Pugilistik: To Live And Die In L.A.

Shane MosleyBy Nefarious Nick Fremont - After three rounds at the Staples Center, we'd already been well convinced that this was Shane's night, much like it had been Bernard's a few months earlier. It sure looked like it was going to be another one-sided fight between a one-dimensional come-forward fighter and a technically brilliant and physically superior boxer. But there is a difference between Bernard Hopkins and Shane Mosley. Sure, Bernard may be "The Executioner" but it is Shane who is the real killer. Beyond the fassade of his open smile and the glitz and glamour of being King of LA, Shane has within his fists the seeds of cold-blooded murder.

With little more than a half minute left in the eighth stanza, the fight turned on a dime from the boxing lesson that so closely evoked Hopkins-Pavlik to a relentless and savage beating that spoke to something much more dark and primeval within us, a remnant of our caveman past. From the 2:27 mark of the eighth round, Mosley turned into an absolutely vicious monster, uncoiling and delivering each punch with so much torque that you were afraid he was going to kill Margarito. The final shots landed in the ultimate round were administered with such fury that it seemed like Shane was hitting him with a bat instead of gloves.

It seemed like all the frustration and anger that had been pent up since the Mayorga fight exploded from Shane's fists and onto Margarito's face in the span of the minute that preceded the end of the fight. Perhaps his well-publicized divorce from Jin, his long-time confidant and manager, had something to do with it. Perhaps it was the idea that Margarito was using him as a "tune-up" for a Cotto rematch that inflamed Mosley. Or maybe it was the change in trainers from his dad to Nazim Richardson (the same man that engineered Hopkins' schooling of Pavlik) that rekindled the fire inside Shane. Whatever the case is, I haven't seen Mosley look so good since he beat Oscar the first time. And I haven't seen him so vicious since he was the best lightweight in the world and was knocking out everyone.


It's strange to say this but Mosley, almost a decade after beating Oscar in the first fight at Staples, is back on top of the welterweight division. He's now in the position of calling the shots, somewhere he hasn't been since before the Forrest and Wright defeats. Who's out there at 147 for him?

Mosley wants another shot at Cotto but the Puerto Rican is already slated to fight Margarito if he gets by his tune-up (Michael Jennings) next month. With rematches against those Cotto and Margo out until at least the fall, Mosley mentioned in the Merchant interview that he was interested in the winner of Hatton-Pacquiao (currently scheduled for May 2nd). The problem with this plan is that Floyd Mayweather may already have his eye on that spot, and a Mayweather return would trump everything.

Mayweather-Mosley is a fight both men have been talking about since the days Floyd first moved up to 140 but if it ever happens, it won't be until next year. Given that Floyd and the winner of Hatton-Pacquiao will most likely lock horns in a huge mega-fight in the latter part of the year, Shane could go after the loser, but I don't see that as feasible, at least psychologically speaking. I don't see either Hatton or Pacquiao losing and then moving up to 147 (where Hatton has performed poorly and Pacquiao has had one fight) to take on the number one welterweight in the world and a guy who has won a belt at 154, especially after the back alley beat-down Mosley delivered last night.

The other two beltholders at 147 are Andre Berto (WBC) and Joshua Clottey (IBF). The WBO belt is currently vacant but the last titleholder was Paul Williams. Out of these three, two seem unlikely opponents. Clottey is too unknown and would not be a big fight. Paul Williams is young, tall, athletic, fast and dangerous, a combination that Mosley has had problems with in the past.

The obvious fight out there for Mosley is a unification fight with Berto. They were originally meant to fight early this year but the Margarito opportunity came up and the financial incentive (and shot at the WBC title belt) were too much for Mosley to pass up. Last week, Berto defeated Luis Collazo in an exciting and close fight, somebody Mosley had dominated in 2007, which raises the question in everyones' mind: so how good is Berto really? Lou DiBella, Berto's promoter, made comments to the effect that after the Mayorga fight, he was no longer scared about putting his top prospect in against Mosley. Last night probably changed his mind big-time, but now is the right time for this fight, with both men coming off exciting wins and the consequent hype surrounding both of them never higher.


Margo suffered a severe 1-2 in this fight. The first was the way he lost, beaten half an inch of his life by a man he was supposed to dominate (he was purported to be a 4-1 favorite at the books). He had never been knocked out and was reputed to have the best chin in boxing today. Mosley dispelled those beliefs with an unrivalled and breathtaking fury.

The more damaging blow to Margo's rep, however, was delivered pre-fight, when it was reported that there was an illegal "plaster-like substance" applied to Margo's hand wrappings that Mosley trainer Nazim Richardson discovered during the commission inspection. The substance, when moist, hardened and would have had the effect of making Margo's blows that much more concussive.

As it turned out, the hand wrappings had no bearing on this fight because Margo landed very few, if any, blows of consequence on Mosley the entire duration of the fight. However, the obvious question was whether or not Margo had this substance on his wraps when he fought Miguel Cotto last summer (and Kermit Cintron in their rematch last spring). In light of last night's discovery, it is not hard to view those two fights with new eyes and wonder. In the Cintron rematch especially, the image of Margo taunting Kermit, telling him to get up after a rib-shattering left hook, changes from a questionable display of braggadocio to an event that suddenly and irrevocably leaves a bad taste in everyone's mouth. There was a certain level of comeuppance in the way Margo himself was destroyed last night.

We already know what's next for Margo: a rematch with Cotto (if, of course, Cotto gets by Michael Jennings). Margo's loss in his supposed "tune-up" versus Mosley takes a lot of the luster off this fight though, especially as there will be no belts at stake (at least at the moment – as stated before, the WBO belt is vacant as we speak).

The more interesting question will be how the boxing public perceives of Margarito after the loaded gloves incident. Margo had taken over the mantle as the most popular Mexican fighter, a title previously held by legends such as Erik Morales, Sal Sanchez and of course Julio Cesar Chavez. There is no way he will retain that level of popularity and acclaim after the reports of his cheating. Fans can accept a physical beating in a loss but cheating, that's one thing that will never be kosher to anyone. Mexican fans are loyal to a fault, but they recognize bullshit when they see it. Even Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. was not immune to getting booed in Mexico last year.

As for boxing fans in general, we are generally pretty forgiving, but in this case, I am gonna guess that Margarito never regains the status which he reached last summer, profiled on ESPN and in Sports Illustrated, appearing on the cover of The Ring with a headline that essentially asked Who In Their Right Mind Would Want to Fight This Man? He's lost his iron-chinned mystique, and it is now questionable whether he won his big fights through shady methods. The Cotto rematch will go a long ways toward addressing the question of whether or not Margarito will sustain his career as a big-time A-list fighter.

Questions and comments are greatly appreciated.

Article posted on 26.01.2009

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