This won't be a sour grapes column. I had picked "Sugar" Shane Mosley to beat Miguel Cotto last Saturday in Madison Square Garden, and though I personally thought he did have the edge 115-113, I respect the fact that the judges saw it the other way -- 115-113 (twice) and 116-113 for Cotto because the fight was much too close to dispute over such a small difference.
For what it's worth though, the AP scored it 114-114.
It was a classic duel, and scoring rounds was difficult. According to punch stats, both men landed 248 punches, with Cotto throwing 675 and Mosley 774. Mosley outlanded Cotto in power shots 177-150, landing at an impressive 53 percent clip. Somewhat surprisingly, Cotto was the better man with a powerful jab, landing 98-288 compared to a paltry 71-439 for Shane.
While the judges' scores were similar, they disagreed in their scores in seven of the rounds. One judge scored Rounds 6 through 11 for Cotto. Four of the rounds in which they agreed went to Cotto, possibly the difference in such a skin-tight decision.
Each fighter was tagged with equally good shots throughout the bout, and they took them equally well. Mosley seemingly couldn't miss with the right hand, but even when Mosley was digging down deep and gritting his teeth, such as in Round 9, Cotto managed to absorb the shots and was never in serious danger. Cotto laced Mosley with some sizzling shots that might have knocked down a building, but Mosley took them without even changing his demeanor.
Mosley appeared to be a bit tight at the beginning of the fight, but by the final rounds it appeared that he was the fighter who was imposing his will on his opponent. It was surreal to see Cotto, the normally relentless body snatcher who methodically breaks down his opponents before finishing them, going on the run in the final rounds and actually landing some good punches while he was doing it.
Showing more class than most fighters would in similar circumstances, Mosley was gracious in defeat. He might have seen himself as the winner but he wouldn't say it, instead singing the praises of Cotto. Miguel also was complimentary of his defeated opponent. Together they demonstrated all that is right about boxing.
More importantly, none of the 17,135 in attendance or the pay per view buyers who ordered the fight on HBO can complain that they didn't get an entertaining evening for their investment. It would be difficult to describe any round in the fight as total dominance for either man, and I doubt any truthful party would claim they had a definitive opinion of who would be declared the victor after 12 rounds.
It has to be considered a serious Fight of the Year candidate. It was exciting, competitive, and fought at a high skill level. You won't find many fights as entertaining as the Sakio Bika-Jaidon Codrington fight last week in The Contender finals. But those two threw skill level out the window and winged punches from the bleachers. As great as it was to watch, skill level never entered into it.
It ended in an eighth round knockout for Bika, which is exciting, but the fight never had the building drama that played out in Cotto-Mosley. Plus, neither man is likely to ever hold a title, let alone reach the heights of Cotto and Mosley.
In the Garden party Saturday night, Cotto and Mosley, two premier "A" level fighters slugged it out for 12 rounds toe to toe, but also showed other intangibles such as strategy, determination, and the ability to take a punch. They fought on the stage of the Mecca of boxing and didn't for one minute disappoint by falling short of the lofty expectations fans and experts had placed upon them.
The question that will invariably be asked and re-asked is -- where do these guys go from here?
Under normal circumstances the power brokers would delight in a lucrative rematch. It might still happen, but there's this Floyd Mayweather Jr.- Ricky Hatton thing going on Dec. 8, and there's already an uprising about whether Floyd, the presumed winner over Hatton, would face Cotto.