By Jason Pribila: This past weekend I had the humbling experience of moving into my new one bedroom apartment. Although the place and location is perfect, the toll it took on my right knee and back was enough to make me vow to ensure I have enough money in my savings account to pay someone to handle the heavy lifting whenever my next change of address may be.
The week leading up to my relocation gave me time to go through plenty of things that sat silently in boxes or desk drawers during much of the last four years. I came across many pictures: some I don’t remember taking, others I don’t remember posing for, and quite a few that would not be part of the move. One item took me back to the beginning of my stay, and fortunately for this audience it dealt with the sport of boxing. That item was my program from the Antonio Margarito – Shane Mosley bout at the Staples Center, on January 24, 2009. As I thumbed through the pages, I was inspired to look back and compare how the participants and sport have changed since that January night in Southern California.
I booked my flight to LAX shortly after the wheels came off my rocky relationship cart. After 5 years I did not feel like my relationship was moving forward, so I suggested to my girlfriend, “If all I am is a roommate, I should probably just find another roommate.” She grabbed on to that baton and ran with it, and I was left with a valuable lesson learned. Don’t wager your daily commute without a back-up plan. So I was off to the airport, looking forward to the opportunity to see college friends and the chance to clear my head. The hardest part of the break-up was the realization that I would be leaving behind a four-year-old pug puppy that we just happened to name Mosley.
Yes, the main reason for my trip was to see my favorite fighter of the decade, Shane Mosley. I had followed his career closely when he was dominating at lightweight, and enjoyed my biggest night as a boxing fan when he first defeated Oscar de la Hoya in the same building that had a confirmed press credential waiting for me.
Antonio Margarito was six months removed from going through Hell before eventually stopping his stable mate, Miguel Cotto. On that evening, Margarito took everything Cotto had to offer for seven rounds, before he took control and eventually stopped the out-gunned Puerto Rican. Many felt that Margarito-Mosley would follow the same script.
I agreed with the masses, but felt if Mosley got out to a big early lead, he may use what he saw in the Cotto fight and beat the clock, rather than engage during the latter stages of the fight. It would either be a triumph, or potentially his last time on a grand stage. Either way, I knew I had to be there.
The Staples Center was the perfect location for this fight. Mosley would return to the stage of his greatest victory, while the Mexican and Mexican-American fans would have the opportunity see their newest national hero in person. Co-Promoters Top Rank and Golden Boy Promotions added extra $25 seats, and when the final ticket was sold, the fight would set an attendance record for the venue.
Yes, this bout had co-promoters. It’s hard to believe that it was only four years ago when boxing’s most powerful promoters were able to work together. It was actually the third time in four months that they co-promoted an event. In October, 2008 they staged the Kelly Palvlik – Bernard Hopkins bout at The Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City. On that evening, Top Rank was in the corner of a big favorite, and then after watching 12 one-sided rounds, they got to hear Hopkins talk about how much money he cost Top Rank.
Top Rank made an emphatic comeback that December when their fighter, an under-sized Manny Pacquiao retired the Golden Boy himself after eight one-sided rounds.
With a pair of upsets behind them, both promoters were playing nice leading up to their unofficial rubber match.
Bob Arum was quoted in the program saying, “We are very pleased to be working with our partner, Golden Boy Promotions, in this event.”
Oscar de la Hoya returned the kind words by saying, “(I would like to thank) Bob Arum and the staff of Top Rank, our co-promoter, for all of their hard work.”
The best part of these co-promotions was the fact that the undercards were stacked and split between GBP and Top Ranks’ top prospects. This card was no different as we had the opportunity to see Golden Boy’s latest acquisition, Robert “The Ghost” Guerrero, as well as an undefeated lightweight from Cincinnati, Adrien Broner (5-0, 5KO). Top Rank had the opportunity to show off super prospect, Russian middleweight Matt Korobov.
