Shane Mosley’s resounding victory over Antonio Margarito upended odds-makers, prognosticators and experts that most all predicted that the smaller man known as “Sugar Shane” was a mere shadow of his former self.

Back in September against Ricardo “Matador” Mayorga, a difficult win by knockout over the tough Nicaraguan was seen as evidence of Mosley’s lagging skills. Now that’s all gone. Now we’re talking about Mosley’s return to the Pound for Pound list and added legend to his lore.

Mosley has returned from the land of used-to-be-good to the home of champions.

A few weeks ago when we visited Mosley at his Big Bear training camp, the Pomona native told us that he was still upset that he was judged the loser against Miguel Cotto. He confesses that he could have done more, but wonders why Cotto was allowed to just run around the ring the last two rounds with nary a punch thrown or landed.

“I’m going to show people that Sugar Shane Mosley still has a lot left in the tank,” promised Mosley as he sat in one of his large couches upstairs. “I’m not going to run. I’m going to be right there in front of him.”

People felt Mosley’s performances against Cotto and Mayorga proved that he was probably Golden Boy Promotion’s least valuable asset and expendable to the ambitious company.

Not so.

Eric Gomez, who serves as matchmaker and is a vice president with Golden Boy, said Mosley has always been seen as a valuable asset but always wanted the toughest fights.

It’s been a common characteristic of Mosley to fight anybody at anytime. Lately, he has toned down that mentality a bit. Instead of fighting anybody he now looks at the business side of things and seeks the most profitable challenge, not just the most physical challenge.

Mosley’s more strategic now as you saw in the ring.

People forget that Mosley was the first fighter to give Winky Wright a shot at the title after that fighter gave Fernando Vargas a scare in 1999. For five years nobody with a world title would fight Wright until Mosley shrugged and said “why not?”

Today, Wright continues to be avoided and if he fights on April 11 against Paul Williams (another avoided fighter) he will have been forced to wait for almost two years to fight.

Mosley fought Wright not once, but twice and nearly pulled out a win in their second scrap.

“Winky was the toughest I ever fought,” said Mosley re-evaluating his career. “He’s real strong. He’s definitely the strongest fighter I’ve ever faced.”

The Pomona native knows about strong. I remember back in 2000 when he was preparing for a fight against Antonio Diaz he used to work out at the old Big Bear Fitness gym. Inside there were all types of weight machines and free weights. Mosley loves them weights.

“Hey, wanna see me lift 300 pounds?” asked Mosley.

It shocked me to hear him say that because weights are not good for a fighter trying to make weight. Muscle is harder to lose than fat.

Without much struggle Mosley lifted that 300 pound weight. The guy is a mini-Superman when it comes to pure strength.

“People don’t know that I’m physically strong,” Mosley said.

The Fight

The 20-minute walk to Staples Center was a nice jaunt. My wife had not seen the area since James Toney fought Samuel Peter in their first fight a couple of years ago. A lot has changed.

At the corner of Olympic and Figueroa we ran into a boxing manager of a couple of Texas prospects. One of them, Jerry Belmontes, would be fighting later in the night. Across the street an elderly man was playing Jimi Hendrix’s “Hey Joe” on his electric guitar. It sounded good but he might have been a little toasted cause he couldn’t remember the words.

Once we cross the street to the Staples Center we came across veteran corner man Tony Rivera. We talked a bit about Margarito coming in at 145 pounds and shaking our heads at the memory of Oscar De La Hoya doing the same thing a month ago. Ironically we’re standing about 50 feet from the statue of De La Hoya behind us.

Rivera says that coming in weak against Mosley is not a good thing. He should know, he worked the corners for Roberto Duran, Alexis Arguello, and Marco Antonio Barrera. In fact, he worked the corner for Mayorga when he fought Mosley.

“That Mosley is a tough son of a —–,” Rivera says.

We say our good byes to Rivera and go to the window to pick up our credentials.

Inside the belly of the Staples Center is the media room. It’s only 2:30 p.m. so we have about an hour before the first fight begins. We sit around one of the tables just gossiping about the fight game. Every time a new reporter comes in we get asked our predictions.

After a couple of cokes and ice cream and some chatter with photographer Paul Hernandez, writer Franklin McNeil, photographer Craig and writer Doug Fischer, it's time to go into the arena to catch the opening act.

Remarkably about 6,000 fans are already in their seats. That’s a lot of people for a boxing card’s first fight. It’s going to be a sell out.

As each fight ends, more and more people fill the massive arena that usually fits around 18,000 people. Not tonight. The balloon is going to burst.

By the time Robert “The Ghost” Guerrero fights the crowd is bursting at the seams and there are still two more fights to go. Guerrero wows the crowd with a picture-perfect counter left hand to the body that sinks Edel Ruiz to the floor for three minutes. The Ghost is impressive in his first fight under Golden Boy’s banner.

