31.01.06 – By James Slater: Quite remarkably, Shane Mosley’s hand has been raised on only three occasions in his last eight fights. He lost back to back against Vernon Forrest, of course, then engaged in a no-contest, before getting the nod over De La Hoya in their rematch. He then lost back to back again, this time to Winky wright. This means then, with no disrespect aimed towards either David Estrada or Jose Luis Cruz, that the debatable decision Shane was given over Oscar was his last truly meaningful victory. The question is, how much does he have left?
As he approaches his intriguing crossroads fight with Fernando Vargas, scheduled for February 25th, this is a question a lot of potential pay-per-view customers are no doubt asking themselves. As for Vargas, he too has some serious miles on his clock and the query as to what’s left in the tank is as relevant to him as it is to Shane.
The fact that both men are somewhat past their best could lead to a barnburner of a fight on the 25th. I suspect this possibility alone will have enough fans tuning in.
How fully is “Sugar” Shane still deserving of his prestigious nickname? Back in September 2003, when he entered the ring for his second bout with “The Golden Boy” his fighting prowess was in need of a major boost. He finds himself in the same position now. Against De La Hoya, he managed to get what he needed, albeit controversially. The question is, was this performance the last great one in his career? In this article I look back at “Sugar” Shane’s odds defying return to the top.
“Let’s get ready to rumble!” reverberated around the packed out MGM Grand in Las Vegas and the atmosphere was absolutely palpable. The tension and excitement was almost unbearable. Both boxers looked composed and ready to fight though and the moment of truth was only seconds away.
The start was cautious, unlike in their first fight, and not many punches were landed by either man. There were evidently some nerves between the two and, with so much riding on the outcome, neither fighter was willing to start anywhere near recklessly. De La Hoya probably just edged the round. The crowd, me included ( I was fortunate to have been in attendance), had settled down now and was thoroughly engrossed. It was certainly shaping up as a much more tactical affair than before, and this suited Oscar who put his second round in the bank. His jab was fast and accurate and was effective at breaking Mosley’s rhythm.
The first real drama occurred in round four when De La Hoya was cut from an accidental head butt and the doctor was called in to examine the damage. Blood trickled down his face from the cut on the side of his right eye but, fortunately, it wasn’t
severe enough to stop the fight. This appeared to energise Oscar and he again won the round. I now had him winning the match four rounds to nil. Although only a third of the fight had been completed, I had the feeling this was going to be De La Hoya’s night. Mosley was looking frustrated at the limited success he’d been having while counter punching and Oscar was
completely dictating the pace. In fact, going into the second half of the bout I hadn’t given Shane a single round. It looked as though Oscar was going to get the redemption.
But of course, no one knows what the judges are looking for, some like aggression and Mosley did start backing De La Hoya up somewhat in the seventh and eighth rounds. Also, some people had concerns regarding Oscar’s stamina and felt that maybe he would fade in the last three or four rounds.
It wasn’t a great action fight but I found it thoroughly absorbing and felt De La Hoya was putting on a superb display of boxing skill. The people in the seats around me agreed that Mosley was trailing behind and felt he couldn’t win without a KO, or at the very least two or three knockdowns to secure him some 10-8 rounds. Neither of these looked likely.
The ninth was the most thrilling and hard fought of the match though. Mosley, sensing he was way behind, came out and put everything into his punches, he gritted his teeth and put out a tremendous effort to win his best round of the night. Oscar did look tired at the end of the session and it looked as though he would have to endure a spirited late effort from a
desperate Mosley. This indeed was the case and Shane enjoyed an advantage in the last nine minutes. De La Hoya was still fighting in effective spurts, however, it wasn’t a repeat of the Trinidad fight, and I thought the tenth had been pretty much even. A big left crashed into the side of De La Hoya’s head in the eleventh but he took it well and came back with a decent right hand. Going into the twelfth and final round I had Oscar winning by seven rounds to three with one even.
So, barring a dramatic last round stoppage forced by Shane, I felt Oscar would retain his titles. It was a good effort from both men in the last three minutes but I thought Shane did enough to win them. However, my scoring counted for absolutely nothing and we all waited nervously for the official announcement. Once again we were in for a shock. All three judges
had Mosley ahead by the same scores of 115-113. He was the winner and new champion by unanimous decision. There were some boos as well as cheers but most of the people I saw had quizzed looks on their faces, like they weren’t quite sure what had just happened. From my vantage point I felt Oscar had won by a fairly wide margin but not even one judge had him in front. I really was quite stunned.
As Mosley was being hoisted up onto the shoulders of one of his corner men, I made my way down to the ringside in the hope of maybe hearing some of the expert’s opinions. George Foreman, who, along with Larry Merchant and Jim Lampley, had been doing commentary for HBO, was actually asking some in the crowd who they felt had won. So maybe he wasn’t quite sure what the fair decision should have been either. Jim Lampley, I overheard, definitely felt Oscar had been robbed, he referred to the alarm and urgency that Shane’s father and trainer Jack had displayed while in the corner between rounds. He had seemed to think that his son was way behind. It looked as though this one would go down as another controversy. There were many fans that felt Shane had won by a big margin too though, so maybe it was a case of take your pick.
Which, to my mind, is exactly what the Mosley v Vargas fight is. Whoever loses has nowhere to go, whereas the winner will find himself right back in title contention. It is a very tough fight to pick but, if forced, I would lean slightly towards Mosley. If he does win he will have rejuvenated his career one more time. Perhaps not to the level it was after his win back in September 2003, but enough to earn him one more chance at validating his nickname before he’s through.