Boxing


MOSLEY TKO6 VARGAS: Leaving the Crossroads

16.07.06 – By Karl E. H. Seigfried: Before the action in Las Vegas tonight, HBO commentator Jim Lampley called the rematch between Shane Mosley and Fernando Vargas a “crossroads fight,” just as he had called the original match-up back on February 25th of this year. This begged the question of just how many times a pair of fighters can collect prizefight money battering each other at the crossroads before they’re finally forced to move on down the road. Tonight, both fighters finally put foot to pavement, moving in very different directions.

“Sugar” Shane Mosley, 42-4 (36) going into the fight, came out somewhat cautiously at the opening bell, as did Fernando “El Feroz” Vargas. Mosley quickly went to work, catching Vargas with a light left hand and then body-shots with both the right and left. After insistently complaining to referee Kenny Bayless for a very low blow by Vargas, Mosley landed a clean overhand right to Mosley’s left eye—the eye that had swollen to such grotesque proportions in the first fight, causing the TKO stoppage that Vargas still insists was caused by repeated head-butting, not by the repeated right hands that Mosley, commentators Emanuel Steward & Larry Merchant, referee Joe Cortez, and most of the world thinks caused it.. As the two fighters clinched, both rained body-shots upon each other, as they would throughout the evening. Mosley regularly used his jab to keep Vargas at distance. Throughout the round, “The Aztec Warrior” looked very slow, almost clumsy, in contrast to trainer Danny Smith’s pre-fight insistence that “Fernando’s going to start a lot faster this time” and description of Vargas’ new training methods, supposedly emphasizing speed and lightness over muscular bulk and strength.

During the second round, Mosley continued to jab Vargas away, following the earlier words of his father and once-and-current trainer, Jack Mosley: “I want him to have a good, hard, stiff, jab in the rematch.” In an early clinch in a hold-heavy match, Mosley landed a nice right to the body (as he would do repeatedly) before Vargas was warned for holding or hitting behind the head; a few clinches later Mosley would rock his opponent with a huge right to the body as Vargas was turning to complain to the referee. In subsequent clinches, Vargas landed a strong but glancing blow to the solar plexus and a right to the jaw. Back at distance, Mosley landed a jab and overhand right in a combination that would be repeated throughout the match. At the end of a Mosley-dominated round full of clinching, inside fighting, close-up body-shots, and peppering jabs, Vargas gave Mosley his best mad dog look as they walked past each other at the bell. If only points were awarded for attitude….

Mosley (a former world champion at lightweight, welterweight, and junior middleweight) came out strong in the third, landed two big rights to the head, but was answered by nice right uppercuts from Vargas as they clinched. Mosley kept Vargas at bay with strong jabs as the audience chanted his name, which they had done for his opponent in the previous round. Vargas, 26-3 (22) before the fight, repeatedly came up very short with his jabs, and he seemed to have a bad habit of leaning in as he tried to land. A left-hook/right combination by Mosley was followed by a backing-up jab; this jab continued to defuse Vargas’ attacks and wilt his punches before he could even get them off. The pair traded body shots, but Mosley’s multiple jabs (in groups of three and four) continued to dominate Vargas, whose trainer had earlier insisted that “We’re doubling and tripling the jab, firing the right hand, closing the ring off”—which, unfortunately for Vargas, actually described his opponent’s performance perfectly.

The fourth began with more double and triple Mosley jabs, and the victor of the first fight again proved himself the quicker fighter, ducking way under a gigantic, swooshing Vargas right and following up with his own right to the body. More clinching and body-shots by both men followed, then more jabs by Mosley and a straight left square in the center of Vargas’ gut. Vargas, a former two-time junior middleweight world champion, then landed one of his better punches of the evening—a solid right that turned Mosley’s head on a swivel. The Mosley Jab closed out the round, snapping Vargas’ head back as he seemed to have no answer or defense for his opponent’s accurate left hand. A big right by Mosley put a definite period on the stanza, turning Vargas’ head around right as the bell rang.

