Shane Mosley vs. Fernando Vargas : High Stakes at the Crossroads

22.02.06 - By Stuart Cornwell: When “Sugar” Shane Mosley and “Ferocious” Fernando Vargas step into the ring to do battle at the Mandalay Bay Hotel-Casino in Las Vegas on Saturday night both fighters will be all too aware that a decisive defeat would effectively signal the end of their career. Despite no title being at stake, and in spite of the fact that both fighters no longer carry the status that would make the winner of this match an “uncrowned champion” or a member of the world’s “pound-for-pound” elite, the importance of winning is perhaps greater than either fighter has ever encountered before.. It is not about the money either, as both men are reportedly guaranteed well in excess of $5 million, win, lose or draw. This fight is a classic crossroads match-up and given the fierce pride and ego of the individuals concerned it figures to be a bitterly contested affair.

Six years ago a contest between Mosley and Vargas would have carried a vastly different significance. At that time both fighters were undefeated, with Mosley being lauded by many as the best fighter, pound-for-pound, on the planet, having just moved up from the lightweight division (which he had dominated thoroughly) to campaign as a welterweight. Vargas, meanwhile, was the sensational young IBF light-middleweight champion, himself being heaped with praise and destined for greatness after his impressive wins over the brilliant likes of Yori Boy Campas, Ronald Wright and Ike Quartey. Now, however, the Mosley-Vargas fight takes on the form of a last-chance saloon and whether or not the fighters themselves publicly acknowledge that we should have no doubt that when the bell rings they will be fighting for professional survival. And while it is true that their reputations and abilities have faded somewhat, I suspect that both men will be out to prove that they are still capable of displaying brilliance. The question is : which fighter has the most left ?

I think Vargas has the least left of the two. He has never really recovered from the devastating beating he took from Felix Trinidad in December 2000, a result that stripped him of his unbeaten record and left him inevitably a little shell-shocked. Although he bounced back to win a vacant WBA title the following year he has never again defeated the caliber of opponent that he was dispatching so effectively prior to the Trinidad loss. A second crushing career defeat, this time to Oscar De La Hoya, was particularly damaging to Vargas as he and De La Hoya had engaged in drawn-out pre-fight psychological warfare. Since that defeat – in 2002 – he has only boxed four times and took a 15-month break due to a serious back injury. His last two wins have been conservative affairs against a couple of aged veterans (Raymond Joval and Javier Castillejo).

Mosley is 34 years old (to Vargas’s 28) and has lost 4 of his last 8 fights, but unlike Vargas he has never really taken a beating and has taken defeats in his stride. He has never been knocked out. The truth about Mosley is that he was never really capable of dominating at welterweight and light-middleweight as he had as a lightweight. And many sportswriters were a little too quick to bestow the “pound-for-pound” crown on him in the first place. It is mostly for these reasons that his reputation has faded, not through any dramatic decline in his abilities. I suspect he has a couple of good fights left in him.

I am definitely not prepared to write off Vargas’s chances completely though. The oddsmakers quite rightly have him listed as only a slight underdog. The buzz going around is that Vargas has trained fanatically for this fight, and unlike with other fights of his he has not ballooned up in weight out of training and has not had to take drastic weight-loss measures to make weight. I expect Vargas to show up in the best fighting form we could possibly expect from him at this stage in his career. The stakes are high. The loser of this contest has nowhere to go. The winner will be in demand and can look forward to another big payday.

I expect the fight to start off fairly evenly but for Mosley to take control as the fight progresses. He should win a comfortable decision or perhaps force a stoppage in the late rounds.

Article posted on 22.02.2006

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