Our crew began early Saturday morning as we trekked from Riverside, Calif., to Inglewood – a distance of more than 80 miles. We left with the temperature hovering at 105 to the “cooler” climate of 95.
Katherine Rodriguez of La Prensa, Jeannie Avila of Uppercutmagazine.com and I loaded up the faded gold Mercedes and headed to our favorite watering hole, El Cholos, in downtown Los Angeles. On a regular basis you can see one or more of us at the restaurant that, I think, has the best margaritas in the world, pound-for-pound.
Once in a while you can spot a boxer, promoter or manager at El Cholos. Earlier in the year I ran into K2 Promotions managing director Tom Loeffler, trainer Abel Sanchez and writer Kevin Iole in the patio area. Before that it was boxing writers Igor Frank and Anna Dragost. No wonder El Cholos is my favorite place in L.A.
After one margarita and some lunch we headed toward The Forum via Manchester Avenue. It’s been decades since I took this route. I wanted to see if anything had changed. Not much, from what I could tell.
Readers and fellow journalists might wonder why I chose to cover Shane Mosley’s fight with Ricardo Mayorga. It’s very simple. Long ago, when I was a fledgling writer, Sugar Shane Mosley was a fast-rising star from Pomona. He had recently grabbed the lightweight world title and nearly everyone in the boxing world had dubbed him one of the most dangerous fighters out there. He had speed, power and stamina to go with a rock-steady chin. At the time I was working for a new magazine called Uppercut. We published out of East L.A., in the heart of the barrio on Whittier Boulevard.
Back in the 1990s Mosley was famous for his gym wars with guys like Zack Padilla, Genaro Hernandez and even Julio Cesar Chavez. He and his dad, Jack, were everyday figures in East L.A. at Bell and La Habra. Those wars were explosive with fans getting an eyeful for free. The famous Main Street Gym had recently closed because of the Northridge earthquake, so boxers were fanning out over the Southern California landscape.
I would talk with Jack a lot in those days while his son was duking it out with the entire world, it seemed. Shane reminded me of a pit bull with his willingness to match blows with anyone. His hand speed was blinding and his quickness afoot was equally dazzling.
It was the third year of Uppercut magazine and we had a small but hustling staff of people working all hours of the day. One of our staff had a side job working as a bodyguard for Oscar De La Hoya, who was a certified superstar. Our guy told us that Oscar read our magazine, so we decided to do a story on Mosley challenging De La Hoya.
Mosley knew us vaguely,but when we promised that Oscar would see the story we were planning, he decided to take a chance and come to our building.
One Sunday morning at 5 a.m. , Shane, Jack and Shane’s sister Serena drove from Pomona to the dark streets of East L.A. and met us before the sun came up. Shane was asleep in the back seat of a the car when Jack parked in front of our building. We needed to beat the Sunday traffic so we could pose Shane under the famous East L.A. sign on Whittier Boulevard. Ironically, De La Hoya lived a few blocks from that sign as a child and still had family members in the area.
Mosley posed for us in the early morning light when traffic was extremely light. It was so early that some guys were barely leaving the cantinas. They emerged from their dark havens with a weak morning sun greeting them, and Sugar Shane Mosley standing with us in the middle of the boulevard.
“Azucar!” shouted a few of the knowledgable barflies walking by us. They motioned, drunkenly, with their arms for him to come over. Our photographer that day was Carlos Puma, who worked for the Riverside Press-Enterprise at the time. We shot photos of Mosley in challenging poses under the East L.A. sign. The crowd seemed to get a kick out of it.
Our first copies of the magazine went directly to De La Hoya via our guy Alfredo. According to Alfredo, De La Hoya immediately decided to demand a fight with Mosley. I never got a chance to ask Oscar if this was indeed the case, but whether or not it’s true, the fight was made.
Mosley was appreciative, but we were more so. Here was Shane, an emerging megastar, willing to wake up at 4 a.m. to drive to East L.A. I never forgot that, and I always try to repay a favor whenever possible. So when Mosley decided to make this comeback fight with Mayorga, I was all in, no matter what.
I’m loyal to those who are loyal to me or helped me in some way. What Shane did for us 16 years ago was unforgettable.
In my columns leading up to Shane Mosley’s fight card, I wondered if he could pull it off. It was like somebody placed one mine field after another in front of his promotional company, GoBox Promotions.
But Shane Mosley is no quitter.
Fights kept dropping out, he lost or fired the person handling media credentials, promoter tried to stop the main event and Premier Boxing Champions put on a competing card the same night at the Staples Center. Others would have meekly capitulated, but that is not in Mosley’s makeup.
Mayorga was the victor, by knockout, in his previous two fights and he has never been a pushover. At times, when Mayorga was fighting hard, Mosley took time off. It was a risk that some in the audience probably overlooked, but it was a risk nonetheless. Mayorga might be crazy, but he is plenty dangerous. Anybody who can claim to have defeated Vernon Forrest twice has to have talent. Ask Mosley.
The fight turned one-sided in Mosley’s favor, but Mayorga was always ready with his left hook cocked.
When Shane Mosley got popped and staggered backward in the sixth round, it looked like Mayorga – who calls himself “El Matador,” but is really more of a wild bull – had finally landed the big punch to turn things around. Instead, it was the beginning of the end for him.
Mosley let loose the one sure punch guaranteed to take out the Nicaraguan, the liver shot. Down went Mayorga. It made me believe that Mosley always knew he could dust off Mayorga with a body punch, but you never know.
Mayorga lost several teeth early in the bout. His mouth guard had broken and apparently he did not have another available. Mosley was cracking Mayorga with overhand rights in every round. Sometimes that was at the invitation of the macho Mayorga, who repeatedly pointed to his chin and invited Mosley to target it. It was Mayorga at his unhinged best. Who can forget him doing the same thing to Forrest or Felix Trinidad? Mayorga has a big heart and took his punishment like the warrior he is. No crying. No complaining. From what I hear, it was his wife who did the crying.
Here’s hoping the best for both Mosley and Mayorga with each early-morning sunrise.