Looking back at my notes, I felt that Broner fought too much like an amateur. Although he was super-quick, he failed to sit down on his punches, and seemed to be more sizzle than steak. Guerrero scored a first round knockout with a body shot in his first bout after moving up and leaving behind a featherweight title. And although he only had three professional bouts, I felt that the middleweight division would be ruled by Korobov for years to come.
I arrived at the Staples Center around 3pm local time. A perk of being on the West Coast was that sporting events started three hours earlier than what I have grown accustomed to living in the EST. I had only been covering fights for Secondsout.com for a year, so I was thrilled that my credential was waiting for me 3,000 miles from home.
I found my way to the Chick Hearn Press Room, but I didn’t bother making myself a plate of food. I had to get inside the arena. I walked out on the floor, and thought about all of the great athletes that shared the same view that I had while looking up into the stands. While I was gazing at the stands, one of the security guards was peeking at my press credential. I said hello and asked him to point me to my seat. Point he did alright, all the way up to the roof of the building. Apparently “Prib Notes” had yet to make a splash in Hollywood, and I was shown the way to the elevators that would take me to the top of the building. The long ride north stung for a moment, until I reminded myself that I was in the building for a fight that meant so much to me as a fan of boxing.
When I got to my personal booth I realized that there were some advantages. No one would be standing up in front of me, for sure. And, since I was several stories high, I had a TV monitor in my booth that allowed me to sneak a peek as to what my peers in Press Row were witnessing.
Mosley came to the ring dressed in black. He had his son, father, and new trainer Naazim Richardson in his corner. Although the crowd was respectful to the 37 year old, it was clear who they were there to support once Margarito’s music began to play. I have been in the crowd for many loud sporting events, but few could top the decibels reached by the Mexican faithful.
At this time, very few in the arena had any idea that HBO’s Larry Merchant was reporting that Margarito’s hands had to be rewrapped after a plaster-like block was found in his already gloved right hand.
Richardson had been assigned by Team Mosley to watch Margarito’s hands being wrapped. He later said that he thought Margarito was going to be led to the cooler and not to the ring.
The opening bell rang, and as expected Mosley started fast. The former champion began to put rounds in the bank. Margarito was grinning, but soon this bout had the feel of something different than what we had seen in the Cotto fight. Mosley’s punches were hurting Margarito, and when they came together, Mosley was able to physically move Margarito to the ropes; never allowing the champion to enjoy the down-hill like momentum that he enjoyed during much of the Cotto bout.
The mid-point of the bout came and went, and Mosley was pitching a shut-out. Margarito had his best round of the fight in the seventh, but the damage had already been done. Mosley landed a vicious uppercut in the eighth that led to a barrage that knocked Margarito off his feet as the round came to an end.
Mosley threw and landed over twenty power shots to close the show in the ninth round as Jim Lampley exclaimed, “Shane Mosley had destroyed Antonio Margarito”.
Mosley bowed to each side of the ring. If Hollywood had been writing a script it would have been the perfect time to cue the credits to roll on Mosley’s career. Nine years after Mosley enjoyed his career defining victory; he returned to the same ring to enjoy what was arguably his career’s sweetest.
The reality for Margarito and Mosley is that this was not a Hollywood script, and neither man would again reach the heights that they were at on January 24, 2008. Margarito last enjoyed a view from the mountaintop when he entered the building; while Mosley seemed to leave the lightening he found in a bottle in the ring.
Six fighters headlined the three shows co-promoted by Golden Boy and Top Rank during a four month span in 2008 – 2009. Pavlik, de la Hoya, Margarito, and Mosley have all announced their retirements. Pacquiao suffered back to back losses, and only 48 year-old Bernard Hopkins has a fight scheduled.
Top Rank and Golden Boy have not co-promoted a major fight since that night in Los Angeles. Their “Cold War” hit a low point when they put on competing shows on September 15, 2012. Neither seems ready to budge, and fight fans will be sure to find themselves choosing between cards that are often strategically placed to by one promoter to hurt the other. They held the keys to make the richest fight in boxing history, and that was not enough to thaw this relationship. I can’t imagine a truce while the current players remain at the head of each company.
