Beside the obvious factor of general cable subscription numbers, a large portion of viewers watched the replay of Shane Mosley’s knockout over Fernando Vargas instead of the live unification tilt involving Joe Calzaghe’s deconstruction of Jeff Lacy.
Miguel Cotto had nothing to do with it.
Any ringside cynics who declared Mosley and Vargas fit only for the rocking chairs will have to wait at least a little while longer, as the old boys proved they could still fire it up. The live crowd ate up the action and streamed into the casino afterward with grins of approval.
When the pay-per-view numbers were announced at around 410,000 it was clear the proven veterans still had the box-office clout to go with their heavy leather.
On any given day or night around Las Vegas’s morphing, mega-marketed metropolitan landscape you can witness plenty of spaghetti western scenarios along the tourist wasteland. In terms of good, bad or ugly, the buffet is open 24 hours a day.
The Mosley-Vargas experience offered ample portions of each. While the atmosphere during fight week was quite subdued, there were still amusing scenes you could only see around the fight game.
Three young males with credentials, one of whom looked quite a bit like Mosley’s son, got on the beach level elevator below Mandalay Bay casino. Singing as if they were headed for the stage at the House of Blues Courtyard, to the tune of the Rawhide TV show theme, the trio provided a concise, acapella summary of the Mosley-Vargas fight which had ended an hour or so earlier.
“Swollen swollen swollen
Keep then punches rollin’
Vargas’s eye got swollen
Swollen swollen swollen”
It was a moment that displayed better improvisational skills than some lounge acts that weekend.
After all was said and done, the fight itself lived up to the hype. Paying customers were satisfied with the product they expected. It was a very good fight, nothing more, nothing less, but it was exceptional due to the headliners. Fighters like Calzaghe and Lacy seem like great guys, but they’re nowhere near Mosley or Vargas as fistic characters, at least not yet.
The controversial contest may have exceeded the expectations of those who had already put Mosley and Vargas out to pasture, but it didn’t guarantee a similar payday (4 million for Mosley and 3 million for Vargas) the next time out for either man.
Mosley handled Vargas with enough control to convince many observers that Mosley is right back in the mix at the top of boxing’s welterweight to junior middleweight range. Besides proving he can still win a big fight against top opposition, Mosley carried himself with dignity throughout the event.
Vargas had too many sidekicks around him that thought they were the show. That might have been true in another venue, but this wasn’t the zoo.
One can’t blame Vargas if he doesn’t come back to the Bay, where he was previously stopped by Oscar De La Hoya and Tito Trinidad.
Most of the postfight discussion centered on Vargas’s left eye injury, an unreal looking, special effects type mask of pain, how it occurred, and whether the battle should have been halted.
Mosley seemed to be accurate all the way around when he summed up the situation.
“I caught him with a right and there was this little lump,” said Mosley. “I kept catching him with the right. We bumped heads a lot. His eye kept growing until I was like, wow, I couldn’t believe it. I think they needed to stop it before he got seriously hurt.”
Would the result have been different without the injury? Perhaps. But it did happen.
The featured undercard was a disappointment, but it did feature one unforgettable moment, when Calvin Brock creamed Zuri Lawrence in what could end up being the knockout of the year. It’s hard to call a scene where serious injury is a distinct concern spectacular, but Brock’s punch and the awesome effect were truly as split-second dramatic as boxing gets.
It was a demanding but nonetheless dull encounter until the moment Brock splattered Lawrence into a frightful sleep on the canvas. Lawrence was said to be all right afterward, pending further medical approval. Hopefully Lawrence will be monitored with real concern and scrutiny wherever he fights. Earning a living is one thing, assisted suicide is another. The shot that slammed Lawrence into harmful unconsciousness was brutal as a knockout gets.
On paper, the bout between Jhonny Gonzales and Mark “Too Sharp” Johnson was intriguing. Not so in the ring. Johnson managed to frustrate Gonzales a bit, but eventually the punches and fatigue piled up. Johnson went down under a barrage, then knelt until jumping up a moment too late. More than a few ringsiders hinted Johnson decided to get “up at eleven,” and the tag of being a “shot” fighter increased.
There’s talk Gonzales’s team wants a unification match against Rafael Marquez by the fall. That still appears too big a step right now. In that case, the amiable, improving Gonzales should be careful what he wishes for just yet.
After the main event, an open press conference featured what was at first amusing banter between participants, media, and deserving fans. Then it became a forum for any fool who wanted to wander in apparently. The fighters’ women almost got down, and had to be separated after some in Vargas’s brain trust, acting like they’d lost said organ, looked to provoke Mrs. Mosley.
Even Bernard Hopkins, who had an invisible muzzle on all weekend, couldn’t resist one comment.
“As a promoter, I think we have to get the wives into it,” smiled Hopkins, with tongue in cheek.
It should be noted that during the buffoonery, Vargas remained apart from the pack. When he did speak, it was with a grudge, but he directed payment to Mosley of a $100,000 bet for scoring the knockout. Vargas could have farted and his boys would have jumped however high.
“I know I was winning, but I don’t make excuses,” said Vargas, “I made the bet and I keep my word.”
“This bet was all his idea,” echoed Mosley, “But I see he’s a man of his word.”
Win or lose, Mosley would have to do a 180-degree turnaround to be remembered as anything but an excellent ambassador. Last weekend he polished his image even more, just by being himself. If it’s an act, he should go Hollywood.
Vegas remains a place that should be on that new list of wonders of the world. It also has some of the sleaziest representatives of humanity, gathered like a scum convention. A big fight crowd usually comes across comparatively well.
On another elevator, the scene was quaint. Subdued, wary retail conference travelers prepared to depart this land of potential fear factors and discussed their visit.
“I was surprised how polite the boxing people were.”
“We saw that fighter Shane Mosley. He was so nice.”
Many of the experts still needed to be convinced that Mosley and Vargas had anything left to offer.
In the end, word got out.