LAS VEGAS -- Oscar De La Hoya pulled out of his May 4 fight with rival Fernando Vargas on Thursday after a doctor recommended the WBC champion rest a hand injured in sparring last week.
Promoters said they would try to reschedule the much-anticipated bout for Sept. 14, but had no immediate agreement.
It was the second time in a row that De La Hoya has withdrawn from a fight. The former Olympic gold medalist has not fought since winning the 154-pound WBC title from Javier Castillejo last June 23.
''I am devastated that this fight has to be postponed,'' De La Hoya said in a statement. ''I am looking forward to this fight and promise that the little extra wait will be well worth it.''
De La Hoya suffered a sprain in sparring a week ago in Big Bear, Calif., and consulted three doctors before postponing the fight.
''The doctor says he needs six weeks rest and rehabilitation,'' said Bob Arum, De La Hoya's promoter. ''He could fight in August but that's a bad month for pay-per-view television so we're looking at Sept. 14.''
It was also the second time that Vargas had what he thought was a date in the ring with De La Hoya postponed. De La Hoya had first offered to fight Vargas on Dec. 8, but withdrew that offer and later agreed to the May date.
''Fernando was not surprised at all,'' Vargas promoter Gary Shaw said. ''He honestly feels Oscar is afraid to fight him.''
Arum said one of the doctors who examined De La Hoya is also used by Shaw's Main Events company and verified the injury to the Vargas camp.
''The initial reaction of the other side is always to get angry,'' Arum said. ''But in this case it's a genuine injury.''
Shaw said he would talk to De La Hoya's doctors and hoped the fight could still be held at a later date.
''I have to take Oscar at his word his hand is legitimately hurt,'' Shaw said. ''I've always wondered if he's going to fight Fernando Vargas. I would hope that he follows through with his commitment to people and Fernando to meet him.''
Arum said De La Hoya went to three different doctors before Dr. Tony Daly, an orthopedic surgeon in Los Angeles, told him on Thursday he needed to give the injury a month's rest.
Arum said the injury was diagnosed as a severe sprain of the third metacarpal on the left hand.
De La Hoya pulled out of his last fight after injuring his left wrist while training to meet Roman Karmazin in December. De La Hoya had surgery on the wrist to repair torn cartilage later that month and hasn't fought since.
If the fight is rescheduled for September, it would be 15 months since De La Hoya fought and a year since Vargas last fought, beating Jose ''Shibata'' Flores to win the WBA version of the 154-pound title.
The 28-year-old De La Hoya, the WBC super welterweight champion, has a 34-2 record with 27 knockouts. Vargas, 24, is 22-1 with 20 knockouts.
De La Hoya was to earn $14 million plus a percentage of the pay-per-view sales, while Vargas was to get $6 million plus a percentage of sales for the fight at the Mandalay Bay hotel-casino.
The Los Angeles-area rivals have not concealed their dislike for each other, and Vargas promised at a rally in Los Angeles last month that he would give De La Hoya a beating. The two shoved each other at a January news conference formally announcing the bout.
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