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Oscar De La Hoya Says He Paid "Russian Mobsters" to Avoid Scandalous Photo Leak

Pictures of the boxer wearing lingerie were published by the tabloids in 2007.

In 2007, Oscar De La Hoya was at the center of a tabloid scandal when photos of him dressed in lingerie were published by various tabloids. At the time, the Olympic gold medal-winning boxer went to great lengths to deny that it was him in the photos, including claiming that the photos were edited. A few years later, he admitted that he was lying. And now, De La Hoya is sharing more of the story behind the leak of those personal shots. He said in a new interview that his lawyers made every attempt to keep the photos from coming out, including making a payoff to people the boxer describes as "Russian mobsters." Read on to learn more.

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Personal photos of De La Hoya leaked in 2007.

Oscar De La Hoya at the 2008 ALMA Awards
s_bukley / Shutterstock

In 2007, the New York Post published photos of De La Hoya in women's underwear, a wig, and a fishnet bodystocking. Also featured in the photos was a stripper named Milana Dravnel. De La Hoya denied that the photos were of him, and Dravnel, who had taken them, asserted that they weren't real following their publication.

But, in 2008, Dravnel sued De La Hoya for slander, claiming that she was pressured into saying that the photos weren't authentic, as reported by the Los Angeles Times. A forensic expert hired by De La Hoya said that it was his opinion that the photos had been edited. Dravnel subsequently dismissed her case.

"De La Hoya has consistently maintained that the photos in question were doctored," De La Hoya's lawyer Judd Burstein said in a statement as reported by the LA Times. "His claim was confirmed by a highly esteemed expert … We had little doubt that the case would have been dismissed. Mr. De La Hoya would have successfully sued her for fraud and extortion. The jig was up, and she wisely decided to walk away."

De La Hoya later came clean.

Oscar De La Hoya at the George Lopez Foundation Annual Celebrity Golf Classic Tournament in 2021
Eugene Powers / Shutterstock

Four years after the photos were published, De La Hoya admitted that they were real photos of him.

"Let me to tell you, yes, yes, it was me," he said on Aqui y Ahora (via CBS News). The athlete said that he was drunk and on cocaine when the photos were taken. "I am tired now of lying. Of lying to the public and of lying to myself," he said. In the same interview, he said that "rock bottom was recently" and explained that he had been receiving treatment for substance abuse.

The New York Post reported that De La Hoya had paid Dravnel $20 million, settling the lawsuit out of court. Back in 2007, De La Hoya's lawyer had claimed that there was no "hush money." Burstein said, "Oscar is not paying her a penny."

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He made an unsuccessful payoff to keep the photos from leaking.

Oscar De La Hoya at the premiere of "Creed III" in 2023
Featureflash Photo Agency / Shutterstock

In a new interview with Entertainment Tonight, De La Hoya explained that he tried to stop the lingerie photos from being leaked by paying off "Russian mobsters." The 50-year-old said that a former executive at his company Golden Boy Promotions was the one handling the negotiation.

"He [the exec] told me this story about the Russian mob and this and that and [how] we gotta pay millions of dollars," De La Hoya told ET. "I'm like, 'Yeah, well, just make it go away. It's gonna ruin my image. It's gonna ruin who the Golden Boy is and people are gonna hate me. Just make it go away.'"

He said that people working for him—who he did not name—took a flight to New York City where they had to meet the mob members at a rooftop pool. He did not explain what role the mobsters supposedly played in having the photos published or not.

"That's the story that they told me, is that my lawyer at the time had to jump into a rooftop pool in New York with one of the Russian mobsters to make sure that they didn't have wires connected to their body," he said. "And sure enough, apparently they paid all this money, but yet the photos still leaked. So, I never really investigated all that. I never knew exactly what really happened. The documentary sheds a little bit of light on it, but it's all confusing to me."

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A documentary about his life is coming to HBO.

Warning: Video above contains explicit language.

The documentary De La Hoya referred to is an upcoming HBO documentary on his life titled The Golden Boy, which premieres July 24. In addition to the scandal of those lingerie photos, the doc also explores his family life, the allegations of sexual assault that have been brought against him (which he denies), and his relationship with his mother, Cecilia Gonzalez De La Hoya, who died in 1990 and who De La Hoya says was abusive.

De La Hoya also admits in the documentary that he lied about his relationship with his mom in the press, making it out to be a positive one and claiming that her dying wish was for him to win a gold medal at the Olympics. He achieved this goal two years after her death at the 1992 Barcelona games.

Lia Beck
Lia Beck is a writer living in Richmond, Virginia. In addition to Best Life, she has written for Refinery29, Bustle, Hello Giggles, InStyle, and more. Read more
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