Saturday, January 24, 2009

:boxing: Young and Old, Big and Small...:: Margarito vs Mosley

Veteran boxers fighting younger talent is nothing strange in the sport. Be it a simple reason of an old "gatekeeper" testing a hot prospect or a young champion battling the division's long-reigning kingpin, there has always been that spectacle of seeing not only two generations lock in combat, but also if one either has the experience or vitality to take the other out.

Shane Mosley certainly is not a gatekeeper, as his skills have not diminished so much so nor is he fighting past his prime, but he is no longer the best in his division--or arguably among the top five or seven fighters in the world. He is currently in curious position of being among the best of his past generation, but with age and the transition towards fresher, younger talent, he does not possess the physical gifts that he once fully had. Yet in spite of this, he has recently shown that he still has enough to remain competitive by fighting a close bout with top gun Miguel Cotto in 2007 and delivering a literal last-second KO of Ricardo Mayorga in the following year. His trademark speed and power are still visible enough and able to give even a major young star like Cotto, who many thought could legitimately stop him, a tough night. It will be those attributes, most notably the former, that he will have to hearken upon once more as he aims to spoil another bright star's night.

Perhaps Mosley has developed a thing for taking on the youngsters of the world, and in the hot welterweight division, Antonio Margarito is its new young king. Having dispatched of Cotto after disillusioning him into quitting near the end of their bout, the Tijuana Tornado represents a different challenge for the former multi-class champion. Where Mosley stayed in step with the powerful Cotto, the stronger Margarito continuously walked through his barrages undeterred and pounded him into submission. On a physical level, Margarito is much bigger and taller than he is, a definite problem for someone with a history of having trouble with larger opponents, such as Vernon Forrest, and the champion is also nearly a decade younger and is not easy to hurt, much less impede. Mosley himself may not be the easiest person to floor, but the chances of him doing that to Margarito is very thin.

Though the chances of Sugar Shane winning the fight are dim, the very same was said about the older Bernard Hopkins against the much younger Kelly Pavlik, and of the smaller Manny Pacquiao against the larger Oscar De La Hoya. In both cases, his Golden Boy Promotions partner whipped Pavlik badly, while his other GBP partner, and boss, was thoroughly flogged by Pacquiao. Mosley falls in between these two as an older, smaller veteran going against a larger, younger pugilist in Margarito, and similarly to those two victors, he has speed and experience, along with power, to aid him in his quest to best a seemingly unstoppable foe.

In that respect, there is the factor of Margarito's last defeat, coming at the hands of top contender Paul Williams in a flat, vacuous performance. Williams was able to use his superior boxing skills to take advantage of it and win with little incident, costing him a possible showdown with Floyd Mayweather, Jr. It's doubtful that Margarito will allow himself to fight that poorly again and knows how well Mosley did against Cotto, so he'll most likely be prepared for his consistent, pressuring style. However, while Cotto also utilized such tactics against both fighters, he didn't have either of Mosley's expertise or his substantial hand speed--two things that Margarito as yet to truly encounter in an opponent. That may make-or-break Mosley's chances of success, unless Margarito manages to find a way to break to his will, much like he did with Cotto...

Prediction: Margarito, UD (if flat or unable to handle Mosley's speed and pressure, Mosley in either a split or unanimous decision). After the trend of upsets in the last year, it would be a bit foolish to say that Sugar Shane Mosley has no chance of winning, and even without those upsets, I'd still give him a decent chance at beating Margarito based on both of their capabilities as fighters. The real issue is if Margarito will walk through his blows like he did Miguel Cotto's on his best night. Mosley might be able to score points on impressive combo work, but if he can't hurt him and make it look effective, will it ultimately matter? Also take into consideration that Mosley has gone down before, has a history of tiring out in the latter rounds, and perhaps most importantly, has become discouraged in losing efforts. The first two are beneficial for a non-stop workhorse like Margarito, and the vision of a frustrated Mosley would only make him work harder at shutting him down.

It should be a fairly convincing unanimous decision for the WBA champion, despite a strong, game performance from Mosley, who I doubt will allow himself to get down when it starts getting tough. The tempo will most likely be decided in the first round, with Mosley swarming Margarito, with the latter holding steady and slowly sapping him of power over the course of the middle rounds on with his power punches and own style of pressure. I don't see either one knocking the other out (whoever's in the lead) but it should be a very good "action" fight with a possible knockdown somewhere. But as mentioned earlier, don't look past Mosley, especially if Margarito is having an "off-night" or can't take the heat...


Outcome: Mosley, TKO9. Well, color me very surprised! Shane Mosley surely had a chance, albeit a slim one, at defeating Antonio Margarito, but I never imagined that he would not only completely dominate him, but also deliver two devastating knockdowns en route to a stoppage. Mosley fought his best in years, utilizing his hand speed, maneuverability, experience, and of course his power, to take Margarito out of his comfort zone and out of his game. Tying him up close or engaging in phone-booth style combat also disrupted Margarito, but it was Mosley's combo work that did the most damage. What separated his plan from Miguel Cotto's was that Mosley had faster hands to go along with his power shots and combinations, which naturally meant that he could land more hard blows on a Margarito that couldn't already take the speed that well. Mosley's tendency to put his weight and strength into his power shots took its toll all over Margarito, but his on-point accuracy and expertise played a massive role in the outcome of the fight.

By the time the eighth round was nearing the end, Margarito looked as if he was on his way to a unanimous decision loss or even a possible late round stoppage and Mosley continued to bullied him around. The champion was left vulnerable and he tried to seize the opportunity by throwing an uppercut, but he missed. Yet in a moment of beautiful realization and improvisation, he saw him exposed wide open and immediately used his other hand right after to connect Margarito squarely on his once-unshakable chin. That instinctive blow was the final undoing as it triggered the chain of events that would lead to Margarito's knockout loss, and in a strange twist, the fight might have been stopped at the end of that round had he never gone down and continued to absorb the beating.

Shane Mosley certainly re-leased his career with such a convincing win over a tough fighter in Antonio Margarito and becoming the top dog in the welterweight division once more. A number of future fights await in the hot weight class, with a rematch with Cotto a good possibility and bouts against the likes of Andre Berto, Zab Judah, Joshua Clottey, Kermit Cintron, Carlos Quintana, or even Jose Luis Castillo and Paul Williams, who just moved up to middleweight, as suitable choices. As for Margarito, he didn't meltdown or looked horrible in the loss (he did get a few good hits on Mosley that shook him briefly on some occasions), but he was outgunned and exposed. With his mystique all but gone, including the myth of his chin, he won't be getting any title fights for at least the next two outings, which will most likely be confidence builders against lesser opponents. Cintron, whose boxing career was derailed by a TKO loss to him a few years ago, Cotto, and other big-name contenders now have a blueprint to work off of in hopes of besting him themselves should any rematches occur. He'll need to work on his defensive skills and vary his fight tactics away from merely coming forward and take everyone's shots if wants to cement his name as a true force in the division and boxing.

Mosley fought great and continued the trend of upsets by veteran boxers, despite the muddy issues of his personal life (steroids investigation, divorce, father drama). If there was any lingering doubt or question about his spot in the Hall(s) of Fame, they were squelched in this bout.

P.S.: There was the controversy of Margarito's camp apparently getting caught trying to apply a plaster or hardening material in his hand wrap, and while that might place a question mark over the Cotto fight or earlier ones, it wouldn't have mattered against Mosley even if he had gloves encased in concrete blocks...

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