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Shane Mosley shows he's not finished

BILL DWYRE

He takes Antonio Margarito's welterweight crown with a punishing performance.

January 25, 2009|BILL DWYRE

All hail to Shane Mosley.

On a night when he was expected to get run over by a Brink's truck, he cashed in instead.

In his ninth-round knockout of Antonio Margarito, he turned the Tijuana Tornado into a harmless squall. This wasn't a boxing match, it was a boxing lesson.

Mosley was supposed to lose this welterweight title fight Saturday night. To the victor went the World Boxing Assn. belt at 147 pounds. That was supposed to be Margarito, who looks and usually fights as if he'd just as soon stomp you as look at you. Instead, it went to the 37-year-old Mosley, who was supposed to be target practice for the seven-year-younger Mexican warrior.

But for eight rounds and 23 seconds of a ninth, Margarito was the target. As the fight went on, the only question became whether or not Mosley could continue landing power punches for a full 12 rounds. Turns out, that wasn't an issue.

In the eighth, after Margarito had started fast and threatened to finally win a round, Mosley summoned up one more barrage of energy and hit his opponent with a flurry that finally knocked down a fighter who has been about as sinkable as a catamaran.

With Margarito down in one corner, a somewhat bemused look on his face -- as if to say that this just wasn't happening to him -- Mosley went to the far corner while the referee counted over the fallen Mexican. In that moment, a snapshot of the fight was there for the taking: The indestructible Margarito, crawling and scrambling to find his equilibrium; the destroyer Mosley, leaning over the ropes, gasping for breath.

It was over at that moment, even though Margarito made it to his feet and the bell ended the round.

They mistakenly allowed Margarito to come back out for the ninth, even though he hadn't walked to his corner after the knockdown, he had wobbled. And in short order, Mosley summoned up enough energy to unleash one more flurry. As referee Raul Caiz Sr. stepped in to end the flurry 23 seconds into the ninth, white towels were already flying through the air from Margarito's corner.

They were 23 seconds late.

This turned out to be an incredible night of entertainment for an incredible crowd at Staples Center. The announced attendance of 20,820 was the largest for any event at the 10-year-old jewel of L.A. sports.

Mosley said his success was in his preparation.

"I trained so hard, and I was so focused," he said.

Both with that statement, and with his performance in the ring, the veteran from Pomona addressed all speculation that several situations might distract him from the task at hand. He is going through marital problems. He also must eventually address speculation fueled by the recent release of grand jury transcripts indicating that he admitted using performance-enhancing drugs before his 2003 victory over Oscar De La Hoya.

Add to that the bizarre pre-match story about Mosley's camp catching Margarito with a Plaster of Paris-like substance on his hand wraps as they were being taped for the fight. Margarito was ordered to wash that off, some of it was gathered as evidence for future investigation by Mosley's lawyer, and Mosley's reaction was that it showed "Margarito was scared."

Turns out, he had reason to be.

Later, Mosley acknowledged the controversy and said, "My trainer [Nazim Richardson] was on his job. He caught him. We both have to wrap our hands the same way."

Margarito's trainer, Javier Capetillo, said he was stunned by the fight, as certainly were the highly partisan Margarito fans in Staples.

"It seemed something happened in the first round," Capetillo said. "He was too slow. He wasn't reacting properly. It was frustrating to watch."

This was supposed to be the popgun versus the brick wall. Margarito was expected to merely keep coming forward, as he did in his last fight when he wore down and defeated the once-indestructible Miguel Cotto. Mosley was expected to jab and chop and duck and weave and hope to score enough points and stay on his feet long enough to take a decision.

Turns out the experts had the brawler label on the wrong boxer. Mosley was faster, stronger, hit harder, wanted it more and was in better shape. At times, Margarito looked like a drunken sailor, stumbling out of the tavern at 2 a.m.

Bernard Hopkins, star light-heavyweight boxer and along with Mosley a member of De La Hoya's Golden Boy Promotions team, had it right when he said in the days before the fight that (1) "Margarito does not have a reverse in his car" and (2) "Mosley will win."

With one of his wonderful malapropisms, Hopkins also said of those who saw the fight otherwise, "We will have to disagree to agree."

Afterward, there was no disagreement about what happened on this night of sound and fury. The boxer nicknamed "Sugar Shane" had one sweet night at Staples.

--

bill.dwyre@latimes.com.

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