LAS VEGAS– You could tell how good a job Shane Mosley was doing against Fernando Vargas when the crowd of 9,722, which seemed overwhelmingly behind Vargas as the fighters entered less than ten minutes before, started a vigorous chant for Mosley.
To the victor go the spoils and the spoiled.
Once again, it was a great fight night with plenty of Vegas visuals: special effects, special flesh, and flesh with special effects.
The contest’s appeal meant a widespread influx to the MGM neon Greenland. Many family photos were taken in front of the glitzy ring in the casino lobby. John Travolta and Eva Longoria enhanced the star power. Evander Holyfield and Mike Tyson sat calmly in the same space they’d ignited during epic encounters.
It was a great night, if not a great fight.
A solid undercard got the audience primed but as in the first Mosley-Vargas card, there was a fearful moment from a devastating duke. For too many tense moments after Daniel Ponce De Leon creamed Sod Looknongyangtoy, it looked like Sod was seriously injured. The crowd held their collective breath, then broke into the loudest, most sincere cheers of the prelims when the Thai fighter appeared relatively unscathed. Let’s hope future medical tests hold that assessment.
Once again, the line between thrilling and fateful was indistinct. It was a pure rush one way or the other.
The most amazing scene came in a well received main event as Vargas somehow got up from the sixth and final round knockdown blast. You could see a twinkling aura as Vargas’s spirit willed his impulse-detached body up. The MGM Grand Garden became one of those weird, almost time frozen magnifications of supremely stirring seconds.
Vargas made it up with one foot over the cliff of consciousness. Referee Kenny Bayless faced a split-second decision and let Vargas, who had gone from spaghetti to standing at attention, continue.
It looked correct for Bayless to allow Vargas to go out on his shield. Three more flashing overhand conks and it was over.
Many in the assembled swarm trudged away before the official time was announced, in a wake of torn Vargas betting stubs. Most of the action may have been on Oxnard’s favorite, but there were no audible protests at the stoppage, quite a rarity here.
The betting windows were vacant, where previously packed with “Ferocious” gear sweatsuits, waiting to wager.
The only real questions were about how far Mosley could go on, and whether Vargas should go on.
Even after the debacle, dozens of loyal fans crowded the lower seats to wave and offer encouragement. Vargas acknowledged their cheers with a weary smile. Fernando seems like a natural to do something in his community like dropout prevention or voter registration. The ferocious one looks like a positive political animal.
After the fight, Vargas and his team said there would be no excuses. Then, in another refreshing rarity, they didn’t mention any. Bravo, sirs.
The media center held a quiet buzz of appreciation when Vargas took the dais, with the understanding it could be his last go-round. Vargas was allowed to have his say without intrusion.
There was really nothing more to be said about the trouncing. No hard details were dissected or demanded. Vargas mused on his wedding and diet plans.
“I feel great,” said Vargas from behind designer shades. “I’ve only got one other ‘date,’ and that’s August fifth with [my fiancée] the Queen. She put up with me for ten years, now she’s got to for the rest of our lives because I don’t believe in divorce. She’s the only one I’m going to get down with for a while.
“This is the last time you’ll see me at this weight, because I’m a Mexican and I love to eat. Can I have some food? I told the Queen enjoy it now because it’s gone a week or two after the fight. She told me it was a tease.”
Each guy earned millions enough to kick back a while, whether that means retirement or reward.
Mosley said he wouldn’t be appearing again on the current calendar. That means at least six months before his next fight, unless an affair with Floyd Mayweather, Jr. comes to fruition faster than presently anticipated.
“I’ll fight next year (2007),” indicated Mosley. “Possibly, I guess somewhere out there is Mayweather. Ricky Hatton, that’s about it.”
If Mosley wanted to go out on top with one broad stroke, to probably leapfrog Winky Wright, and maybe even Felix Trinidad in historical ranking, he’d follow the Bernard Hopkins route of upward mobility and challenge Jermain Taylor at 160. If Mosley put on ten pounds of muscle without losing any speed, it wouldn’t be impossible for him to outwork Taylor inside, or make the bigger man pay for charging.
In the media center and sports book, wannabe, never-were types squawked about how Vargas was washed up. Quite the opposite is true. Vargas has grown as a citizen and role model. If you ever saw some of the goons he used to associate with, you understand how vital that can be.
Vargas has fought through enough physical ailments to deserve a break. He can have one good farewell fight, with high probability for victory, but after that he should look other directions.
Back in December of 2003 Vargas complicated back problems in a Tucson bout against Tony Marshall at an outdoor arena on a voodoo night in the desert where the temperature dropped to the 30s as thick steam rose off the fighters. The crowd got some therapy that night, but not Vargas’s back.
Since coming back from a 15-month layoff, including time for a steroid suspension, Vargas has never really looked the same.
“I didn’t want to disappoint anybody,” Vargas explained back then. It seems like another lifetime ago since Vargas the elder didn’t always do the right thing. The only disappointment would be if Vargas lets himself get reduced to gutty fodder.
After the fight, an unmarked Mosley arrived in an immaculate chalk suit with plenty of options. A well-decked out Antonio Margarito hung around with visible fans and media interest, but didn’t really seem to solidify his cause.
“Vargas gave his heart and soul,” said Mosley as Vargas came up to embrace him. “It wasn’t as easy to catch him with the right hand this time, but he wasn’t expecting the left. I had great sparring and was saying throughout the promotion I’d get the stoppage. It felt good to have my father [back] in my corner.”
It was announced that Winky Wright’s promotional entity would join forces with Golden Boy promotions. Beneath a massive fight banner, Oscar de la Hoya, Bernard Hopkins, Marco Antonio Barrera, Mosley, and Wright made quite an interesting study in corporate life.
“This is a big step for Winky Promotions,” said Wright, “When I first opened up, a lot of people thought it was gonna be a joke, a fly by night company. But we do our work. We’re trying to take over the boxing game and do it the right way.
“Like Oscar says, get all these fighters and let them make all they can make while they can. When it’s over, give them another outlet. It’s my pleasure to join and become one of the biggest promotional companies in the world.”
“Let’s look at it like a takeover,” said Hopkins, half in jest. “I’m in my forties and Oscar, Shane, Marco and Winky are in their thirties. So we are aging as fighters, but we young as promoters. Ain’t they (older promotional competitors ala Don King and Bob Arum) in trouble?”
If every show goes as well overall as Mosley-Vargas II, it will be no problem for the fans, unless of course sometimes you bet more than you should from the heart.