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DE LA HOYA vs. MOSLEY II Super-Welterweight Championship,
Saturday, 6 p.m. PDT, MGM Grand, Las Vegas

Style Points

Most experts pick De La Hoya to avenge loss to Mosley, but matchup presents major problems for the Golden Boy

September 09, 2003|Randy Harvey

Shane Mosley beat Oscar De La Hoya twice, if you count one fight when they were kids. Vernon Forrest beat Mosley twice, three times if you count the time they fought as amateurs. Ricardo Mayorga beat Forrest twice.

So Mayorga is the most super of the super-welterweights.

Or not.

Ask most boxing experts, they'll tell you De La Hoya would beat Mayorga. De La Hoya feasts on guys like Mayorga, the raging bulls who come straight at him with no regard for what's going to stare back at them from the mirror in the morning. Guys like Julio Cesar Chavez and Arturo Gatti, and even Fernando Vargas, who knows better but still led with his jaw against De La Hoya.

Unfortunately for De La Hoya, he's not fighting Mayorga on Saturday night at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

De La Hoya is fighting Mosley again.

You want to know what kind of easy marks bet on boxing? When this fight went on the board, you had to lay down $240 on De La Hoya to make $100. He revealed that his left hand, his money hand, was hurt again, and the next day you had to lay down $250 on De La Hoya to make $100. The gamblers liked him even more.

They must not remember what happened at Staples Center in June 2000, when Mosley won a split decision that not even De La Hoya disputes.

You're not wrong if you believe De La Hoya will avenge his loss to Mosley. But you are wrong if you believe it will be as easy as the marks seem to think. You're also wrong if you believe Mosley's losses to Forrest have any significance in this fight.

Veteran trainer Angelo Dundee said by phone last week from his home in South Florida that Mosley would beat De La Hoya.

"The only thing that's changed since last time is that Mosley has lost a couple of times to Vernon Forrest," Dundee said. "But Mosley doesn't match up against Forrest. He matches up against De La Hoya."

I had an idea where Dundee was going next. It's the oldest cliche in boxing, having stood the test of time.

"Styles make fights," he said.

*

There's no one more knowledgeable on that subject than Dundee.

First of all, the boxer credited with first declaring that styles make fights was another Dundee, which is no coincidence. Johnny Dundee was a lightweight champion who fought 330 times between 1910 and 1932. He was best known for introducing "The Scotch Woop," bouncing off the ropes before pouncing to give his punch more power. It could be a problem for Dundee, though, when his opponent punched first.

Angelo Merina Jr. became Angelo Dundee after his older brother, Joe, had changed his last name as a tribute to Johnny Dundee.

Years later, Angelo Dundee was involved in the best example of a style making a fight, or fights, when he trained Muhammad Ali for his three bouts with Ken Norton.

They were neither Ali's nor Dundee's finest hours because they never learned how to cope with Norton, who fought with his legs wide apart, his defense almost crab-like.

"I called him Hopalong Cassidy," Dundee said of Norton. "He'd hop in and throw a punch and then hop right back out. He couldn't take a big punch. [George] Foreman and [Earnie] Shavers had no trouble knocking him out. But if you didn't have a great knockout punch, which Muhammad didn't, he was hard to score against."

Norton won the first fight in 1973 as a 7-1 underdog, breaking Ali's jaw. Dundee recalled going to the hospital and hearing Ali, through clenched teeth because his jaw was wired shut, whisper, "We'll get him."

They never really did. Ali won the next two fights on decisions, but both were close. Many who saw the third fight insist Norton was robbed.

"He wasn't the best guy Muhammad faced, but he was the hardest for him to fight," Dundee said.

Dundee, in a finer moment, was on the other side when he trained Carmen Basilio against Sugar Ray Robinson. Robinson might have been the best pound-for-pound fighter ever, but he couldn't handle Basilio, the Mayorga of his day.

*

OK, so that wasn't entirely a style issue.

But then, it seldom is entirely a style issue.

Robinson had difficulties with other fighters, such as Gene Fullmer and Randy Turpin, later in his career, which could be explained by those four words, "later in his career." A middleweight by then, Robinson wasn't as dominating against fighters in that division as he had been against welterweights.

Larry Merchant, who used to be one of the best sports columnists around and is now a boxing commentator for HBO, said, "Style matters if it is backed by substance."

Norton, for instance, was no palooka, winning the heavyweight title a year after his last fight against Ali.

Mosley, for another instance, presents a stylistic challenge to De La Hoya because of quickness. De La Hoya is accustomed to having more hand speed in a fight, but that is not the case when trying to defend against Mosley's combinations.

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