returning from a 14-month absence from the ring – during which time proposed fights against Felix Trinidad and ‘Sweet Pea’ Pernell Whitaker had collapsed – to challenge Oscar De La Hoya for the WBC welterweight title at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas, on February 13 1999.
THIS was viewed by many as the Golden Boy’s toughest test since he turned professional seven years earlier. They felt that De La Hoya’s perfect 29-0 record was filled with fighters who were either over the hill like Julio Cesar Chavez and Whitaker, too small like Rafael Ruelas and Genaro Hernandez, or simply too over-matched like Patrick Charpentier. Claude Abrams said in his preview for Boxing News: “We knew Leonard was good, but when he defeated Roberto Duran and then Hearns, we recognised his brilliance. Now it’s De La Hoya’s turn.”
QUARTEY, himself undefeated with a 34-0-1 record, had a legitimate claim to be the world’s best welterweight. A week later at Madison Square Garden, two other fighters with designs on the top spot were scheduled to meet for the IBF strap – Trinidad defending against Whitaker.