Documentaries about celebrities are a dime a dozen these days. But docus about celebrities that don’t feel like infomercials and instead are raw, informative, and honest about their star subjects are few and far between. HBO Sports’ and Universal Television Alternative Studio’s two-part docuseries “Golden Boy,” about Oscar De La Hoya, fits into the jaw-droppingly candid, no-holds-bar category.
In the first three minutes of the doc, directed by Fernando Villena, the Olympic boxing gold medalist and multi-world title-winning professional boxer, who is now 50 years old, says, “Everyone thought they knew me. It was just all a lie because that’s what I do.”
In part one of the series executive produced by Mark Wahlberg and Mario Lopez, De La Hoya reveals some of his most spectacular lies and painful childhood traumas. The 77-minute episode also features interviews with members of the boxer’s immediate family, who don’t hold back about how they feel about the 11-time titlist. (Let’s just say that not everyone agrees on who should have won the iconic 1996 fight between De La Hoya and Julio César Chávez.)
“It’s very therapeutic and so emotional hearing my family members talk about me,” says De La Hoya. “I needed that. I needed to just hear the truth.”
De La Hoya, who participated in Eva Longoria Bastón’s 2022 doc “La Guerra Civil,” has known since retiring in 2008 that he wanted to make a documentary about his life and career.
“When I retired from boxing, I felt lost,” he says. “I felt like life wasn’t worth living anymore because I could not have my passion, which was inside the ring. So, I wanted to tell the truth. I wanted to tell my story in my words, from my heart, about what I’ve been through my whole career. It’s been quite a rollercoaster.”
Villena, who made the HBO docu for Wahlberg’s Unrealistic Ideas production banner, spent an entire year interviewing De La Hoya.
“In doing the research, I knew that there were a lot of moments in Oscar’s life when he wasn’t truthful, whether to the media or to his family,” says Villena. “So, I knew that getting to that honesty, that truth was going to be difficult.”
The director decided that the best way to get De La Hoya to open up was to interview him one on one.
“I did all the shooting and sound, and we just talked,” Villena explains.
De La Hoya says opening up to the helmer was the “scariest” thing he has ever done.
“I’ve faced the toughest individuals inside the ring throughout my whole life, but to be honest, to literally expose my feelings and my emotions was petrifying,” he says. “I can see how people in my position or of my stature would shy away from doing something like this. But I had to because it was a way for me to escape from the reality that I’ve been living for the last 45 years.”
Part two of the docuseries, which was not provided to Variety, covers topics including the boxer’s battle with substance abuse as well as the infamous photo of De La Hoya wearing women’s lingerie, which was leaked to the press in 2007.
“I told Mark (Wahlberg) and Mario Lopez to make this real,” the boxer says. “Ask the tough questions, and with the (lingerie) pictures that came out many years ago, I told them, I want you to hunt down that girl that leaked them and just get the truth.”
The first episode of “The Golden Boy” will screen at the Tribeca Festival on June 9. Part one of the docuseries will debut on HBO on July 24 followed by part two on July 25. Both episodes will be available to stream on Max beginning July 24.