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Margarito-Mosley might not be the mismatch it appears to be

Fighters Network

Shane Mosley (right) got the job done against Ricardo Mayorga in his last fight, scoring a 12th-round knockout, but looked all of his 37 years. Photo / Tom

A typical reaction to the announcement that Antonio Margarito would face Shane Mosley on Jan. 24 in Los Angeles was: “Oh no.”

Margarito is coming off the signature victory of his long career, an 11-round demolition of then-unbeaten Miguel Cotto in July. The strong, indefatigable Mexican became a star that night and seems to be at his peak.

Mosley is coming off a shaky performance against fast-fading Ricardo Mayorga that ended with Mayorga flat on his back, a 12th-round knockout victim. Mosley looked all of his 37 years in spite of the victory.

Plus, the same Cotto who collapsed under Margarito’s relentless pressure narrowly outpointed Mosley prior to the Mayorga fight.

It all seems so obvious: Margarito, a younger (30 years old), stronger fighter on top of his game, will wear down an aging, overmatched opponent and either stop him or win a one-sided decision.

Is it really that simple, though? A minority, it seems, suggests that Margarito might have a style well-suited for Mosley at this point in his career.

Mosley did have trouble against Mayorga. He attributed it to a nasty blister on his foot, a significant natural size disadvantage and Mayorga’s wild, awkward style. Mosley also appeared to be leery of Mayorga’s considerable power, which he tasted shortly after the opening bell.

However, most would agree that the biggest factor was age. The four-time world champion certainly isn’t as quick as he once was, in terms of both hand and foot speed.

That’s one reason Margarito might be the right opponent for Mosley. The WBA welterweight champion isn’t particularly quick himself and comes directly at his opponents, which means Mosley will be able to land punches and won’t have to chase down Margarito. Mosley also has a lot more experience than Cotto, which should work in his favor.

If the durable Mosley can withstand the constant pressure, as Cotto ultimately couldn’t, then anything is possible.

Los Angeles-based trainer Rudy Hernandez, who has known Mosley (45-5, 38 knockouts) since his amateur days, is among those who believe the challenger will surprise the champion – and the boxing world – at Staples Center in less than two weeks.

Hernandez described Margarito (37-5, 27 KOs) as more predictable, more “mechanical” than Mayorga.

“I think Margarito is far from being a great fighter,” said Hernandez, the brother of former champion Genaro Hernandez. “He’s a hard-working fighter, not the most talented. ÔǪ This is no secret: As long as you eliminate (Margarito’s) left uppercut, you’ll do well.

“That’s the difference between Cotto and Shane. When he went inside, Cotto crouched down and was open for the uppercut. Shane rarely does that; he’s pretty much a straight-up fighter. That’ll be the big difference in this fight.”

Hernandez, a junior welterweight when he fought in the 1970s, said he expects Mosley to build a lead early in the fight – when Margarito seems to be most vulnerable — and then hang on in the final rounds.

“I think it’ll be very important for Shane to win the early rounds,” he said. “If he can win five or six of the first seven rounds, I think he’ll be in good shape. As every rounds goes by, Margarito gets more comfortable. He does finish strong.

“I see it as a very competitive fight. I just lean toward Shane to win a split decision.”

The majority of experts see it differently.

Mosley hasn’t won a world title fight since he outpointed Oscar De La Hoya in 2003. And he admitted to have taken steroids before that fight, meaning his last legitimate title-fight victory was against Adrian Stone in 2001.

Can he really be expected to win his fifth title now against a relatively young monster like Margarito?

“I think Mosley is going to get knocked out,” said former welterweight champion Carlos Palomino. “Cotto put a lot of pressure on him. I just think with Margarito, the pressure will be even more intense. And Shane can’t move like he used to; he doesn’t have the same escapability.

“I think Cotto is a bigger puncher than Shane and he couldn’t make a dent on Margarito. I was shocked how many punches Margarito took right on the chin from Cotto and it didn’t even move him. I don’t think Shane can hurt him.

“Margarito is the bigger, stronger, younger guy. That’s a lot to overcome.”

Either way, the fans seem to be interested.

Staples Center opened its upper-concourse seats on Tuesday because of brisk ticket sales, an indication that a match up between one of the hottest boxing figures in the world and a certain Hall of Famer who can still fight is at the very least intriguing.

And who knows? With a recent spate of upsets – Bernard Hopkins-Kelly Pavlik and Manny Pacquiao-De La Hoya, for example – maybe they smell another shocker.

Michael Rosenthal can be reached at [email protected]