Tonight in Indio, California, Angel "El Diablo" Manfredy and "Sugar" Shane Mosley shut out their opposition for a combined 18 rounds of lightweight action. Hardly losing a single round between them, each showcased their skills in different, but equally effective ways.
Angel Manfredy, moving up 5 pounds to the 135 lb. division, took on longtime lightweight contender Ivan Robinson. In 1998, both men defeated Arturo Gatti in stirring upsets. While Manfredy beat him with accurate power punches, Robinson twice outpointed Gatti with handspeed and conditioning. This matchup of styles provided for a rare pick'em bout. Who would have guessed it would be so one-sided?
The first round set high expectations, as each man came out and instantly compared their repertoires. Manfredy jabbed, and Robinson jabbed back. Manfredy dug to the body, and Robinson dug back. Robinson unleashed a burst of unanswered punches in combination, and a second later Manfredy would match him punch for punch. Robinson cracked with a single right hand, and Manfredy immediately returned the favor. It was about as even a round as one could ever see....except in one department: power.
The notoriously light fisted Robinson simply could not match the thudding force with which Angel's punches found their target. Although Robinson was bigger, Manfredy let it be known early that he was stronger. It became the story of the fight.
Unable to match El Diablo in the exchanges, Robinson instead relied on volume. As Angel again came on in the second, damaging Mighty Ivan downstairs in combination, Robinson threw and threw and threw. His hands never stopped moving, and yet he still lost the round. Manfredy simply applied more of the hurt, committing to each and every punch he threw.
In the third, the bristling pace continued. Never moving from center ring, both men teed off on each other, again with the same results. Robinson's bursts, although impressive, were simply not going to be scored over Manfredy's power shots. Getting the most of his leverage, Manfredy's bombs stung Robinson late in the round. Following up with more punishment, Manfredy remained calm as an assassin. Unfazed when Robinson closed out the round by continuing his unending stream of punches, Manfredy was settling into a deadly groove.
Although Robinson continued to match his goal of 100 punches per round, Manfredy continued his assault, always throwing in combination and always committing to the power shots in a way that Robinson never has been able to. In the fifth round, Robinson landed several flush rights and a few perfectly timed counter left hooks to Manfredy, but they had no effect. Having scored only 10 knockouts in 29 previous fights, Robinson could only hope that Manfredy would tire in the second half of the fight.
Indeed Angel did tire after the fifth round, but he used his superior defense to make up the difference. Dropping his output in the fifth, sixth and seventh rounds, Manfredy blunted Robinson's persistent offense by blocking a large majority of the shots on his gloves and arms. As Robinson failed to score clean punches through Manfredy's guard, Manfredy would pick his openings and flurry back, often weaving his punches around Robinson's own high hands to great effect.
Full of confidence, Manfredy's defense continued into the eighth with quick head movement and accurate counterpunching. Robinson could do nothing. Tiring himself, he began to be visibly stunned by more than a few Manfredy power shots. These brief lapses, wherein Manfredy would punish Ivan with a string of straight rights and left hooks up and down, prevented Robinson from stealing any rounds via volume. Every time Ivan put together a half a round where his quick, always-moving hands might keep it close, Manfredy would clock him and remind the judges who was winning.
Going into the tenth, Harold Lederman said that he "[didn't ] think Ivan Robinson could get this decision in the Blue Horizon." Manfredy didn't even want him to get the chance. No doubt fighting with a comfortable margin on even the most incompetent judge's scorecard, Manfredy nonetheless attacked Robinson in the final round. Beating Robinson pillar to post, Manfredy punctuated the nights performance by almost stopping Ivan at several points. Robinson, to his credit, survived to hear the final bell, but he was literally and figuratively a beaten man.
The scores told the story: 99-91 (twice) and 100-90 (Boxing Chronicle.com scored the fight 100-91), all for Angel Manfredy, now 27-3-1/21.
In a post fight interview, Angel Manfredy reminded us of one of boxing's oldest axioms: real champions come back from defeat stronger than ever. If so, rank Manfredy as a champion, despite the absence of a belt around his waist.
After dropping a controversial kayo loss to Floyd Mayweather late last year, Manfredy has indeed returned stronger than ever. Tonight, he fought with an intensity beyond that which he displayed against Gatti. His punches were more ferocious, yes, but his technique was even better. His combination punching was awesome, and his accuracy deadly. Landing 47% of his punched on the night, Manfredy showed not only his artillery, but the ability to put it on target. At 135, or his natural 130, Manfredy regains any status he lost in the Mayweather defeat.
Atop the lightweight division, however, remains my choice for the best pound-for-pound fighter today: Shane Mosley.
