To borrow a phrase from Winston Churchill, WBC-WBA super welterweight champion Oscar De La Hoya is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.
De La Hoya, who is due to defend his belts against Shane Mosley on Sept. 13 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, proved nearly as elusive with the media during a Wednesday conference call as he is in the ring.
The questions most asked centered on whether the 30-year-old De La Hoya really re-injured his surgically repaired left hand last week in sparring, or if it all was a psychological ploy designed to trip up Mosley, who took De La Hoya's WBC welterweight title on June 17, 2000.
"(The hand) did bother me for a while," said De La Hoya, 36-2, with 29 knockouts. "But it will be 100 percent for the fight."
But consider the source. Before his devastating victory over challenger Fernando Vargas last September, De La Hoya said that nobody should believe anything he said before a fight.
After being relentlessly pressed on the subject, De La Hoya got a little more specific. He said he was sparring early last week when he felt "a little pinch" in his left hand.
"I panicked a bit. I said, 'Stop everything,'" De La Hoya said. "I didn't want to risk (the fight with Mosley). Everything was fine with the X-rays. I took three days off and relaxed my body. I was training too hard. Training's going really, really good. I'm in tremendous shape. I'm ready to get that victory on September 13th."
While one is left wondering if De La Hoya is fueling the disinformation machine concerning his hand, one must also ponder how a guy who has made so much money in the ring that he could use it as confetti during a ticker tape parade could find the necessary motivation -- aside from the revenge factor -- to fight the dangerous Mosley.
"Sometimes I feel tired of working out, tired of going to the gym and sparring," said De La Hoya, who has won titles in five different weight divisions, from 130 to 154 pounds. "On the weekends your body is tired. But it feels the same (as when De La Hoya was young). I'm very motivated."
But is he as motivated as Mosley, who insists he has the style to again beat De La Hoya after defeating him twice -- once as an amateur and again in 2000?
"(Mosley) is a hungry, hyper fighter," De La Hoya said. "He'll be in good shape. But I'm not going to be the same fighter I was in 2000. He'll have to look out for a lot of combinations."
In addition to saying Mosley's confidence level has to be down from not winning his last three fights, including two consecutive losses to Vernon Forrest and a no-decision against Raul Marquez, De La Hoya said Mosley may have made a mistake by not changing trainers and replacing his father, Jack.
"It could work against him," De La Hoya said. "(Jack) has nothing else to show his son. A lot of times a father has a hard time accepting that he can't teach his son anymore. I feel he's the same fighter (he was in 2000). He has the same trainer and fights the same.
"This will be a whole different fight. I've studied his fights with Forrest. The way to neutralize his speed is to throw punches at the right time. You use good timing and jabs. If he thinks he's facing the same fighter, he has another thing coming. He's not going to break my defense."
So what's left for a man who has accomplished just about everything there is to in boxing?
"Obviously I'd like to fight (Felix) Trinidad, but he said he's not coming back," said De La Hoya, who dropped a controversial decision to Trinidad in 1999. "(Undisputed middleweight champion Bernard) Hopkins is acting as his own manager. He doesn't have a career right now. He's on the back burner."
De La Hoya also said he didn't think he'd end up facing IBF junior middleweight titlist Winky Wright in a unification bout.
Said De La Hoya: "Right now it's about beating the best fighters. That's more important than world titles."
So for now, that appears to be Mosley. But De La Hoya was adamant on one topic.
"It's over if (Mosley) beats me," De La Hoya said. "Three fights (losses) and I'm out."
And don't feel too sorry for De La Hoya if he loses to Mosley. After all, he has made hundreds of millions of dollars, he can act and sing and is married to a beautiful singer. And there's a little thing called Golden Boy Promotions.
"That's what I'm really going to concentrate on when I retire," De La Hoya said of his promotional venture. "That's the career I'm going to focus on."
Why not? While De La Hoya earned the nickname "Golden Boy" when he won the gold medal for the United States in the 1992 Olympics, he could just as well be called "Midas." Whatever De La Hoya touches seems to turn to gold.