Oscar De La Hoya has had vivid explanations for his defeats—you would be disappointed in any boxer who didn't—but his loss to Shane Mosley in a unanimous 12-round decision at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas last Saturday fired his imagination in a way neither of his other two defeats had. Presuming a widespread conspiracy that somehow (against all logic) singled him out, the onetime Golden Boy declared his intention to launch a probe that could bring boxing to its knees, which is very nearly where he was at the end of this WBA-WBC superwelterweight title bout.
Appearing at a postfight news conference with a big puffy piece of gauze decorating his right eye, the otherwise dapper De La Hoya declared he was going to deploy his considerable "financial resources to putting the best lawyers on this, to my fullest power, to put on an investigation."
This was a remarkable charge, especially in Las Vegas, where De La Hoya is regarded as such a hometown favorite that his opponents dread being at the mercy of the judges' scorecards. Every fighter, justified or not, girds himself for disappointment here. Jack Mosley, Shane's father and trainer, even invoked the bias in his corner instructions. "We're in Vegas," he told his fighter during the later rounds, "not Staples Center [in L.A., the site of the first fight between the two]. You gotta at least knock him down."
Mosley, now 39-2, never did knock De La Hoya (36-3) down, and he certainly didn't dominate him. But he did curry favor with the judges by landing the harder punches, beginning in the ninth round and culminating in a vicious 12th that had De La Hoya nearly dead on his feet, his mouth gaping horribly, only his heart keeping him upright. The fight was arguably closer than their first bout three years ago, when Mosley outpointed De La Hoya in a split decision to take his welterweight title (a loss De La Hoya blamed on bad oysters he had eaten the day before the bout). But Saturday's decision hardly calls for a congressional inquiry.
It's unfortunate that the fight, between two boxers who respect each other so much, should now be remembered for wild accusations, and not as the bout that restored two wobbly reputations. Mosley, of course, was almost out of the picture, having failed to capitalize on his upset victory over De La Hoya in 2000. Mosley subsequently lost twice to Vernon Forrest (who was beaten in turn, twice, by Ricardo Mayorga) and, for all his onetime promise, hadn't won a fight in 26 months.
De La Hoya himself had lingered in disgrace after the Mosley fight (there was still dismay about his failure to press his advantage over F�lix Trinidad in the late rounds, which resulted in his first loss, in 1999) and had only last year regained fan approval with a violent knockout of Fernando Vargas. Entering the rematch with Mosley, he was thought to be a man on a mission, on his way to completing a dramatic final go-around before retiring.
But even though De La Hoya was clearly moving more and boxing better in Vegas than he had in their first fight, it was quickly apparent that he would not be able to walk through Mosley. De La Hoya scored well and often with his jab, but Mosley's punches, especially right hands to the ribs, seemed to be having an effect. "He took my speed and volume away," said Mosley afterward, "all I had left was strength."
In the ninth round, Mosley simply beat up the 30-year-old De La Hoya. And this was after Mosley had bloodied Oscar's brow with an accidental head butt in the fourth.
The problem, for both broadcasters and losing fighters who have too much access to (or belief in) ringside punch stats, is that De La Hoya won the numbers game, if not the actual hurting game, landing 221 punches to Mosley's 127. (He was also guaranteed $175 million for the bout, to Mosley's $4.5 million.) In announcing his investigation, De La Hoya even read the numbers off for reporters, as if they were proof enough of conspiracy. However judges (and ringside reporters) do not have access to these numbers and consequently scored the fight differently. In coming to identical 115-113 scores, the three judges seemed to have seen the same fight, all three giving Mosley the final four rounds. Many reporters at ringside agreed.
For all the good it will do him, De La Hoya would have been a better sportsman if he'd eaten bad oysters and complained about them (or not eaten them and complained) than he was as he accused judges and a state boxing commission of joining in a conspiracy that even he couldn't put his finger on. If he follows through with his sore-loser-of-the-new-millennium probe, everybody's going to be sick to their stomachs this time.