Mosley's stay at 135 remains questionable. Having ended his amateur career 7 years ago at 139 pounds, his continued presence in the lightweight division has become a dangerous game. To scrape down to 135, Mosley had not eaten a solid meal for three days prior to the bout, as well as spent excessive time dehydrating himself to the bone to make weight. Having somehow scaled in at 135, Mosley put pack on 16 pounds in 24 hours, and came through the ropes tonight over the welterweight limit, at 151 pounds.
Mosley's size advantage was not limited to weight, as his opponent John Brown also gave up 6 inches in height and 9 inches in reach. For John Brown, the fight predictably devolved into an attempt at survival quite quickly.
The compact John Brown took away Mosley's biggest weapon, the body punch, by virtue of his frame. Forced to go upstairs, Mosley landed a wide variety of punches on Brown's skull for eight dominant rounds. Credit John Brown for taking as much as he did.
Brown rushed Mosley at the opening bell and never stopped coming forward all night. At first, Mosley was unable to adjust to the smaller man, and the referee was quickly getting his on-camera time by repeatedly having to break the clinched fighters. Picking off Brown as he came in, Mosley used left and right uppercuts in the opening round and short left hooks in the second, but Brown kept coming forward.
Brown's only chance at landing a right of his own was to rush inside, a move that often resulted in headbutts, shoulders to Mosley's chin, and looping right hands that sailed over Shane's head and landed on the back of his shoulder. These wild attempts at offense nearly always ended in a long clinch, as Brown tied up Mosley to prevent any inside body work.
Unable to do more than fire quick shots as Brown came in, Mosley's frustration grew. Compounded by the momentum-preventing holding, Sugar Shane began to caramelize when Brown showed off by picking Mosley up off the ground in one third round clinch. Landing more butts than blows in the fourth, Brown survived and Mosley grew even more angry.
Early in the fifth round, Brown landed a clean right hand to Shane's face, and Mosley's rage erupted. Looking furious, Mosley's eyes were fixed on Brown. Upon seeing this Brown wildly charged, and Mosley backed up. Brown paused, then charged again with reckless aplomb, and Mosley was waiting for him. Shane timed a ferocious right hand into Brown's head and stopped him dead in his tracks. After following up with several more gigantic right hands, Mosley now let his hands go. Flurrying with startling speed, he waxed Brown with a barrage of punches from all angles until the bell saved Brown from a stoppage.
Mosley continued to batter Brown, now bleeding from the mouth, in the sixth and seventh rounds, although the frequent clinches allowed Brown to survive. Taking a bit of a breather, Mosley allowed Brown to land several well-timed overhand rights in the seventh, and for a brief moment the issue of Mosley's stamina at 135 looked like a potential issue.
Not for long.
The eighth round was a Mosley tour de force. As the television announcers wondered aloud as to the condition of Mosley's right hand, Mosley unleashed a machine-gun stream of consecutive left hooks that would make Roy Jones envious. As Mosley attacked Brown one-handed, he finally found the opening he was looking for, and returned to his right hand with another devastating, well-timed kneebuckler. Brown again froze in his tracks, and now Mosley really let him have it. Right and lefts backed Brown to the ropes. Mosley looked as though he wanted to kill Brown as he punished him unmercifully. But again, Brown made it to the end of the round.
Once on his stool, however, Brown looked like the punches he took were just now catching up with him. When the doctor entered his corner, Brown didn't look like a fighter that wanted to continue. Unintelligibly complaining about the bleeding in his mouth, the Eastern Beast was mostly unresponsive to the doctor's questions, and gave no indication that he was able to continue. Making the obvious decision, the physician recommended to the referee that the fight be stopped, a suggestion which was naturally obliged. Mosley TKO8.
In the week before the fight, and in the middle of a torturous process of making weight, a grim Mosley had told various members of the media that this fight would be his last at 135. Basking in victory, however, Mosley (32-0/30) left the door open for more matches at lightweight by suggesting that the right offer could keep him in the division. Surely, such a move would be a mistake. Already struggling to make weight, Mosley needs to move up before his dehydration routine serves him a loss he otherwise wouldn't deserve. Talk is swirling that the right offer could have Mosley, who walks around in the 150 lb. range, jumping directly to welterweight for a September fight with Oscar DelaHoya if DelaHoya-Trinidad cannot be signed.
Whether Mosley moves to 140 or 147 is still in doubt, but after tonight's performance what more can he achieve at 135? Manfredy has his sights set on a Mayweather rematch, Robinson and Gatti are coming off of losses, and Stevie Johnston has already turned down a record high purse to meet Mosley in the ring. With nothing left to prove at this unnatural weight, bigger fights versus bigger men loom on the horizon for Sugar Shane Mosley. When they will happen only remains to be seen.
© 2001 Chris Bushnell. All rights reserved.