Dubbed “Destiny,” the welterweight classic that took place 20 years ago today, between “Sugar” Shane Mosley and Oscar De La Hoya, ranks as one of the finest 147 pound battles of recent memory. Two primed and peaking stars, one of the mega-star variety, giving their all for 12 superb, fast-paced rounds.
“Golden Boy” De La Hoya was one fight/win removed from his controversial decision defeat to Felix Trinidad; the loss the first in Oscar’s pro career. A stoppage win over Derrell Coley saw De La Hoya rebound and become the WBC number-one contender. Trinidad wasn’t interested in a return with De La Hoya, so the Mosley fight came instead.
Mosley, who had cleaned out the lightweight division and was jumping up to 147 (bypassing the 140 pound division), was incredibly fast, with his blurring hands in particular, he was powerful and he was hungry for true greatness. But would the jump in weight by 12 pounds prove to be too much, especially against as talented a fighter as De La Hoya? These two men had a history, having fought as fledgling amateurs many years before. Now they were men, men in their prime years.
The fans inside a packed-out Staples Center in Los Angeles were treated to a superb fight.
De La Hoya started strong, Mosley started fast. Mosley had carried his amazing hand speed up with him and he looked like a natural welterweight. Just two-inches shorter than De La Hoya, Mosley was explosive, he was accurate and he was carrying the extra weight just fine. By the half-way stage, it was clear this was De La Hoya’s toughest, most challenging fight – surpassing the Trinidad fight.
The two men boxed brilliantly, they traded hard shots, they fought with passion and hunger. This was a super-fight that lived up to all the hype. This was, as HBO main man Larry Merchant said, a fight between two excellent fighters who were “daring to be great.” De La Hoya landed plenty on Mosley yet he was unable to come close to putting his man on the canvas. The middle rounds did see De La Hoya come on to boss the action though.
It was close going into the championship rounds, and Mosley raised his game even higher. De La Hoya, as he often did during his career, grew visibly tired late. Mosley pumped out yet more explosive flurries. There was zero quit in either man, the pair still looking to land big shots in the fading seconds of the final round. This fight had been special.
Mosley landed 284 of his 678 thrown punches, while De La Hoya got home with 257 of his thrown 718. This closeness in the action saw to it that the judges were split at the end – Mosley winning via split decision. Some fans sided with De La Hoya the same way one judge had, but this was no robbery. Not at all. This was Mosley’s finest hour. “Sugar” Shane had proven he was deserving of the most regal, the most deified nickname in the sport. Mosley was as good as he was ever going to get.