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LOS ANGELES – Speed is the difference at the highest level of nearly every professional sport.
Never was that more evident than in Saturday's championship welterweight boxing match at Staples Center, where Shane Mosley was always at least two gears ahead of defending champion Antonio Margarito.
Margarito had an arena-record crowd of 20,820 overwhelmingly in his favor, but Mosley's stunningly wide advantage in hand speed was such that it, and not the throaty crowd, was the difference in the fight for the WBA title.
Mosley (46-5) stopped Margarito at 43 seconds of the ninth after battering him around the ring for most of the night in what turned out to be an unexpectedly one-sided affair. Judge James Jen-Kin scored it a shutout for Mosley, 80-71. Max DeLuca scored it 79-72, the same as Yahoo! Sports. Nelson Vazquez had it 78-73.
It was clear, though, by the fourth or fifth round that the judges' opinion wouldn't matter in this fight, because Mosley was far too speedy for the tough but lumbering Mexican.
Mosley knocked Margarito (37-6) down with a barrage of punches in the eighth and then finished him off by landing 21 unanswered blows in the ninth. Referee Raul Caiz Sr. was stepping in to stop the bout at the same time as Margarito's corner threw in the towel.
Mosley's new trainer, Nazim Richardson, devised a brilliant game plan that walked Margarito right into Mosley's shots. Mosley, 37, has always been a puncher when he's fought at welterweight and below.
Margarito was getting raked with left hooks and blistering right hands as early as the first minute of the fight, but he just grinned and walked through it. But it was clear he wasn't going to withstand that kind of punishment all night, yet he couldn't reverse the momentum.
There is a statue of Mosley's partner in Golden Boy Promotions, Oscar De La Hoya, in front of Staples Center. But Mosley, who is now 2-0 in the building, probably deserves to have one out front far more than De La Hoya.
Mosley rarely was at risk from Margarito, who was coming off a stirring victory over Miguel Cotto in July. Other than banging heads repeatedly, Margarito rarely caught Mosley with anything resembling a dangerous shot.
"When you have a great game plan and an excellent athlete, then everything works out really well," Richardson said. "He said he was a monster and we conquered the monster. … We turned his pressure against him and killed him with it."
A common strategy against a fighter who is a bully like Margarito is to stop him from coming forward and force him to fight backing up. That was one of the tenets of Evander Holyfield's strategy as a 25-1 underdog against Mike Tyson in 1996.
But Mosley and Richardson brilliantly decided to let Margarito charge. Once Margarito got into punching range, Mosley unleashed the overhand right, which found the range over and over.
Mosley, who had been hounded by the media in the week prior to the fight about his involvement in the BALCO case, surmised he'd be quicker to the punch than Margarito and worked with Richardson to build a plan based on that.
"I kind of went into the fighting thinking the hand speed would be a factor," Mosley said. "I noticed that he tried to stand a little taller than usual. He fought the best he could, but my speed was just too much for him."
Perhaps Margarito knew that, which is why he apparently attempted to resort to an illegal tactic before the fight. He was forced to re-wrap his hands multiple times when Richardson complained.
When the tape on the left hand was cut off at Richardson's insistence before the bout, something that Golden Boy attorney Stephen Espinoza said was a "plaster-like substance" fell out. Richardson retrieved it and then insisted the protection on the right hand be cut. At that point, another one fell out.
Dean Lohuis, the co-interim executive director of the California State Athletic Commission, said the piece was apparently slipped in underneath the legal tape that was already placed on Margarito's hands by trainer Javier Capetillo.
Richardson would not surrender the pieces until Mosley's attorney Judd Burstein arrived in the dressing room. At that point, they were placed in a box, sealed and signed, and given to Lohuis.
"When he put the wrapping on, I asked if I could feel it and when I felt it, I was like, 'Oh my goodness, this is too hard,' " Richardson said. "When the commission flipped the [tape] over, a little block of gauze-like plaster fell out. I said, 'Unwrap the other hand,' and they were saying, 'Oh, oh, the other hand is good.' I asked the commissioner, 'What if I unwrap the other hand at the end of the fight and it falls out of there, too?'
"He made them unwrap it. And when they unwrapped the other hand, another one fell out. It was wet with a little plaster on it."
Richardson could not explain why he didn't see the piece put on Margarito's hand in the first place.
As it turned out, however, all that will do is cause Margarito and Capetillo problems with the athletic commission.
And if he'd fought with it, his hands would have been heavier and, likely, even slower than they were. Mosley's speed won the fight hands down. He just knew he'd have to stave off an onrushing Margarito as the fight moved down the stretch.
"The whole time in the camp, I felt like we could stop him," Richardson said. "But I told Shane we had to be prepared in the 10th, 11th round for Margarito to get down in a three-point stance and come at him like Ray Lewis."
Margarito blitzed Mosley much of the night that way, but Mosley's superior hand speed made him pay a dear price for it.
"Speed," Mosley said, beaming, "does a lot of good things for you."