As a kid growing up in the East Los Angeles barrio, Oscar De La Hoya read

The Ring

magazine cover-to-cover as soon as it hit the newsstands.

De La Hoya is now 34, a six-time world champion and the highest-grossing prizefighter of all time. But his company's acquisition of The Ring isn't necessarily the boxing equivalent of a millionaire athlete who spends a bundle on vintage baseball cards simply because he collected the cardboard rectangles in his youth.

The sale of Blue Bell-headquartered Kappa Publishing Group to Sports and Entertainment Publications, a member of Golden Boy Enterprises' chain of companies, is driven as much by the bottom line as by any emotional attachment De La Hoya might feel for a hoary publication that was founded in 1922 and bills itself as "The Bible of Boxing."

The sale - the protracted negotiations for which dragged on for over a year - was finalized Wednesday. No price was announced, but sources indicate that The Ring changed hands for around $7 million.

"It's really an amazing story, if you think about it," said Richard Schaefer, Golden Boy's chief executive officer. "You have in Oscar a fighter who is the face of his sport, who came from an impoverished background but owns a high-rise, 15-story corporate building in the heart of downtown Los Angeles and now has added the magazine he couldn't wait to read when it came out every month. What an unbelievable story that is. I get chills just thinking about it.

"But at the same time, Oscar and I are businessmen. We didn't buy The Ring to lose money. We bought it because we want to expand the brand not only in this country, but globally. We want to grow it digitally, to increase subscriptions, to increase distribution and to increase advertising."

Schaefer also said that The Ring would not become a house organ to hype fighters who are in the Golden Boy promotional stable.

"We will not get involved in editorial content," Schaefer said. "If we did that, we would achieve exactly the opposite of what we want. We want to increase the brand's value, not reduce it."

Assurances of continued editorial freedom convinced publisher Stu Saks, editor Nigel Collins and five now-former employees of Kappa to remain.

"Both Oscar and Richard personally told Stu and me that there will be no interference in terms of the magazine," Collins said. "These are intelligent men who realize that the true value of The Ring is in its integrity. I believe them. If I didn't, I wouldn't have agreed to stay on." *