Shane Mosley didn't just score an upset last night, he did what many thought was probably near impossible, and he didn't do it with the lucky shot that most would have insisted he'd need.
To knock out Antonio Margarito, a fighter with such an iron chin and indomitable will, is very special. Factor in that Mosley, at 37, is supposed to be winding down a Hall of Fame career, and it puts it into even greater light.
This was not supposed to happen. Mosley was a live underdog to be sure. But a knockout? Of Antonio Margarito? Unthinkable.
Miguel Cotto couldn't stop Margarito no matter what he tried. Even Paul Williams, who beat Margarito, found himself in grave trouble late in the fight because Margarito relentlessly came forward and eventually found a home for his long, powerful punches.
He couldn't find Shane Mosley with radar last night. The veteran champion bounced around the ring, yes, but more important than that is he adopted an old, tried-and-true strategy the worked again. He bullied the bully. A fast start in the opening round is something we've seen against Margarito before. Cotto and Williams both used it to great effect, and both essentially shut out Margarito for half a fight. But Mosley kicked it up a notch.
He fought rough. He fought really hard. He had Margarito complaining on more than one occasion of headbutts. Mosley fought in some ways like the best of this generation's "dirty" fighters, your Evander Holyfields and Joel Casamayors.
Mosley frustrated Margarito, didn't let him connect, and got into his head. He hit him hard, and he hit him often. While you never count Margarito out, no matter how far behind he's fallen on the cards, it didn't feel like the Cotto fight this time. By the fifth round, this felt like Shane Mosley's night.
Mosley was relaxed, confident, and totally in control. You could see it on his face when HBO's cameras caught him swatting away shots from Margarito. After he got a good, hard look at Margarito up close, Mosley seemed to determine internally that Margarito couldn't do anything with him. If so, he was right.
Mosley's eighth round pounce that sent Margarito crashing to the canvas was electrifying. The sellout crowd at the Staples Center was heavily Latino, favoring Margarito drastically. Their man, though, was outclassed. Shane Mosley knocked Margarito out 43 seconds into the next round, capping a stunning performance.
Shane Mosley, as we all know, hasn't had the smoothest sailing in his life outside of the ring lately. After a rocky win over Ricardo Mayorga on September 27, Mosley split professionally with his father and trainer, Jack, and chose to go with Bernard Hopkins trainer Nazim Richardson. That move paid off, and it was also great to see Jack with the Mosley entourage last night, smiling, excited, and encouraging his son.
Bigger than that, Mosley and his wife, Jin, have split. Shane insisted that it wasn't a distraction for him prior to the fight, but I think most of us wondered how it couldn't be. I didn't talk about it much here because Shane and Jin's split is none of my business, and I don't personally know either of them. I'll talk about a fighter's career all day, but when it comes to their marriages and kids and things like that, you can generally count me out.
But back to the point -- Mosley had to have been at least somewhat distracted during camp, right? If he was, it didn't show last night. In fact, it seemed like there was something more in the tank. As good as Shane was in his 2007 loss to Miguel Cotto, he was way better than that last night. He was fast, he was strong, he was intense, and he fought like a hungry 23-year old in his first championship bout. He turned back the clock, and he put on one of the great performances of his living legend's career.
Ah, of course. What have you done for us lately, Shane? What's next?
Mosley will sit back and weigh it out -- he's in the driver's seat at 147 now. Though the top three welters have all beaten each other, I think you have to consider Shane the No. 1 welterweight in the sport for now.
What I love about this situation is I can't think of anyone realistic that Mosley wouldn't fight. If the Margarito-Cotto rematch goes on in July as planned (though I think that's kind of a tough PPV sell with Margarito just getting his ass handed to him), he can wait and fight the winner. If it's Cotto, you've got a rematch of a great fight. If it's Margarito, you can sell that is a revenge story, Margarito having had a bad night the first time around.
(For the record, I hate to simply overlook Cotto-Jennings because it feels like I'm being disrespectful to Jennings, but, well...)
He could also look to fight Paul Williams, the wild card in the division. Williams last fought at 147 when he demolished Carlos Quintana inside of one round, and since then has won at middleweight against Andy Kolle and junior middleweight against Verno Phillips. He'll next fight in April at middleweight against Winky Wright, no easy task. Should he win, something could be set up for the early fall.
Then there's the Hatton-Pacquiao winner. You can scratch Pacquiao-Margarito off right now, that discussion is kaput. If Pacquiao wins, as he'll be favored to, Mosley-Pacquiao sounds like a magnificent fight. Freddie Roach indicated they'd be happy to fight Shane in one of his countless interviews (one of the interviews where he said "no" to a Margarito fight for the hundredth time).
I'd take Mosley over Pacquiao simply because the size discussion comes up again, and Mosley ain't Oscar. There's no "trigger" issue here. Manny has to get by Hatton, too, and should Hatton pull the upset, Mosley-Hatton starts looking attractive to a lot of folks. Do you think Shane would travel to the UK?
There's WBC titlist Andre Berto, who won an exciting fight last weekend against Luis Collazo. Berto might want to take a half a step back in his next fight, and I've got the feeling his handlers will try to make that happen. As much as I think Mosley-Berto could be a sensational fight, I don't know that if I were in the Berto camp I'd truly consider my guy "ready" just yet, even though he showed phenomenal heart last week.
And then, my friends, there is Floyd Mayweather. Mayweather-Mosley has been a fight boxing fans have wanted to see for years. Frankly, I sort of got the impression neither of them were ever too keen on the idea. They'd talk a little, but then they'd stop. Mayweather has gone so far as to say that Mosley turned down offers to fight him. Who knows?
I would still pay good money to watch Mayweather and Mosley hook up. It wouldn't be the fight that I'd envisioned years ago, but Shane still presents a real challenge for Mayweather, who is undoubtedly the best defensive genius of his era. It'd be a question of how much money they could make. I assume a fairly pretty penny.
The answer to the "what's next?" question will come. Right now, Shane sits at the top of the sport again. Welcome back, Sugar.