posted by Large
Our man Faust from Minnesota was right to point out in the comments to my piece last night that I should have devoted a little more ink to Sugar Shane, because after all it was his night. He brought the pain to Margarito, stood his ground like a man’s man’s man, and pretty much fought a flawless fight all around.
The thing is, where (like many of you I imagine) I was absolutely shocked by Margarito’s performance, I can’t say I was surprised in the least by Shane’s excellence. Shane is always excellent. He’s a consummate professional , always in tremendous shape, always fighting with intelligence and urgency, and always going for the throat when the opportunity presents itself.
It was the indisputable fact of the first two items on that list above that started me thinking he could beat Margs. He outlasted Cotto in a meat-grinder of a war, and so maybe, I thought, he can go the distance in a similar war with Margarito. And his ring-smarts are impeccable, on a par with Bernard’s, so maybe, going up against a guy who has so many holes in his game like Tony, he’ll combine the exact right approach with the discipline to execute it and get the job done.
The third item on the list, though, was what ultimately tipped my prognostification towards Margarito. Shane has never been able to stay out of the el mas macho sweepstakes, even when it behooved him to do so. He has a warrior’s heart and when someone starts smacking him around, he smacks back with authority. We saw that in the first six rounds of his fight with Cotto, six rounds of simply unfathomable boxing skill and will on display that was all-out nuclear war until Mosley, in a self-protective move, finally backed off from the onslaught.
Given that propensity, I imagined that no matter what his game-plan going in, eventually Shane would stay in the pocket with Margs and bang with him, and indeed he did just that. There was a very telling moment in the third round where Shane was trading bombs with Margarito in the center of the ring, and in the crowd, Bernard (who was going apeshit all night) was standing and screaming to him and motioning with his hands, ‘TIE HIM UP! TIE HIM UP!â€ (Meanwhile, just back and to Hopkins’ right, Jerry Ferrara, ‘Eâ€ on Entourage, was motioning to Bernard and cracking up with his buddies.) Clearly, BHop was privy to Mosley’s plan of three-punches-and-grab-him-when-he-gets-close, and he saw his man straying from the path of righteousness straight into the lion’s maw.
And here is where I have no choice but to turn back to the condition of Margarito, because this lion just was not the lion of yore. I don’t think for a moment that in pointing that out I’m taking anything away from what Shane did last night. He fought the only man who came to fight him and gave that man a grade-A beatdown. Mission accomplished and with gusto.
But I do tend to think, given the way things were going, that the Margarito who fought Cotto would have made last night’s fight much more interesting than it ultimately was. After pitching a predictable shutout for six rounds, Shane’s workrate started to slow down in the seventh, and Margs seemed briefly emboldened. Beside me in the press box, a young Mexican writer who had despaired of Margarito’s chances from the moment he stepped in the ring (‘Why is he so skinny?â€ he yelled, ‘he looks terrible!â€), found his first reason to cheer, as did the crowd, and when the bell rang, in the eyes of many (Harold Lederman included) Margarito had won his first round in the fight.
I didn’t see it that way myself. I thought Shane still tipped the seventh with clean punches (every round, in my memory, ended with Shane planting a big right hand on Margs’ kisser), but I did see it as close, and I wondered. I had noted very early on that Margarito looked gaunt and weak, and after the way the first six rounds went, it was hard to imagine that he could rally. But then in the seventh, he found another gear and landed some of his best shots in the fight (one which Mosley said in the presser hurt him the most he was hurt all night). Shane seemed less able to keep Margarito tied up in his clutches, and everything started to look more according to script. Maybe, I thought, Margarito truly is superhuman, and on a night that appeared to not be his night, he was still going to manage to turn the tables by the sheer force of his will.
That was where his weakness came in, however, because where he was able to eat all of Cotto’s bombs and still dig deep late in the fight, last night he spent a round and a half in his extra, grinding gear and the next thing he knew, he was ready for a knockout. Granted, Shane was landing ungodly shots, even bigger than the ones that Cotto landed at his best (the leaping left hook that finally put Margs down in the 8th was a thing of engineering beauty), but still, as we’ve seen, Margarito in top shape can eat any number of ungodly shots. You combine those with complete physical enervation, however, and there you go. Margarito finito.
I admit that I was ever so slightly disappointed, though it was a satisfying spectacle, no doubt. But I felt robbed of a classic, the same way I felt when whatever happened to Cotto in his fight with Mosley caused him to back off late in the fight and go into a defensive, evasive mode. Of these three high-octane welterweight wars, only in Margs/Cotto do I feel like we saw both men in prime condition see the thing all the way through to the kill. You have to hand it to Margs for going out there in the ninth rather than letting his corner stop it (straight-up Mexican to the last , ‘tonight I am the bull, and the matador has wonâ€¦ so gimme the goddamn muleta alreadyâ€), but this thing was over midway through the 8th when he ran out of gas. I would have liked to see Margarito at full capacity take the fight late and make it interesting in that patented Tony Margs way, but alas. He didn’t have it in him, and what’s more, Mosley was just too good.
I’m about to land in Oakland, so I’m going to wrap this thing up. Again I find myself at the end of a long piece and I still haven’t gotten to either the hand-wraps question or the future for both fighters. I’ll try and do that this week. These three welterweights, yo , Margarito, Mosley and Cotto , they’ve given us a hell of a lot to chew on over the last few years. I find them endlessly interesting.