The fifth round began as a clinch-fest, Mosley continuing to land body-shots with his right on the inside. Although Vargas unofficially weighed in fourteen pounds heavier than Mosley on fight night, his added bulk didn’t seem to have much effect on the infighting. A solid right by Mosley was answered (after a couple of clinches) by an equally strong right by Vargas, who put a mini-streak together by following up with a couple of straight lefts that snapped back Mosley’s head. As the fighters traded in close, the crowd divided into competing, chanting choirs. For the first time in the fight, blood could be seen coming from a straight vertical cut outside Vargas’ right eye (NOT the eye disfigured in the first fight). Referee Bayless, after separating the clinching boxers, called time for the ring doctor to check out the cut, and ruled it caused by a punch. Mosley finished out the round with a short left hook and three solid jabs. As Vargas nullified the jab by grabbing and pinning Mosley’s left arm, Mosley wailed away with his free right up until the sound of the bell.

Vargas started the sixth round with a head-snapping jab, but was answered by a huge right and strong jab from Mosley. Vargas continued to miss big, leaning into a gigantic overhand right and a jab, but then managed to land a very strong jab of his own. Mosley showed more of his beautiful speed, jabbing and easily ducking Vargas’ slow counters, answering in the negative the assertion by Boxing Monthly’s Graham Houston that, “If Vargas can slow down Mosley and start hitting him consistently he can win”—Vargas could do none of the above. After a missed jab by Vargas, a sweet left hook by Mosley knocked Vargas to the canvas. In his post-fight interview, Mosley said he was thinking, even as he threw his “bounce-back left hook,” of the up-on-his-toes left hook that Oscar De La Hoya used to vanquish Vargas back in 2002, and that “[Vargas] knew I was going for the right hand, so he wasn’t expecting the left hook.” “El Feroz” tried to make it a flash knockdown by attempting to jump immediately to his feet, but he fell back down and continued to struggle as the referee counted in his face. He finally made it up, but Mosley immediately leaped on him and teed off, more like Jack Dempsey than his namesake Ray Robinson. Bayless waved it off, as Vargas was hunched over with no answer and no defense, totally helpless. Sitting morosely on his stool moments later, Vargas’ right eye was bloody, and his left had started to swell.

The TKO was announced as 2:38 of round six, but Vargas has no excuse to argue the “technical” nature of the knockout, as he has been doing for the original fight. Mosley, who has said that he would follow this fight with a move back down to welterweight, could not have given a more dominant performance. He landed exactly twice as many total punches as Vargas (136 versus 68), and almost twice as many power punches (74 versus 47). For the man billed as the powerful puncher, the few punches that Vargas did manage to land didn’t seem to back up Mosley at all, and the victor, although obviously very nervous about the looseness of one of his front teeth after the fight, said, “[Vargas] was a little weaker for this fight than he was for the first fight.”

Mosley finally leaves the crossroads for bigger things, answering Larry Merchant’s question about fighting the current pound-for-pound king by saying, “You never know…Next year would be the perfect opportunity for me to step into the ring with Floyd Mayweather,” but suggesting that the fight be made after the Pretty Boy takes on Antonio Margarito. Vargas is headed off down a very different road, his bravado completely gone after the fight as he quietly said (eerily echoing Mike Tyson after his first loss to Evander Holyfield), “He caught me with a good shot and that was it. I take nothing away from his performance.” Emanuel Steward insisted that Vargas should “definitely, definitely retire.” In the best of worlds, Mosley would go on to fight Mayweather in a cross-generational battle of the spiritual sons of Sugar Ray Robinson and Vargas would give up his proposed move to middleweight and instead go off into a happy and healthy retirement, finally taking care of the swollen fifth lumbar disk in his back. However, this is the boxing world, so you never know….

Article posted on 17.07.2006



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