It looked like Shane Mosley would leave the Home Depot Center in California with a fairly comfortable decision win over Ricardo Mayorga on Saturday night. SSM had promised a KO coming in, but Mayorga’s chin wouldn’t cooperate, until the final session. There, Mosley scored a knockdown, and then immediately finished off the Nicaraguan Nicotine Dream with a vicious left hook with a single second left in the round. It was a dramatic finish for Mosley, and an unexpected one, as Mayorga had held his own throughout the bout.

Mosley had an edge (144-73) in punches landed, but the rounds were by no means overwhelmingly in his favor, from a viewer’s perspective. Mayorga threw more (588-397) over the course of the bout, which ran on HBO.

Mosley (44-5 coming in), age 37, weighed 153 ½ on Friday and the 35-year-old Mayorga (28-6 coming in) also weighed 153 ½. He rehydrated to an eye popping 170 pounds.

The Nicaraguan said he’s given up his three-pack-a-day smoke habits, and put a plug in the booze jug, too.

In the first, Mayorga looked to club with the right. Mosley was irked when Mayorga hit him behind the head. He hurt Mayorga with a right to the chin. Mayorga hurt Mosley with a right upper/chopping right. There was more drama in the first than in the entire Berto/Forbes fight. In round two, Mosley was still getting warmed up, still sizing up the wackjob Mayorga. Mayorga probably took the round by being more aggressive. In the third, Mosley kept backing up, which was not his plan coming in. You need to back up the bully, right? Mayorga’s hand speed didn’t look out of its league against Mosley, by the way.

In the fourth, there was grabbing and clutching. Mosley wasn’t sliding and getting angles, as some would’ve thought he would’ve been. Shane connected with a right, which landed as Ricardo dipped to his right, as he almost always does when confronted with an incoming right. In the fifth, the action was pretty plentiful. Mosley hit with a left hook, an obvious connect. There were some low-ish blows, and things looked like they could get thuggy in there. In the sixth, Mosley started to land cleanly. Mayorga taunted Mosley when hit, which meant that more would be coming soon. With both hands, Mosley was dialed in. A stoppage was in sight, perhaps? In the seventh round, Mosley was moving more; he stepped up his movement in the last several rounds, to great effect. SSM landed another one of those right crosses. After the round, Jack Mosley, his trainer-father, told the son to land to right, and gun for the KO.

In the eighth, both men hugged more, looking for some deep breaths. In tangles, Mayorga clubbed SSM behind the head. The crowd booed Mayorga for mugging before the ninth round began. Mosley’s feet were not as active as in previous rounds, and this round was fought in tight, Mayorga’s territory.

In the 10th round, the fight looked to be still up for grabs, in my eyes. Mayorga still had ample energy, and slipped smartly at times. Nobody wrested control of the session. In the 11th, a crisp right landed on Mayorga. The ref was busy, separating the boxers. The crowd hated Mayorga’s clowning celebrations during the round. In the 12th round, Mosley ramped it up, and landed hard rights. He scored a knockdown—with a right-left-right,  with 17 seconds to go, as fatigue and accumulated damage sapped Mayorga, as the crowd stood and roared. He got up, and Mosley blasted him with a left hook, as the ref waved it off as the final bell sounded. That was a fling of beauty—a naaaasty left hook to the chin.

Here is what the cards said after 11 rounds:

105-104 Mayorga – Pat Russell
105-104 Mosley – Nelson Vasquez
107-102 Mosley – Tony Crebs

Mayorga gave Mosley props afterwards. “I was proud of the way Shane fought, like a true champion.  He didn't run.  I thought I was doing well in the fight, and I came out to win it in the last round, but Shane caught me. I will tell that he hit harder than I thought he would.”

This bout would not have made fans clamor for a Antonio Margarito/Shane Mosley scrap, until that final round flurry. Mayorga’s stock rises in the loss; he comes to win, comes in shape, believe it or not, and provides good TV. After, Mosley said he figured Margarito would wait for Cotto. Would he fight Berto? He didn't sound that jazzed, but did say Berto impressed him, and that fighting him would be like fighting a young Shane.