By Frank Gonzalez
Shane Mosley (38-0-0-35 KOs) Vs. Vernon Forrest (33-0-0-26 KOs)
On Saturday night at Madison Square Garden in New York City, the WBC Welterweight Championship Title was at stake. There was more than that on the line for Shane Mosley, who many in Boxing have anointed the best pound for pound fighter in the world.
Vernon Forrest has an equally impressive record as Mosley. In the amateurs, he beat Shane in a fight he said Mosley didnt earn, but was given by the Olympic Committee. That got me mad, it made me really want to whoop him! And I did. Listening to Forrest, you get the impression that Mosley was handed his status by the powers that be in Boxing.
Mosleys fights have been exciting. 35 knockouts in 38 bouts is testimony to that. He has tremendous skills; hes fast, powerful and so far, unbeaten. He is a gentleman inside and outside the ring and has a million dollar smile. His future is bright as Boxings sweetheart. Who he fought in all those fights is another matter worthy of research by the people who speculate on who is the best pound for pound fighter in the world. After he won a 12 round decision over Golden Boy Oscar De La Hoya in June of 2000, peoples fascination with Mosley escalated to new heights. Mosley had moved up in weight to take on Oscar, and the promise of his moving up further to middleweight promised to make Boxings most exciting division even more so.
Critics of Mosley note that he never faced Stevie Johnston while he ruled the 130-pound division, instead he moved up in weight class. If you look up his professional record, you will notice that 26 of his 38 opponents are fighters you never heard of before or after they met Mosley. The ones you may have heard of were little more than decent fighters, nothing too special. They say Mosley has been carefully managed and outside of De La Hoya, never fought the best available competition. He planned to move up in weight class again, this time escaping Andrew Six Heads Lewis and Vernon Forrest. His camp made the right decision to make one of those fights before moving up again. Since Oscar, Shane has fought some easy fights that have allowed his critics voices to be heard. No one was too excited about Adrian Stone or Shannon Taylor. Antonio Diaz was an unpolished fighter who went down in six. Besides De La Hoya, Diaz was probably the one of his more exciting match ups. Critics rightly say that there must be a definite criteria for even speculating on the idealistic category of best p4p, which would include the ability to come back in the face of adversity, quality of past opponents, knock out percentage over quality fighters, etc.
The p4p rankings seem to change hands so often these days it hardly seems to be significant. A few years ago, it was Roy Jones Jr. Then people got mad because he never fought tough fights and he slipped down the scale. Then it was Felix Trinidad, who fought three great fights in a row and won (although the De La Hoya win was controversial). After Bernard Hopkins beat Trinidad, who had only recently moved up to middleweight, he was the new best p4p fighter. Being unbeaten means little when your record is a collection of safety first fights.
Vernon Forrests pro record isnt screaming with high profile opponents either, although hes unbeaten at 33-0. Standing at six feet, hes tall for a welterweight. Lean of physique, he has a good jab and a powerful right hand. Vernons a blue collar fighter who isnt pretty enough or charming enough to be touted loudly by the Boxing media. Starting out much the same as Mosley, minus the breaks and the adoration, this would be his biggest payday and highest level of visibility to fans to date.
Round 1- both size each other up, Mosley was the more aggressive and hit Vernon with a few shots, Forrest held his own but Mosley won the round, 10-9.
Round 2- in an exchange of punches, the fighters clashed heads and Mosley was cut on the hairline. Unaccustomed to seeing his own blood, Mosley seemed disheveled. After a brief pause, the fight resumed and Forrest teed off on Mosley with combinations to the body and head, catching Shane as he backed into the ropes, knocking him down. Mosley took a count and looked wobbly as he proceeded. Vernon whaled on him some more, breaking through Shanes defense, landing more telling punches. As Mosley tried to hang on for dear life, Forrest kept hitting him in the clinch and Mosley fell again. The referee Steve Smoger gave Shane another count. Mosley got up and barely made it through the round. Forrest 10-7.
Round 3- Mosley is still shaken from the punishment of the 2nd round, he looked scared and confused as he held Forrest at every opportunity. Forrest tried to finish him off as the round started but Mosley was able to survive the onslaught. Forrest 10-9.
Round 4- Mosleys legs were starting to come back as Forrest continued to apply the pressure, easily winning the round. Forrest 10-9.
Round 5- Mosley starts regaining his composure and actually gets a few punches in between holding on but Forrest still masters him winning the round. Forrest 10-9.
Round 6- Mosleys corner spills lots of water and ice in the corner between the rounds causing Smoger to take an extra moment for the corner to be wiped dry. It was obvious Shanes corner was buying a few extra seconds for Mosley to breath. It mattered not as Forrest continued to outbox and dominate the holding Mosley. Forrest 10-9.
Round 7- Mosley looked to be more mobile and looking more capable he traded shots with Forrest, but Vernon got the better shots off. Forrest 10-9.
Round 8- Frustrated, Shane starts to get a bit dirty in the clinches. Hitting after the break and hitting after the bell sounded to end the round but Forrest gave back everything Mosley did only harder. Forrest 10-9.
Round 9- Realizing that he needed a knock out to win, Mosley looks for the big haymaker but cant find the cagey Vernon. Mosley hits after the bell and Forrest whacks him back real hard. Smoger separates them directing them to their corners. Forrest 10-9.