Robert Guerrero has gone 8-0 with a no-contest as he climbed the scales to the welterweight division. He is now the favorite to land the role of being schooled by Floyd Mayweather Jr. on May 4, 2013. No matter what happens in May, Guerrero has exceeded the expectations of most.
The good news for Matt Korobov is that he is 18-0, with 10 KO. The bad news is that he is still fighting 8 round fights. To date, Korobov’s professional career never took off like so many predicted it would when the decorated amateur signed with Top Rank. This may possibly be the case of a fighter losing his hunger once he was able to taste the freedom that living in America had to offer.
Adrien Broner is now 25-0, with 21 KO. Golden Boy and Al Haymon have ensured that Broner’s progress has been televised, and “The Problem” continues to thrive in the spotlight. In November Broner stopped the durable Antonio De Marco for a lightweight title, and he made it look easy. Following the bout rival promoter Gary Shaw anointed him the next Floyd Mayweather Jr. Broner has the personality and skills to reach those lofty accolades, however, like Floyd, there are concerns about Broner’s behavior when he is away from the ring. If Broner remains focused, he will be Golden Boy’s top bargaining chip four years from now, and we could be watching a future Hall of Famer as he hits his physical prime.
Antonio Margarito lost his boxing license for a year. He won a fight in Mexico before getting his license in time to face Manny Pacquiao. While many protested the fact Margarito had the opportunity to make millions, many felt he received his comeuppance as Pacquiao battered his face and crushed his orbital bone.
At one time Margarito was considered one of the sport’s most honest fighters. In the end, he was wearing the perfectly fitting black hat. He had convinced enough eye doctors to approve his license so that he could finally get his rematch against Cotto. This time Cotto was able to do enough to the already damaged eye that ringside doctors called a halt to the fight and to Margarito’s career.
Margarito was caught attempting to commit the sport’s mortal sin. While we see more and more fighters getting caught and later forgiven for putting illegal substances in their bodies, there is no such forgiveness for putting anything illegal in their gloves.
When people look back at Shane Mosley’s career, many will ask what could have been. For all of the great moments Mosley experienced in the ring, his business decisions never allowed his career to gain the momentum needed to be a cross-over star. In the fights leading up to his bout with Margarito one thing was clear. A busy Mosley = a dangerous Mosley. Yet, after defeating Margarito he chose to sit and wait…and wait for a big fight to materialize. When Mosley finally signed to face Andre Berto in a unification bout; the hurricane in Haiti caused the fight to be cancelled.
When Mosley finally got the big fight he desired against Floyd Mayweather, he entered the ring after a 15-month layoff. Mosley had his last great moment when he wobbled Mayweather in the opening round, but Mayweather dominated the rest of the bout.
A sleep-inducing draw against Sergio Mora was followed by decision losses to Pacquiao and Canelo Alvarez. Following the Alvarez bout, Mosley announced his retirement. Like many fighters, that did not stick, and he was momentarily in discussions to face Paulie Malignaggi for a welterweight belt. That bout is currently falling apart at the negotiating table.
As much as I would love to see Mosley end his career with a victory, my biggest fear is what would happen if he won a title. One could see why Mosley would be tempted to challenge Malignaggi. No one wants to see who/what would be waiting for him in the event he would be successful.
As for this writer, I am enjoying the moment each day when I realize that I need to go to the store for something I never thought I would buy for myself. I was pleasantly surprised by how conveniently packaged I was able to find a set of Tupper-ware. I will soon begin my search to find a puppy worthy of dragging me around my development with a plastic bag on my hand. And I will continue to search for the next fighter that will inspire me to travel 3,000 miles to cover.
Jason Pribila is a full member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He could be reached for questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed at twitter.com @PribsBoxing.