What a performance! What a fight! Non-stop action, both men giving it their all, hard punches and vicious exchanges, a dramatic conclusion, blood and tears: it was everything you could ask for in a championship match. Too bad it wasn’t the main event.
Did you think I was talking about Manny Pacquiao’s decision win over Shane Mosley? Sorry. I was referring instead to Jorge Arce’s inspiring victory over Wilfredo Vazquez to become the first Mexican fighter in history to win four different divisional championships. And if there were any justice, it would be the Arce vs Vazquez fight people would be talking about this morning, not the dud that was last night’s feature attraction.
Arce and Vazquez put on as exciting a match as one could hope for, a thrilling battle that saw two fighters with real desire and drive risking everything for victory. Both men took and gave tremendous punishment. Vazquez scored a knockdown in the fourth round with a beautiful left hook and it appeared at times that the younger Puerto Rican was getting the better of the Mexican former champ, a veteran of many wars, but in the later rounds, Arce’s heart and desire proved to be the deciding factors. This is not to take anything away from the defending champion who showed plenty of courage himself, but the fact is it wasn’t an edge in technique or punching power as much as the challenger’s incredible will to win that defined the outcome of the fight.
By the 11th round it was clear that the veteran, despite being badly cut and having taken a ton of clean shots, had more left in the tank. He was obviously enjoying the thrill of battle, often smiling at his opponent through a mask of his own blood, while Vazquez finally began to buckle under the pressure of the challenger’s non-stop attack, taking a series of hard shots just before the bell.
And in round 12, the champion, still wobbly from the punches he took the round previous, suddenly hit a wall. He had nothing left and was only looking to somehow hang on until the final bell as Arce drove him to the ropes and pounded at him furiously with wild punches from all angles. Referee Joe Cortez gave the champion every chance to survive but Vazquez’s own corner had seen enough and threw not just a towel but a water bottle into the ring to force an end.
Vazquez was visibly heart broken, especially since his own father, Wilfredo Vazquez Sr., a former champion himself, was the one to put a stop to the contest. But the indomitable Arce had clearly gotten the better of things on this night and there was little point in Vazquez absorbing further punishment. It was a terrific bout with several excellent action rounds (round seven should receive consideration for Round of the Year), a testament to the skill and courage of both fighters, and we can only hope there will be a rematch.
Must I write anything about Manny Pacquiao’s win over Shane Mosley? It was a complete let down after Jorge Arce’s glorious victory. Mosley attempted to fight a measured, technical fight against his younger, faster, more powerful opponent, but after getting knocked down in the third round, his strategy went from measured and technical, to so cautious and tentative it bordered on paralysis. Pacquiao, who had made much of his respect for the former champion, was for the most part respectfully content to win rounds and do little more. Only in the last three stanzas did we see anything resembling killer instinct from the Pacman, this prompted by his irritation over a bogus knockdown in round ten.
Otherwise, it was a routine win over an opponent who learned, we hope, that all things must pass and he should now do everyone a favour and finally pack it in. Simply put, Mosley is old. And all of his 39 years appeared to descend upon him in an instant when he toppled to the canvas after taking a heavy left hand in the third round. From that moment on, the fight was an exercise in tedium as Mosley became as timid as a newborn puppy (or perhaps that should read “decrepit fleabag”). While Pacquiao appeared to want to be the rottweiler, he just couldn’t find the openings against his skittish opponent to land more than one or two punches at a time. He later revealed that leg cramps also prevented him from maintaining his trademark Pacman attack.
The boos started in round seven and only got louder as the fight, devoid of drama or tension, wound down. It doesn’t do the sport of boxing much good when people are convinced to part with hard-earned money for what has been billed as an exciting clash between two legendary boxers and they instead get a protracted sparring session between gym buddies, complete with taps of affection and emotional embraces.
But from the moment Pacquiao vs Mosley was announced, pundits and journalists were decrying it as a terrible choice, citing the fact the 39-year-old Sugar Shane was obviously finished and had no chance of challenging Pacquiao’s huge advantage in speed. They were proven right and boxing fans got a raw deal which could and should have been avoided. We can only hope promoter Bob Arum might at some point reflect on this in the midst of counting all his money. Though he probably won’t. — Michael Carbert