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No Butting Rivalry This Time as Forrest Wins

July 21, 2002|STEVE SPRINGER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

INDIANAPOLIS — Vernon Forrest beat Shane Mosley at Conseco Fieldhouse on Saturday night by unanimous decision, no ifs, ands or butts about it.

There were no head butts, controversial or otherwise, as in their first meeting January at The Theater in Madison Square Garden. The only controversy this time was over the margin of victory on two of the three judges' scorecards.

A case could certainly be made that Forrest was the victor in an extremely close fight, to retain the World Boxing Council welterweight championship he won from Mosley in January. But while the majority of ringside writers had one fighter or the other winning by a point or two, or scored the fight a draw, judge Tony Castellano had Forrest winning, 117-111. Judge Gary Merritt scored it 116-112, Jerry Roth 115-113.

The Times scored it 115-114 for Mosley.

Castellano was a late addition to the judging triumvirate, when first WBC officials and then Forrest's camp asked for the removal of judge Fred Jones.

"I'm not going to cry that we lost, but the scoring was out of range," said Jack Mosley, Shane's father/trainer. "It was crazy. At least score it a draw . Vernon would still retain the title, but at least give Shane that. He was the aggressor. He had the most effective punches. Shane was controlling the fight, the whole fight."

Forrest, of course, saw it differently, but after a week of angry verbal jabs tossed back and forth between the two camps, Forrest was more than willing to give Mosley some credit.

"When you fight a guy who is equal to you, it's tough," Forrest said. "He was frustrating me and I was frustrating him. I thought it was a close fight and I had him by a couple of points."

Both fighters were frustrating to the crowd of 15,775, largest to watch a fight in Indiana. Eager to see the ferocity and fury demonstrated by both fighters in the past, hoping to see a replay of the action in the January meeting when Forrest put Mosley down twice and Mosley hung on valiantly, but ultimately hopelessly, for 12 rounds, Saturday's crowd instead saw an ugly and, at times, boring bout.

Mosley, who had charged Forrest with excessive holding in the first fight, held and held and held all night. And Forrest did the same. Charge after charge by both fighters ended in a headlock.

Referee Laurence Cole was the busiest man in the ring, imploring the fighters to break all night long.

As a dance contest, this might have been intriguing, but as a boxing match, it was bad enough to send the natives of this state scurrying back to basketball.

The best fight of the night occurred in the stands and drew the attention of the majority of the crowd.

And why not? There was nothing much going on in the ring.

The punch statistics told the story. Mosley, known as one of the busiest fighters in the business, threw a total of 259 punches, an average of 21.6 a round, far short of his usual production.

Forrest threw 446 punches, but connected on only 27%, to 44% for Mosley.

When asked immediately after the fight how many punches had been thrown, a member of the stat crew replied, "Not enough."

At the opening bell, it appeared there might be more than enough punches flying. Mosley, appearing about to burst with anticipation over facing the man who handed him his first professional defeat in January and had also beaten him in an amateur fight a decade earlier, raced across the ring and landed a left hand.

"I knew he couldn't maintain that pace for 12 rounds," Forrest said. "It took me a little time to adjust."

Mosley, who had been hammered by Forrest's right hand in the first fight, constantly circled to his right in that opening round to stay out of range of Forrest's most potent weapon.

But as the fight wore on and the realization sunk in that the Shane Mosley who had once been considered one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world would not be able to demonstrate that form against Forrest, the Pomona fighter began to slip back into his old movement pattern to the left and began to settle for holding off Forrest.

"I still think I'm a great fighter," Mosley said. "Forrest is the only guy to get away from my knockout [punch]. But I can make peace with myself because I thought I fought a great fight."

Mosley, who made $2.8 million Saturday, drops to 38-2 with 35 knockouts. Forrest, who earned $3.2 million, remains unbeaten at 35-0 with 26 knockouts.

What's next for both men?

Hopefully, matches better suited for a ring than a ballroom.

*

In the semi-main event, Antonio Tarver (20-1, 17 knockouts) avenged his only loss by beating Eric Harding (21-2-1, seven) on a fifth-round TKO.

Harding was knocked down three times, once at the end of the fourth round and twice in the fifth, referee Bill Paige finally stepping in to stop the bout 43 seconds into the round as Harding hit the canvas for the final time.

After both the first and second knockdowns, ringside observers yelled at Paige to end the fight because of the punishment Harding was absorbing.

Tarver, too, was imploring Paige to stop the bout after the second knockdown.

In a preliminary match, bantamweight Clarence Vinson, a bronze-medal winner at the 2000 Olympics, won a unanimous eight-round decision over William DeSousa to remain unbeaten at 10-0 with five knockouts.

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