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Friday, Sept. 19, 2003

SPORTS SCOPE

Decision time for De La Hoya after defeat


We have all had the feeling in life.

Jack Gallagher

No matter what you do, no matter how hard you try, there is that one person you just can't beat.

Whether it is at work, school or play, you come up second best. Not for lack of trying, but because sometimes, it just isn't meant to be.

That must be how the "Golden Boy" Oscar De La Hoya is feeling today.

With the stage all set for him to avenge his loss of three years ago to "Sugar" Shane Mosley in their WBC super welterweight title fight in Las Vegas on Saturday night, it looked as if the matinee idol from East Los Angeles was going to continue his recent streak of impressive bouts with another conquest.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the post-fight victory party -- De La Hoya lost.

This is why they have the fights and play the games, because what something looks like on paper is totally different once the event actually begins.

The imagined script goes out the window and real life takes over, and frequently, people make mistakes.

News photo
Day of reckoning: Oscar De La Hoya sits on his stool before the 12th round of his super welterweight title fight against Shane Mosley.

De La Hoya, the defending champion, looked as if he had a good thing going against Mosley until the fourth round. De La Hoya was the aggressor, and on my scorecard at home, had won two of the first three rounds, with the other being even.

But in a flash, Mosley clipped De La Hoya over the right eye with an unintentional head butt, causing blood to come pouring out -- and the ringside doctor to examine it -- and the fight changed.

Though he did not seem to be overtly bothered by the cut, which wasn't a major injury, De La Hoya, an Olympic gold medalist in Barcelona in 1992, lost the momentum and never regained it.

Including the fourth round, I had him winning only three rounds the rest of the way.

I had the fight scored as a draw -- which is what Mosley told De La Hoya he thought the result would be when the match ended -- and that would have seen De La Hoya, a five-time world champion, retain his title.

But all three ringside judges scored it 115-113 for Mosley, and thus a new champion was crowned. Not a moment too soon for Mosley, who had not won a fight for 26 months.

Both De La Hoya and promoter Bob Arum said afterward that they wanted an investigation into the scoring, but that came across as sour grapes. They both made a huge amount of money off the fight, but didn't care for the result.

There is an old adage in boxing that you "have to beat up the champion to take his belt" and I didn't see that in this fight. That is why I thought it was a draw and De La Hoya would hang on to the title.

De La Hoya's face was swollen when the fight ended, and Mosley looked relatively unmarked, but there were no knockdowns and neither fighter ever appeared to be in serious trouble during the 12-round battle.

When they fought three years ago in Los Angeles, De La Hoya built up a lead on points early and tried to coast the rest of the way home.

But Mosley was the aggressor in the latter half of that fight, when De La Hoya was clearly trying to stay away from him, and the judges gave a split decision to Mosley.

This time, De La Hoya was the aggressor early, but Mosley took over after the head butt, and De La Hoya just couldn't figure out how to beat him.

Over the years, De La Hoya has been knocked for not liking to mix it up -- which he had done well in recent victories over Fernando Vargas and Yory Boy Campas -- but against Mosley he seemed more content to counterpunch than to mount an attack.

The post-fight CompuBox stats -- punches thrown (616-496), landed (221-127) and connect percentage (36 percent to 26 percent) -- all favored De La Hoya, but the human eye can often see something a computer cannot, and that is why judges, and not computers, decide fights.

Mosley, 32, raised his record to 39-2 with the victory, while the 30-year-old De La Hoya dropped to 36-3.

De La Hoya said following the weigh-in for the bout that he would retire if he lost, certainly thinking there was no way he would.

But he has, and now with plenty of money (he earned $17 million for this fight) in the bank and his faculties still intact, he has to decide whether to stand by his word and walk away, or become another in the long line of fighters who kept coming back, even though their best days were clearly behind them.



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