Round 10- before the round began, trainer Ronnie Shields warns Vernon not to let Mosley steal any rounds We dont know what the judges are thinking! Mosley comes alive and starts to appear able to possibly change the tempo but Forrest holds his own, still landing the cleaner punches. Mosley may have won the round. Mosley 10-9.
Round 11- Forrest goes to town on Mosley whacking him with combinations to the head and mostly the body. Mosley barely hangs on as the round ends. Forrest 10-9.
Round 12- Forrest dominates and controls Mosley throughout the last round, avoiding Shanes desperate attempts to land a big punch while landing some good leather of his own. Forrest 10-9.
On my scorecard, I had it 118-108 for Forrest.
The Judges scorecards were read as follows:
Tim Kaczmarek: 115-110 Forrest - Melvina Lathan:117-108 Forrest - Julie Lederman: 118-108 Forrest
Amazingly, the Judges had scored the fight according to reality. I confess to being nervous about the decision since Ive seen hideously bad decisions before in big fights. Remember Holyfield vs. Lewis I? Without a National Commission to police Boxing and its Judges, many times the winners are losers and the losers are named the winners. Saturdays Judges at Madison Square Garden, they were accurate and honest. For all their hard work in the ring, both fighters deserved nothing less.
Mosley was a gentleman in defeat. He made no excuses and gave due credit to Vernon Forrest for his great performance. During the post fight interview with Larry Merchant, Forrest mentioned the p4p issue. Since Mosley was considered the best pound for pound fighter in the world, I must be the best pound for pound fighter now, huh Larry? Merchant was dismissive to that.
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Arturo Gatti (33-5-0-27 KOs) Vs. Terron Millet (26-2-1-19 KOs)
Arturo Gatti destroyed Terronn Millet in the undercard of Mosley vs. Forrest Saturday night. Currently trained by Buddy McGirt, Gatti has a new look, the boxer as opposed to the brawler.
Terronn Millet is a good fighter. His Boxing skills are more refined Gattis. That didnt matter enough when the bell sounded to start the fight. The first round was tentative for both but Gatti was able to deliver the harder, cleaner punches. After the first round, trainer Marvin Millet asked Terronn, What the hell are you doing? Millet was probably as baffled with Gattis new style as the audience was. Terronn has lots of heart though and he tried to make his adjustments in the next round. Gatti proved a bit much again. By the third round, the surprisingly patient Gatti clocked Millet with a right hook to the nose, sending Terronn to the canvas. After Millet got up before the count of 10, referee Jim Santas warned, Ill be watching you.
At the start of the fourth round, Gatti went after Millet carefully with power shots that knocked the woozy Millet out for the count. It was over.
Gatti went back down to 140 pounds for this fight and plans to stay at that weight as he says he fights best there. His cut-man Joe Souza hugged him after the fight and said, I cant believe it, you didnt get cut! Now that McGirt is training Gatti, his new approach consists of controlled aggression, taking his time, Boxing his way into a position to use his power shots. In previous fights, Gatti seemed to block with his face, leaving him bloodied and often in jeopardy of having fights stopped. He looked very sharp both offensively and defensively against Millet, who is a quality fighter with a good record.
Future prospects for the popular Gatti are fights with Mickey Ward, Jesse James Leija, possibly Zab Judah, and even talk of Kostya Tszyu. Just for fun, Id like to see Gatti expose Hector Camacho Jr. by publicly offering to fight him. It would be fun to watch the reasons the fight could never be made.
* * *
Reggie Johnson (42-6-1-24 KOs) vs. Antonio Tarver (19-1-0-16 KOs)
This was a boring fight as two southpaws fought for the IBFs world title elimination bout. Former Olympic Bronze medallist Antonio Tarver out classed the slow and unanimated Reggie Johnson. Johnson fought without conviction until the 10th round, when he scored a knock down that proved to be too little too late for his cause. With his long right jab, Tarver took Johnson to school, winning 10 of 12 rounds.
Ben Tackie (24-2-0-15 KOs) vs. Teddy Reid (19-5-1-13 KOs)
NABF Junior Welterweight Champ Ben Tackie made easy work of the USBFs Teddy Reid beating him convincingly in five rounds.
In Other Stories
Lightweight contender Stevie Johnston made an offer to fight Floyd Mayweather Jr. but Floyd refused to take the fight. Johnson is ranked second in the WBC with a solid record of 33-1-2-17 knockouts is hopeful his team can persuade Floyd to fight him next instead of an unknown lesser opponent. As great as Mayweather seems, he is quite a protected fighter. He left the 130-pound division without taking on Steve Forbes, Joel Casamayor or Acelino Freitas.
Team Tyson has fired Tommy Brooks, his trainer, saying it is the result of some cost cutting measures for the new year. They probably have to make room for Mike Tysons mounting legal bills.
WBO Super Middleweight Champ Joe Calzaghe has postponed his scheduled title defense against American Charles Brewer for February 11th citing the flu. He must have seen tapes of Brewer and caught that same nasty illness Tyson has; fear. Supposedly the fight will be rescheduled for 11 weeks after the original date. That must be one hellova flu!
Next Friday, Vassily Jirov will take on Jorge Castro
Bernard Hopkins takes on Carl (who?) Daniels
Roy Jones Jr. takes on Australian Glen Kelly in a safety-first match.
The New England Patriots take on the St. Louis Rams in the Super-Bowl. The Rams seem a lock to win, but the Patriots may have one more surprise left in them this season.
Until next time, enjoy all your favorite sports!