One struggles for the correct description of the strategy Shane Mosley says he will use to defeat Antonio Margarito. “Bold?” “Counter-intuitive?” “Crazy?” “Recipe for a career-ending beat down?”
Saturday night on HBO, the pair—two of the top three welterweights in the world—square off in the biggest fight yet to be officially placed on the 2009 calendar.
The aging Mosley, 37 is a Hall of Famer in waiting, but Margarito, boxing’s version of the Terminator, is in his prime at age 30. Given their respective assets and the different stages of their careers, it might make sense for Mosley to try to keep his distance and outbox Margarito.
But to hear him tell it, Mosley, a KO artist at lightweight with solid power for a welterweight, is going to knockout Margarito. Yes, that Margarito – the guy with a head made of adamantium who genuinely seems to think it’s hilarious when someone hits him hard.
Mosley says he will match Margarito on the inside, swapping body punch for body punch. Instead of counting sheep, Margarito probably drifts to sleep these days fantasizing about Mosley stepping into close quarters. For a tall fighter, Margarito unconventionally loves luring opponents inside.
Whatever phrase best describes the Mosley strategy, it is not as if those who consider Mosley a live underdog – as opposed to promoter Lou DiBella, who said last year that “Margarito would put Shane in a pine box” – can’t find attributes Mosley has that could offset the strengths of Margarito.
Mosley has speed. Margarito doesn’t. Mosley can move laterally. Margarito is flat-footed. Margarito’s ability to take a punch is inhuman, but Mosley owns a nice pair of whiskers himself. Hardly anybody matches Margarito in the stamina department, but even at his age, Mosley has shown in his last two fights he is just as formidable in the 1st and 12th rounds (even when he doesn’t use steroids, which he has admitted he did in 2003, unwittingly, against Oscar De La Hoya).
And it’s not as if boxers haven’t ever successfully used strategies critics decried beforehand as hare-brained. Hardly anyone believed Kelly Pavlik a couple years ago when he said he step into fearsome puncher Edison Miranda and overpower him while pushing him back on his heels, but he did exactly that. Nor has much of anyone, not even bodypunchaholic Miguel Cotto, tested Margarito’s ability to withstand shots to the ribs.
But some of the qualities that give Mosley a chance against Margarito would be neutralized by his strategy, and it’s a strategy that sounds particularly ill-suited for Margarito. What good is speed and lateral movement on the inside? And why even go there if Margarito is so comfortable when he doesn’t have to chase his man?
Making matters worse, Mosley lacks some of the attributes that Paul Williams and Joshua Clottey used to trouble Margarito – size and excellent defense, respectively. And Mosley’s mountain of distractions coming into this fight are daunting: a fallout with his father-trainer; unspecified marital difficulties with his wife-manager; ongoing questions over newspaper revelations about his steroid use.
Maybe Mosley is just trying to build up the fight. But Mosley can’t help himself – he loves to brawl, even when he can simply box his way to victory. He probably means what he says.
If he honors his word, Margarito-Mosley will be a thrill ride for a few rounds. But if Mosley doesn’t succeed with his approach, and doesn’t adjust in time, it could get ugly fast. Then, Mosley won’t be a live underdog. He’ll be a dead duck.
(Read a longer preview by this author at The Queensberry Rules.)