Margarito had no plan
Antonio Margarito (right), here pursuing the elusive yet offensively accurate Shane Molsey, tried hard as he always does but the now-former titleholder had no plan and no answer for the 37-year-old veteran's strategy, quickness and guts. Photo / Tom Hogan-hoganphotos.com
LOS ANGELES – Sometimes being tough is not enough.
Antonio Margarito found that out the hard way against Shane Mosley Saturday night in front of more than 20,000 fans in Staples Center.
The vast majority of those fans bought their tickets to see the coronation of the new king of Mexican boxing.
Instead, they witnessed a brutally one-sided beheading.
And it was the younger, bigger, and perceived stronger fighter who ultimately got his head cut off by an aging former champ whose best days were thought to be behind him.
Against the ever-advancing Margarito, Mosley turned in his best tactical performance since he shocked the boxing world in the same arena 8¾ years ago by out-boxing and out-hustling Oscar De La Hoya.
What happened to Margarito? He didn’t just get beat. He got beat up, dropped in the eighth round and completely overwhelmed in the opening seconds of the ninth.
Mosley, a 3-to-1 underdog, shocked the experts again.
How did he do it? Was Margarito (37-6, 27 knockouts) overrated?
Not his toughness, or his conditioning, and certainly not his heart.
Margarito simply got in the ring with a fighter who was just as tough, just as conditioned and just as courageous. And he got caught without a game plan.
“I won the fight with my strategy,” said Mosley (46-5, 39 KOs).
“When you have a great game plan and an excellent athlete everything works out well,” said Naazim Richardson, Mosley’s new trainer.
What was Margarito’s game plan? He didn’t have one. He didn’t think he would need one.
Margarito’s mantra coming into Saturday’s fight was that his preparation would be his key to victory. Supreme conditioning, plus a world-class chin that was beginning to gain legendary status among hardcore boxing buffs, would overcome greater talent and any style challenge.
It’s a good theory; one that has usually worked for the Tijuana tough guy over the past 15 years of his hard-road journey from opponent to prospect to contender and finally world title holder.
Following his brutally dramatic come-from-behind victory over highly respected Miguel Cotto last July, Margarito was teetering on Mexican idol status.
The Margarito-Mosley fight packed more fans in Staples Center than any other event in the arena’s history. Those were Margarito’s fans.
He earned their loyalty by stubbornly marching through the best punches of a dozen Top-10 welterweight contenders and usually giving a lot worse than he got.
But against Mosley – who was able to hold Margarito in close and even walk the stalker back late in the fight – heart, conditioning and a rock-solid chin wasn’t enough.
Mosley had a plan.
The 37-year-old veteran did a masterful job of beating Margarito to the punch from the outside, teeing off with head-twisting power hooks and overhand rights from mid-range and then tying up the Mexican mauler to prevent him from gaining any momentum in-between his offensive bursts.
Margarito did what he always does. He smiled when he was hit with a good shot and he kept coming forward.
Mosley peppered him with jabs and quick one-two combinations.
Margarito kept coming forward.
Mosley raked his elongated torso with body shots.
Margarito kept coming forward.
Mosley loaded up with and repeatedly landed powerful right hands with
Margarito kept coming forward.
Why not? His chin had always held out before.
Even in the fights Margarito has lost in recent years – to Daniel Santos and Paul Williams – his relentless pressure and incredible stamina dominated the late rounds and made for close and competitive bouts.
Not this time. Not against Mosley, who literally grew up fighting and sparring with hardnosed Mexican pressure fighters like Margarito.
After easily beating Margarito to the punch in the first four rounds, Mosley looked right at home exchanging uppercuts and right hands with the feared 30-year-old titleholder in the middle rounds of the bout.
By the sixth round, Margarito seemed unsure of himself. He was no longer letting his hands go with abandon and Mosley, perhaps smelling blood, began to apply pressure.
In the eighth round, after absorbing a few hard rights, Mosley missed with an uppercut but followed up with a left as Margarito backed up. Mosley then exploded with hook-cross combinations that staggered Margarito as he reeled into the ropes and went down for only the second time in his career.
Mosley wasted no time closing the show in the ninth round, jumping on his wounded prey and forcing the proud corner of a very proud fighter to throw in the towel and end the contest 43 seconds into the round.
“Something happened in the first round,” said Margarito’s trainer Javier Capetillo. “He didn’t seem to be responding properly. He was too slow and he kept getting hit with the overhand right.
“It was frustrating to watch.”
It was also surreal.
Fans are used to seeing Margarito absorb hard shots, often flush on the chin. They aren’t used to seeing him hurt.
Those who gave Mosley a shot at winning Saturday’s fight thought he’d do so by cleverly out-boxing, out-maneuvering and out-pointing Margarito. They didn’t think Mosley would flat-out kick Margarito’s butt.
Nobody thought Margarito would get knocked out.
But maybe fans and the boxing media should have seen this coming.
All of boxing’s great chins – from Evander Holyfield to Julio Cesar Chavez – eventually give out.
Margarito finished his two stoppage victories last year so impressively that observers tend to forget about the numerous clean power shots to the head that he took from heavy-handed Puerto Rican titleholders Kermit Cintron and Cotto.
It’s too early to tell, but there’s a chance that Margarito will never be the same.
Fans will find out whether Margarito has anything left when he and Cotto go at it again in a proposed rematch in June.
If that fight happens (first Cotto has to get by Michael Jennings next month), hopefully Margarito enters the ring with more than just his chin and his heart to rely on.
Doug Fischer can be reached at [email protected]