TO suggest that Oscar De La Hoya poked the bear would be an understatement. He grabbed his fur, climbed on top of his broad back and tried to humiliate the beast in front of a stunned selection of fight fans and assembled media.

Watching on in close proximity, Stephen Espinoza was as intrigued as anyone at how the one-time ‘Golden Boy’ of boxing fired up the missiles of old and aimed them straight at Canelo Alvarez, the man he once pushed forward, proclaimed and promoted.

“Yeah, it certainly seemed to have bubbled up and bubbled over at this point. My question comes from the timing of it, because we certainly didn’t see this antagonism and animosity at the initial kickoff press conference,” mused the ex-Showtime Sports president.

“So part of it makes me wonder, is this a calculated strategy by Oscar to create some distractions and get under Canelo’s skin? Maybe anger him going forward. That may or may not be true.

“But once he did that, and the floodgates opened, clearly both had a lot to get off their chest. There was a lot that had needed to be said for a long time and, sort of, it all came gushing out.

“Just when you thought it was coming to an end, it sparked up again. So clearly there’s a lot of water under the bridge and I’m not sure if this is an ongoing thing.”

Stephen Espinoza (Photo by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images)

It has been suggested that De La Hoya’s sudden desire to irritate his ex-fighter was in part due to the platform (a televised live event with plenty of wider attention) and in part a tactic to boil the Jalisco man’s blood ahead of the fight. A boxer who uses their heart rather than their head is likelier to make rash, uncalcated decisions in the ring.

“Anything’s possible,” said Espinoza. “I think there’s a perception of Canelo based on what he allows to be seen. And he always seems very calm, cool, almost detached. Canelo was very revved up. We don’t usually see that from him. We’ve seen it in patches over recent years, such as the Caleb Plant incident and so on and so forth.

“That is very much something that he controls and projects. He has a very funny, very playful side. He does have a temper. He is a human being. He just doesn’t allow us to see it very often. And here you saw a glimpse of the fact that, yes, he’s very much an emotional person.”

The emotions were certainly running high back at the press conference when Oscar decided to take Canelo to task with an incendiary speech. Gradually getting louder, drowning out his former promoter, Canelo swiftly jumped up to confront him. 

“He’s only come to steal the attention away from Jaime Munguia. He hasn’t come to promote him,” Canelo said in Spanish language, translated for Boxing News.

“You don’t believe what you’re saying, you have to read it you arsehole. Don’t forget that I was already Canelo when I came to the US. He only made money from of my name. He never lost a cent, he simply made money.”

Referring to his antagonist as a “lowlife”, Canelo went on to accuse De La Hoya of financial misdeeds around the Gennady Golovkin fight. Accusations Oscar later described as defamatory and claimed he would deal with in the courts.

Canelo’s diatribe threatened to descend first into the bizarre and later in to unsavoury territory. Espinoza believes the context of the content must also be taken into account when judging Canelo’s crude glossary of terms.

“There’s a different perception of that within the Mexican culture. It’s been an ongoing issue of world football in terms of some of the comments from the crowd. I’m not sure you’ll ever take that out of the Mexican culture.

“I’m not saying that’s right or wrong, and I’m certainly not criticising the culture, but it’s been ongoing, those kinds of comments.”

Whatever happens between Canelo and Jaime Munguia later this evening, one thing is for sure: the tension between Canelo and Oscar De La Hoya has gone up a notch and is likely to escalate over the coming months.