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The bout was gentlemanly enough that the two fighters embraced before the final round, not just after. But the civility, perhaps even the affection, did not overly influence the already high level of desperation between bells. Both Shane Mosley and Winky Wright fought as though their lives depended on it during that decisive round of their super welterweight bout at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas last Saturday night, and the fact that they minded their manners throughout simply speaks to their professionalism. It was, in any case, an excellent example of sportsmanship.
And not a bad fight, either. Had just one more judge scored Round 12 for Mosley--a round that was truly up and down--the fight would have ended in a majority draw. And nobody would have been disappointed. As it was, Wright emerged with a majority decision, keeping his titles and avoiding a lifetime of remorse, as in: Now, why did I give Shane that rematch?
Wright had given Mosley the shot because eight months ago Mosley had made the somewhat sporting decision to take on the so-called International Man of Misery when nobody else would. Wright, who had spent most of his career fighting in Europe, won that fight easily and vaulted into boxing's elite for his effort. "If it wasn't for Shane," he admitted after Saturday's bout, "I'd still be fighting on ESPN, probably in West Virginia somewhere."
Mosley, who had become everybody's favorite as a lightweight, has been less popular as he moved up in weight. Except for a pair of decisions over Oscar De La Hoya, whose number he seems to have, he has mainly struggled. The first bout with Wright was disastrous enough in his mind that he fired his longtime trainer, who happened to also be his father. Whether replacing Jack Mosley with Joe Goossen was a factor in his rejuvenation is anybody's guess. But there's no denying Shane was more effective this time around.
Mosley had trouble with the southpaw's jab and, like everybody else, only rarely penetrated Wright's defense. But when Mosley pressed forward, particularly in the fifth round, when he punched through Wright's high hands, he showed he could still be dangerous. That round was almost a turning point, with Wright deciding to drop his hands and show just how game he was, taking two punches to the jaw to make his case. But Wright stiffened his defense again in the later rounds and Mosley once more had difficulty getting through with his punches.
"I didn't think he'd be standing at the end," said Mosley, who was pleased with his improvement over the first fight and not at all discouraged about his prospects. Even though he's won only one of his last six fights, he still proved there's gas in the tank. Goossen said he couldn't wait to get Mosley back into the gym "and [matched up] against a righthander."
It's Wright's future that is problematic. There was a reason he was on everybody's back burner for years, and just because he has become a little bit of a name now, not many fighters are suddenly going to risk their fortunes in a fight with him. "I want Tito now," he said, invoking the 160-pound money-maker F�lix Trinidad. "It's time to get paid."
Trinidad, the sport's hottest fighter since ending his retirement in October, may choose return fights with Bernard Hopkins or Oscar De La Hoya instead. He'd get paid more and wouldn't have to fight a lefthander who never drops his hands (except for the fun of it, of course).