November 10 -- Madison Square Garden, New York, NY
Winner: Miguel Cotto UD-12
The hype was great. It was a fight in the middle of boxing's most glorious fight season in a long time -- maybe ever. After Taylor-Pavlik, Pacquiao-Barrera II, and Calzaghe-Kessler, we got this WBA welterweight title tilt between undefeated champion Miguel Cotto and his great opponent yet: surefire Hall of Famer "Sugar" Shane Mosley.
Any fight is subject to personal taste, but I can't imagine a boxing fan on the planet that wasn't looking forward to this one. The rugged, fearless, ever forward-moving attack of bruiser Cotto against the lightning combinations, savvy and speed of Mosley. On paper, this couldn't have been a bad fight if they'd tried to make it one. It also had plenty of atmospheric intrigue. Madison Square Garden was now Miguel Cotto's house, no bones about it, and Shane Mosley had never fought on the main stage at the Garden before. He'd fought in the MSG Theater, but never the real deal. Given that he's 36 years old and the career he's had, that seemed almost impossible, but it really was his Madison Square Garden debut.
The West Coast superstar was coming into the lion's den. Cotto had the homefield advantage, plus he was red-hot, coming off a decisive and thunderous TKO win over Zab Judah in June, his biggest win to date. But Zab is no Shane Mosley, who also came in riding high, having won his last five fights over David Estrada, Jose Luis Cruz, Fernando Vargas (twice) and Luis Collazo. If Mosley was ever going to truly reach the pinnacle of the sport again, this was his chance.
As Jim Lampley put it on HBO's "Countdown to Cotto-Mosley" show, "Beating Zab Judah was good. Beating Shane Mosley would be great."
The pressers leading up to the big night were pretty mundane by some modern standards. This was not a fight that needed to be sold on faux animosity or trash talking. Both men were confident, but always respectful of the opponent. They acknowledged that it was going to be a tough fight. This was a boxing match sold on the fact that it was going to be great boxing between two great boxers. How novel, huh?
And thank God for the Top Rank-Golden Boy feud ending. Without that Cold War coming to an end, we never would've gotten this fight. Really, these were the two guys everyone wanted to see Mayweather tackle. When Floyd took the fight with Hatton, they decided they'd square up to one another instead. Good for them, and great for us.
It was a pick 'em fight, too. Cotto had youth and strength on his side, but to many -- myself included -- he seemed tailor-made for Mosley, a stand-still thumper that Mosley could box rings around if he was at his best.
Well, Mosley was at his best, but he didn't box rings around anyone.
It was obvious early on that Miguel Cotto had trained to be quicker than he ever had been before, and to use his jab more, to box more effectively. He had to know that if Mosley could work a jab, slide in with combinations, and hurt him now and then, he'd take round after round en route to a decision win. Mosley was too quick and too smart to get bulled around, and wasn't fighting for his professional career like Judah was.
For six rounds, I had a sweep on Miguel Cotto's side. Mosley looked really outstanding, much like Mikkel Kessler did against Calzaghe, but Cotto was beating him. In the fifth, he was shaken up from a big right hand near the end of the round. The two traded in some furious exchanges. Cotto's combination punching looked better than it ever had before, which may have surprised Sugar Shane, and it looked, though less dramatically than it usually does, that Cotto was breaking his opponent's will.
Looking like he was getting a little tired and failing to find a rhythm, Mosley started moving around a lot more. He had surprised by trying to stand and mix it up with Cotto for the first half of the fight, and it wasn't working for him. Mosley slowed Cotto down and landed good stick-and-move shots starting in the seventh, winning his first round on my card, though many had it much closer. No matter the scores, though, it was a hell of a good fight.
In the eighth round, fatigue set in for both men, as they were both getting winded. Cotto took another round to widen the gap on my card, but then, Mosley made his move.
Cotto was working the jab and the left hook again early in the ninth, but then Mosley popped him with his own nasty hook. Cotto, suddenly, seemed hurt. Miguel Cotto was backing down from Shane Mosley, which I have rarely seen, and was the first time we'd seen it in this fight. Cotto constantly moves forward -- it's his bread and butter. Now, though, Shane Mosley knew he had his opponent in trouble. He smelled it.
A huge right landed from Mosley near the end of the round, and Cotto's fighter instinct called him into fighting back as best he could. Cotto went to the corner, hurt, and even though I still thought the fight was firmly in Miguel's grasp on the scorecard, it had just gotten much more interesting. It's not as though we've never seen Cotto knocked down before, and this was Shane Mosley he was fighting, with 37 knockouts to his credit.
The tenth round was positively wonderful. Mosley swarmed on Cotto, drilling him with a right hand, and Cotto was clearly hurt. In a questionable move that hasn't been discussed a whole lot, referee Benjy Esteves, Jr., stopped the action to dry off the mat in the corner. It did need to be cleaned up, but it was a bad time to halt the proceedings to take care of it. Cotto was in trouble, and Mosley had his rhythm.
Could we have seen a knockdown, or even a KO win for Mosley? We'll never know. But the fight was intense now, as both guys were looking to score with power shots. Most rounds had been so close that no one could have properly predicted the outcome in the 10th round.
Mosley landed a hard right, and stayed in control until Cotto fired back with a left that rocked him. The two bulled into each other. An uppercut from Mosley. A sizzling three-punch combination from Cotto, and then another one that got Mosley to backpedal a little bit.
Another uppercut from Mosley, and Cotto stings him again with a left hand. As the first of the championship rounds came to a close, a tight, hard-fought battle was morphing into all-out warfare.
HBO's Harold Lederman had a 95-95 draw into the 11th round, but I had Cotto up 97-93. He had the fight in the bag, as far as I was concerned, but the 10th round let me get swept up in the fact that this was absolutely not over. Anything could still happen.
It was amazing to watch two guys that had put forth such a great effort continue to tear into each other with thunderous shots in the 11th round. It is a testament to the conditioning of both men. By now, it was an alternate world fight -- for much of the bout, it had been Mosley landing the best body shots, and Cotto looking like the better boxer. Maybe the two men had the gameplan to attack one another with the other guy's strengths, pull out a wild card. And then, as it turned out, they just traded places.
The final round saw Mosley chase Cotto, only to get close and be met with a flurry from the champion. Cotto played defense and stayed away, hoping to have it won on the cards. Though they both looked exhausted, they continued to work hard. A clash of heads didn't even stop the fight -- the two just backed away, touched gloves, and went on with their business.
It was a fabulous fight. I scored it 116-112 for Cotto, and Lederman had it 115-113 for Miguel, as well. The official cards came in: 115-113, 115-113, 116-113, all for the winner by unanimous decision, Miguel Cotto.
It was one of those fights that was about as close as you can get, and a decision either way wouldn't have upset too many people. They both landed 248 punches, Cotto scoring 37% of the time, and Mosley at 32%.
When he beat Judah, Cotto became a real star. When he beat Mosley, he reached elite status in the world of boxing. Now 31-0 and having topped quality opponents for years, Cotto became a beacon for boxing fans -- this was a guy that would fight anybody, and it takes a special will just to go the distance with him. A world champion since 2004, when he demolished then-unbeaten Kelson Pinto for the WBO 140-pound title, Cotto is now one of the biggest stars in the game. If there's a boxing fan out there that isn't a Miguel Cotto fan, I've yet to meet that person. He is everything we want from our champions.
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