About 10 minutes after obliterating his opponent, Guerrero comes to the press table to talk to Robert Morales and me. Guerrero is a nice guy who doesn’t seem like a killer unless you’re on the other side of the ring. He’s not even sweating.

I looked at the bout sheet and could see that we were going to have a long break so I began walking around the crowd on the floor. Every five minutes I would spot a celebrity or two like Sylvester Stallone, Mark Walhberg or Tony Danza. I also ran into some boxing guys like Max from San Jose and Mark from OC.

When I returned to my seat I heard someone call my name and saw that it was Mia St. John. As usual she was as dazzling as ever. While we talked people screamed out her name to get a picture of her. Nobody screamed out my name, it was more “get out of the way buddy. We don’t want you!”

Finally after the Mexican national anthem and American national anthem, it was time to announce the fighters.

The announcement of Mosley and his entourage was met with a deafening blanket of boos that wasn’t surprising but still very, very loud by the mostly Mexican crowd.

Margarito’s announcement was met with waves of cheers that were the loudest I’ve ever heard in that arena. Ever. Reporters in the press area just looked at each other in amazement.

Finally the bell rang and Mosley immediately stepped right in front of Margarito. They parried and exchanged lightly but with about 40 seconds left in the round Mosley landed a thunderous right hand to Margarito’s stomach that buckled his knees. Seeing that made it evident that it was going to be a long night for Margarito.

You know the rest. Mosley fought when he wanted to fight and never allowed Margarito to get leverage on his punches. Maybe a blow landed here and there, but you could probably count the number of big blows Margarito landed.

The win itself by Mosley was not the surprise, it was the one-sided domination and the knockout of a strong fighter who had never been stopped in 15 years of prizefighting. The win also re-arranges a lot of future plans for the entire boxing landscape in the welterweight division.

“We have a fight coming up between Manny Pacquiao and Ricky Hatton, maybe the winner fights Shane Mosley,” said Eric Gomez, a Golden Boy Promotions matchmaker. “Anything can happen now.”

Sadly, Margarito was on the cusp of becoming a Mexican legend on the same plateau as Julio Cesar Chavez, Salvador Sanchez and Ruben Olivares. A win over Mosley would have placed him on a fast track to an eventual showdown with Pacquiao. It also would have meant sold out stadiums and superstar status.

Not anymore.

“It was a bad night, that’s the truth,” said Margarito after the fight. “Don’t take anything away from Shane Mosley. He’s a great fighter.”

The Future

Mosley’s victory proves several things especially that boxing is entering a new era where promoters are willing to match their best against each other to provide compelling and intriguing fights.

“Shane had been begging us to let him fight Margarito,” said Gomez. “He kept telling me that Antonio Margarito was perfect for him.”

Mosley’s win also proves that at 37 he physically still has a lot more left to give as a prizefighter and that he has a great chin and enough power to knockout anybody in the welterweight division.

“I didn’t get 38 knockouts for nothing,” Mosley said before the fight.

It also proves that his business partner and two-time former foe Oscar De La Hoya has a great chin too. In two battles between Mosley and De La Hoya, neither fighter was ever knocked down.

Sadly, during the announcement of De La Hoya, most of the 20,000 fans booed the Golden Boy. During the fight, De La Hoya’s father Joel De La Hoya could be seen excitedly cheering for Mosley during the fight as if he were his own son.

Last Saturday night was a very surreal setting as viewers and fans from around the world saw the new downtown Los Angeles area near Staples Center that now has restaurants, theaters and video game areas where once before tenements and homeless resided. The area has been revamped and reloaded much like boxing itself.

Across the street we ate at the ESPN Zone. Before eating, we saw Riverside heavyweight contender Chris “The Nightmare” Arreola and his trainer Henry Ramirez walk in with a few of their friends. All were in shock from what they had seen.

“I still can’t believe it,” said Arreola. “Sure I thought Mosley could beat Margarito, but not by knockout.”

That knockout could be the catalyst for another great year of professional boxing.

“Shane Mosley deserves a lot of credit for being the kind of fighter who will fight anyone,” said Muniz, who was denied the WBC welterweight title against Jose Napoles though that fighter could not continue in 1975 in their fight. “I really feel Shane Mosley deserves more credit than people give him. He’s a clean-cut guy who never says anything bad about anybody. He’s just like Sugar Ray Robinson.”

In the last five months Mosley has faced numerous problems outside of boxing including a divorce from his wife of seven years, a defamation lawsuit filed by a former trainer, and allegations of steroid use. He’s survived it all.

“Shane doesn’t let anything get him down,” said Jack Mosley, father of Shane who did not train his son in this fight. “Shane does what he has to do.”

The question now is what more can Mosley do?

Fights on television

Fri. ESPN2, 5:30 p.m., Herman Ngoudjo (17-2) vs. Juan Arango (20-1-1).

Sat. HBO plus, 10 p.m., David Rodela (11-1-2) vs. Antonio Meza (24-5-1).


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