Saturday, June 10, 2023  |



A night of entertaining twists

Fighters Network

Last Saturday, tickets for the Margarito-Mosley bout afforded a spectacular value, as the crowd attended a double-feature: the fight they expected to see and the fight they eventually saw. In the anticipated showdown, Antonio “The Tijuana Tornado” Margarito outmuscled underdog Shane “Sugar” Mosley to a unanimous decision; soon after, risk-averse bettors on Margarito would be doled out their small rewards; and overnight Tijuana would become Mexico’s prosperous beacon of safety and peace. To the horror of the fans in attendance, the gamblers who played it safe, and the Margarito corner, Mosley refused to comply with a consensus that, at 37 years old, the detriments of age should overshadow the benefits of experience. Mosley dominated the match with footwork that kept the Tijuanan spinning until his ninth round technical knockout. One judge somehow scored multiple rounds for Margarito, serving as evidence that a third fight may have taken place that nobody else had seen.

Mosley, born in Inglewood, was given an icy homecoming at Los Angeles’ downtown Staples Center. Since his victory there in 2000 over Oscar De La Hoya, his career has endured ups and downs of an odyssey challenging him last Saturday to reclaim the glory he earned there nine years ago – to wrest both the WBA welterweight title from Margarito and his reputation back from critics who contended Mosley’s implication in the BALCO steroids scandal had tarnished his legacy. Both Margarito and the critics left the stadium empty-handed. As Mosley told me Tuesday, “I’m cleaning house.” He then, wholly unprompted, turned to the topic of retirement, “When I’m ready to hang it up, I’ll let you know.” Based on how he fought on Saturday, I hope the phone call never comes.

Just 30.9 miles to the southeast at Anaheim’s Honda Center, bigger men were fighting in smaller gloves (for less money) at Affliction’s “Day of Reckoning,” pitting Fedor “The Last Emperor” Emilianenko against Andrei “The Pit Bull” Arlovski for the World Alliance of Mixed Martial Arts Heavyweight Title. Commanding the action in the early going, the former UFC heavyweight champ Arlovski planned to attack Emilianenko with a fearsome arsenal that included a vicious sambo game, a boxing strategy sculpted by legendary trainer Freddie Roach, and a jaw made of the finest Tiffany glass. This last attribute proved fatal about 3:10 into the first round when the Last Emperor threw his fifth and final right hand of the night as Arlovski leaped high in the air seemingly for no better reason than to maximize the knockout’s dramatic effect. With his head barreled down, Emilianenko shattered Arlovski’s chin. The Last Emperor was either looking away from his target and hit it flush – or else missed whatever his target was to a brilliant outcome. Whether with luck or skill, Emilianenko upended the fight’s momentum just as Mosley did to the welterweight rankings. These were both great fights, and the reversals of fortune were a matter of scale.

Bridging these events was Golden Boy Promotions, which had a hand in both fights. The paying public of 12,335 at the Honda Center generated a near-capacity gate in excess of $1.5 million compared to a crowd of over 20,000 at the Staples Center (the most ever for a sporting event in that arena) and a gate in excess of $1.3 million. (The pay-per-view and licensing fees for each event could not as of yet be confirmed.) Having recently abandoned faith in the viability of mixing MMA and boxing fights on a single card, Golden Boy has, however, shown MMA and boxing can coexist in a single economy. Having already scheduled the Affliction pay-per-view event in Anaheim, Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer told me that he had initial reservations about the Staples Center for Margarito-Mosley, “I would be lying if I said I wasn’t concerned about the gate and viewership.” In light of the strong turnouts, however, Golden Boy’s gamble has led Schaefer to believe of the fan bases, “Today there is very little crossover.” This may only hold true should the headlining fights continue to be so strong.

While I do not expect buffs of the sweet science and mixed martial arts to call a ceasefire in their forum discussions anytime in the near future, I do feel Saturday’s dual success proved each art has its own language that appeals to its own audience. Great fights build precisely toward the expectation that they then defy. This is what Emilianenko did with one punch. This is what Mosley did in nine rounds.

Peter Owen Nelson is a free-lance writer based in Los Angeles