Oscar De La Hoya, in his prime, all but owned the city of sin known as Las Vegas, this whenever he fought there, as “The Golden Boy” did many times. But no fighter, no matter how big, how famous, how influential, can control the judges. And of course, it goes without saying (but I’ll say it anyway) that this is how it should be.
And, on this day 20 years ago, in a super fight rematch, De La Hoya was so convinced he had done enough to have his hands raised but didn’t, as the three scoring officials all went against him, he launched an appeal. It was Shane Mosley-Oscar De La Hoya II: Redemption. But there was none, only repeat. Rewind to 2000, and “Sugar” Shane and De La Hoya had treated the world to one of the greatest welterweight fights of recent years, with Mosley and his blinding fists winning a close decision.
Fast-forward to the rematch, and Mosley, who had met his own version of kryptonite in the form of the much-missed Vernon Forrest (RIP) not too long after his Oscar-winning performance, was winless in his last three. Mosley was again the underdog against De La Hoya. The rematch, fought up at 154 pounds, was indeed widely expected to be De La Hoya’s redemption night. Oscar was not long removed from a smashing, highly satisfying win over Fernando Vargas.
A huge selection of celebrities, of boxing royalty, and of high-rollers turned up in Vegas for the rematch. The great Budd Schulberg was there (aided in walking by Bert Sugar), as was George Foreman, Evander Holyfield, Thomas Hearns, and so many more.
What these people got was an at all times engrossing chess match type affair, not a classic fight akin to Mosley-De La Hoya fight-one. It was nip and tuck all the way. It was technical, it was a respectful battle of brains, with each man appearing scared to lose. Indeed, everything was on the line this night.
In the end, after 12, shall we say, less than scintillating sessions, nobody was sure who had won. Certainly not Mosley who, as it turned out could not hide his shock and happy surprise when the scores were announced – 115-113, 115-113, 115-113, all in his favour.
Foreman, after he had finished his commentary duties for HBO, walked amongst us, asking “who do you think won?”
It was that close, and De La Hoya was furious that a massive fight of his had, in his mind, been taken from him by the judges (joining the points losses Oscar had suffered in fights with Mosley the first time, and later Felix Trinidad).
Mosley was a gracious winner, plenty of his time as a winner spent conducting interviews on chat shows. Mosley, though, would have been better off fighting a third fight with De La Hoya, this instead of agreeing to fight the avoided by most Winky Wright next. Wright twice thrashed Mosley, once again proving the old adage of styles making fights.
It was a good night in Vegas 20 years ago, but it wasn’t a great night or fight. All these years later, and I wonder what Budd Schulberg, who had seen the greatest of the greats up close, thought of the Redemption fight.