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Shane Mosley and Guillermo Jones: A great weekend for the fortysomethings

By Graham Houston

Ever noticed that the best fights are seldom the PPV main events? Last weekend saw three compelling contests, each tense and dramatic in its own way.

First, let’s take a look at Sugar Shane Mosley, who gave almost a vintage performance in outpointing Pablo Cesar Cano on his opponent’s home ground in Cancun, Mexico, on Saturday night (Fox Deportes).

You’ll sometimes hear older people say “Age is just a number” but fighters such as Mosley, Bernard Hopkins of course and Guillermo Jones (more on Jones later) make you start believing it.

Obviously, at the age of 41 Mosley isn’t the dynamic force he was seven years ago when he knocked out Fernando Vargas in their rematch, but Sugar Shane showed he can still fight. His jab was working well and he landed heavy right hands on top and some good left hooks to the body. Mosley, I thought, looked strong and sharp at 147 pounds as he captured the WBC International welterweight title.

Cano, 23, is a capable boxer with a good jab and nice hand speed, and this was one of those nip-and-tuck fights in which there was never very much between the two boxers.

Mosley was dominating when he had Cano backing up. He bloodied Cano’s nose with the jab and he seemed to be landing the heavier blows. Mosley’s reactions are perhaps a little slower and his attack isn’t quite as insistent, but this was a solid and determined showing, and Mosley was clearly in tremendous condition.

Concern in both corners illustrated the fact that neither camp was confident that the fight was going their way, but trainer Jack Mosley’s impassioned instructions brought the best out of his son.

I thought that Mosley might be letting the fight slip away when a combination sent his mouthpiece spinning to the canvas in the 11th round, but Sugar Shane finished strongly in the 12th to pull out the close but unanimous decision, 115-113 across the board. The way Mosley came on in the 12th reminded me that Sugar Shane’s surging final round earned him the split decision win over Oscar De La Hoya in a fight I saw from ringside at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Thirteen years later — and admittedly at a much lower level of competition — Mosley showed he can still turn it on when a fight’s outcome hinges on the final three minutes.

Another ageing fighter, Guillermo Jones, outlasted and overwhelmed Denis Lebedev in an amazing fight in Moscow to become WBA cruiserweight champion.

Jones is 41 but he keeps himself in tiptop condition (although he will never have one of those ripped physiques), and inactivity might have worked in his favour to an extent by preserving him from gruelling fights.

Lebedev showed great heart, but by the later rounds the right side of his face had taken on what old-time writers would have called a “gargoyle appearance” and it was a relief to me when the Russian fighter took a knee to be counted out in the 11th round. Although Lebedev was in front on the scorecards one sensed that his resistance was slowly ebbing, like sand through an hourglass, in an unrelenting war of attrition.

While Lebedev ultimately caved in, he had amply demonstrated his courage. Lebedev was, in fact, brave beyond the call of duty, and very tough, but the sort of facial damage he suffered can take a toll mentally on a fighter not to mention the physical discomfort. Lebedev couldn’t see anything coming at him from the right side, he was getting hit hard in every round, and he was faced with an opponent who just wouldn’t go away, no matter how hard Lebedev hit him. It all became a little too much for him.

Jones showed a tremendous chin, because Lebedev hit him with some big shots from the Russian boxer’s southpaw stance, yet although the Panamanian veteran was rocked time and again he never looked like going down — and always Jones came back, driving in his own punches, switching to the southpaw stance and scoring well from that posture.

Something, someone, had to give, and finally it was Lebedev who “gave” — but in an honourable fashion. No one could have asked more from Lebedev than he gave in that ring in Moscow.

I would have preferred it had the referee, Stanley Christodoulou, stopped the fight a round earlier, the way Joe Cortez waved off the first Fernando Vargas-Shane Mosley fight, in the 10th round, when Vargas suffered a similar haematoma to Lebedev’s.

The problem, though, was that Lebedev was landing heavy blows almost to the very end.

There was always the chance that even the iron-chinned Jones might finally “go” — and Lebedev was obviously at the very least “in” the fight as regards points scoring.

In the live wagering on the fight, Lebedev was, believe it or not, a -800 favourite at the end of the 10th round, so the members of the sporting fraternity obviously felt that, despite his horribly battered appearance, Lebedev was on his way to victory.

This was a world championship fight and Lebedev wasn’t out of the fight, so I can understand why the referee didn’t intervene, although as a former boxer himself, I would have thought that Kostya Tszyu, Lebedev’s trainer, might have pulled the plug a round or two before the end, even if Lebedev himself professed a desire to keep fighting.

As if all this wasn’t enough, veteran Edgar Sosa gave a gritty display of cool, intelligent boxing under constant pressure to win a hard-fought but well-deserved, unanimous decision over Giovani Segura in an all-Mexico flyweight fight on Saturday (Box Azteca).

This fight was so exciting that the rounds seemed to fly past. Segura just kept coming forward, winging heavy blows from the southpaw posture, with brief switches to the orthodox stance. There aren’t many more crowd-pleasing fighters in the game than Segura. He really lives up to his Aztec Warrior moniker.

While Segura missed with many punches, he did his share of landing, battering Sosa to the body but being docked a point for low blow. Sosa, 33, was providing the technically correct boxing, scoring with the jab and the straight right hand, but Segura was avidly pursuing him in every round. Sosa’s superior boxing skills won him the fight, but Segura, I thought, enhanced his reputation in defeat — he never stopped trying to win, and one judge had just a one-point difference between the boxers at the final bell.

In the big fight of the weekend in the U.S., Lucas Matthysse blew through Lamont Peterson more easily than anyone expected — including, as he confessed afterwards, Matthysse himself. I usually have the Showtime commentary on mute — or barely audible — these days, but I liked Paulie Malignaggi’s post-fight comment that Matthysse doesn’t just have power but “scary power”.

I thought that Matthysse only half-hit Peterson with the left hook high on the head that caused the first knockdown of the bout, in the second round. Peterson really got nailed, though, by the left hook that dropped him heavily in the third round, when he started his own, rather wide left hook and got beaten to the punch. Moments later Peterson went over again, and that was it.

These days we talk about fighters “making statements”, and Matthysse, in knocking out Peterson in three rounds, made a big statement. Whether or not he is the new Manny Pacquiao — Argentinean style — as promoter Richard Schaefer asserts, remains to be seen, but Matthysse is certainly exciting, and anyone who saw this latest KO win will want to see him again, sooner rather than later.

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