201212121713619913756-p2.jpgBy: Kevin Iole

Millions of people around the world wanted to meet Oscar De La Hoya, to shake his hand, to slap him on the back, to say they’d been in his presence.

Despite the adoration, De La Hoya said that for years, his only friend was a bottle.

 De La Hoya, one of the world’s leading boxing promoters and a soon-to-be Hall of Fame fighter, is an alcoholic with 19 months of sobriety to his credit.

As the holidays approach, De La Hoya said that for the first time in a long time, he is truly joyful. A little more than a year after he admitted that he contemplated suicide to ease the pain he felt, De La Hoya could finally say he was happy to be alive.

Last week, De La Hoya gave away free tickets to a boxing card at the Los Angeles Sports Arena to thank boxing fans for their support. He spearheaded a toy drive that included other boxers such as Peter Quillin and Danny Jacobs. He immersed himself in holiday activities and said he suspected that he got far more from them than those he helped.

“This is basically feeding the soul,” he said of his holiday charity work. “It’s feeding my soul. It feels so good, it really does, to be able to do something for someone and see them smile and see the impact. I want to make this a tradition. It feels so good. This is what I should have been feeling all these years.”

De La Hoya was admitted to drug and alcohol rehabilitation in May 2011. In August 2011, a few months after he completed his rehab stay, he gave bombshell interviews in which he admitted to a series of transgressions.

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