By Joe Bosso, Portraits by Amber Asaly
WE MET with Messrs. Mario Lopez and Oscar De La Hoya at Mario’s handsome hacienda in the hills above Los Angeles this past March. Mario was a convivial host—no shock there—to our staff, gathered friends and business associates. Mario and Oscar have an easy rapport, as old friends do, and they shared their excitement about their tequila brand, Casa Mexico, with new and old friends alike.
Both men have been in the public eye for a long time, and both have a long-standing affinity for tequila. Mario’s endearing persona has sustained a career in the entertainment industry as a comic actor and well-respected television personality since being cast as A.C. Slater in the 1989 sitcom Saved by the Bell. He’s anchored as an on-air host of the television entertainment magazine, Extra, since 2008. Oscar “The Golden Boy” De La Hoya won gold in the 1992 Summer Olympics and is regarded, pound for pound, as one of the all-time great boxers, having won ten titles in six weight classes during his professional career. He’s been the owner of the promotional boxing firm, Golden Boy Promotions, since 2002. Mario and Oscar decided to expand from personal tequila exploration and partner up in a business venture with Casa Mexico creator Eric Buccio.
Casa Mexico is a small batch, premium tequila, produced in the red volcanic soil of Arandas in the highlands of Jalisco, Mexico. Eric developed the blend (featuring añejo, silver, and reposado expressions) over an eight-year period, and began a mission to share the results of his work with industry friends and tequila enthusiasts. Businessman and producer Mark Roberts became enamored of the product, and asked Eric if he could share a bottle with fellow tequila enthusiast Mario Lopez. As fate would have it, Mario was set to be married in Punta Mita, Mexico. Eric seized the opportunity, and provided Casa Mexico for the wedding party and attendees. To say the least, the tequila went over quite well as over 120 bottles were consumed over the wedding weekend by family and friends. Mario was on board and became a partner.
This past year, Oscar De La Hoya joined the fray. The legendary champion says, “Boxing, tequila, and friendship all go hand in hand. I’m happy to be working with friends and sharing our tequila with the world.”
Adds Lopez, “Anytime you have a good spirit with some good friends, I think that’s the ultimate way to celebrate. Sharing this brand is going to be a lot of fun.”
Let’s start at the beginning. How did you two meet and become friends?
Mario Lopez: We initially met—my God, I was thinking about it—when he came out of the Olympics.
Oscar De La Hoya: San Diego, right?
Mario Lopez: That’s where we first hung out, but we initially met—you had just won the gold in Barcelona.
Oscar De La Hoya: Right.
Mario Lopez: I remember because I came across a picture just the other day. You were doing the Hollywood Christmas Parade, and we met backstage. He had justwon the medal. Being that we share similar backgrounds, we just hit it off. I was aware of him because I was cheering for him at the Summer Olympics. We metthere and instantly hit it off. We’re the same age, obviously both Mexican-Americans, both first generation here. Our parents are immigrants, similar backgrounds and share a lot in common, so it was easy. I think that’s what’s so great about friendships and people inspiring each other—like the old adage goes, one stone sharpens another. I’m not just a friend of Oscar, I’ve always been rooting for him, for his success as a fighter and now as a promoter, being able to now be partners—throughout the years, always just being very supportive and proud of all his endeavors, from fighter to now promoter and entrepreneur. It’s cool when you get to do something with your friends that you believe in and get to partner up.
So, how many years has it been?
Mario Lopez: Damn, 1992. Oh, gosh. Don’t make me do math but there are stories to tell from over the years. Oscar De La Hoya: What story are you going to tell? Are you going to tell them when you body slammed me or when we went to Tijuana?
Mario, you body slammed Oscar De La Hoya?
Oscar De La Hoya: We were doing this charity thing, right? At Big Bear [California] was it?
Mario Lopez: Yes. I have actually sparred with Oscar a few times, but the first time was funny. We were in Big Bear and we were in the ring, and man, those hands were fast. I don’t know what happened, I was playing the wrong side, then I grabbed him, picked him up, and body slammed him.
Oscar De La Hoya: It was like Rocky and Hulk Hogan.
Mario Lopez: No doubt he’s Rocky. Then we did it again actually. Three rounds—for a great non-profit that Mitt Romney backs. [CharityVision is a non-profit organization focusing on treating people with curable sight impairments in developing nations.]
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