On Saturday May 9, 1998, HBO took to the airwaves to air the third title defense of IBF Lightweight champion "Sugar" Shane Mosley. His opponent was Puerto Rican tough guy John John Molina (45-4), most widely known for his aggressive decision loss to some guy named Oscar. Molina represented Mosley's biggest test to date.
Before winning the IBF title from Phillip Holiday, HBO's Larry Merchant committed one of boxing's cardinal sins: comparing a young fighter to Sugar Ray Robinson. Apparently unsatisfied with criticism he suffered after Mosley was unimpressive in winning his first major title, Merchant again raised eyebrows this night by comparing Mosley to Roberto Duran, considered by many as the greatest lightweight of all time. Before he could even throw his first punch, the expectations on Mosley were raised extremely high.
But, oh, what a first punch. After a couple of quick range finding jabs, Mosley (27-0, 25) launched a chopping overhand right hand that thudded against John John's face. The former champion was wobbled with this blow, the first of many heavy handed chops that Mosley would deliver for the evening. For most of the first frame, Mosley seemed content to use his superior footwork, rocket jab and quick hands. Then, with one minute to go in the opening round, Molina cracked Mosley hard on the chin. Mosley was not hurt, but clearly Molina had gotten his full attention. As the fighters clinched, Mosley did not wait for a break call from the referee. With his free hand, he dug hard into Molina's ribcage with nothing but bad intentions. At the bell, both men were showing their determination with very physical wrestling on the inside.
Generally, John John Molina excels in the rough fight. But Shane Mosley had different plans. Rather than box a fighter, Mosley decided to beat Molina at his own game. Over the next two rounds, Mosley out muscled Molina in the clinches, was busier and more accurate in the exchanges, and began his methodical domination of his challenger. After only three rounds, Mosley's corner told him that his aging opponent couldn't take the punishment and would be out by the 8th round.
In the 4th, 5th, and 6th rounds, Shane Mosley displayed some of the body work on which he has built a reputation. Digging to the body and slashing Molina's head for three rounds, one had to wonder what was keeping Molina on his feet. Despite a steady stream of punishment, Molina continued to press forward, landing an occasional counter punch or body shot. By the 7th, Shane Mosley started to tire. Unbelievably, it was Molina who looked the more energetic in this next-to-last round. Mosley, who has been drying out to make 135, was coming into the ring at a rehydrated 142 pounds. Molina's freshness offered a glimmer of hope that he could stage a comeback late in a fight that he was now trailing on all onlooker's scorecards.
As Mosley began to look winded, Molina reached into his bag of tricks. With nearly a minute to go in the 7th round, he laced Mosley in a clinch. At first it looked like his plan had worked: Mosley was riled up and began throwing even more at a point when he looked most tired. Unfortunately for Molina, the angered champion did not let up his attack, ripping several full force body shots that weakened Molina. So weakened was Molina, that a stiff Mosley jab snapped his head back and dropped him at the close of the 7th round.
Clearly trailing too far to even hope for a decision, and remembering that his opponent was nearing exhaustion, Molina decided that the 8th round was his final chance. Despite being on the receiving end of Mosley's attack all night long, Molina charged forward in the 8th, pursuing Mosley around the ring and twice exciting the crowd by landing flurried combinations on Sugar's chin. With Molina putting everything on the line, it was up to Mosley to answer. Weathering the storm, Mosley again fired hard to the body, and this time his punches wilted Molina. As John John stumbled across the ring, it was Mosley's turn to pursue. Mosley beat Molina across the ring, eventually leaving the challenger unable to defend himself. Referee Ed Johnson wisely called a halt to the bout as Molina was covered up on the ropes and absorbed Mosley's final flurry. Mosley TKO8.
Shane Mosley did everything right. He not only won, but he looked good doing it. Against an opponent that would not let up, Mosley handled the pressure by turning up the heat himself; whenever Molina pressed, Mosley was able to top him. His heavy hands and power punching even made Larry Merchant's historical comparison seem reasonable. It was a tough gritty fight, and one that will go far in establishing Mosley's reputation as a throw-back fighter.
After the fight, Mosley boldly called out WBC champion Stevie Johnston and WBA titlist Ozubek Nazarov by name. Both are tough opponents. Johnston is a gifted southpaw with quick hands and Nazarov, although unfamiliar to most American fans, is a well-reputed power puncher who also fights from the left side. They, along with new IBF 135 lb. #1 contender Arturo Gatti, should give HBO's newest star a very busy and lucrative future.
-On the undercard, '96 Olympic Gold Medalist David Reid (9-0, 6) continued his winning ways against the tough Nick Rupa. Rupa, who took everything but the kitchen sink before succumbing to Terry Norris in 10 rounds last year, could not take the punch of the young Reid, dropping this time in less than two rounds. Reid simply brought too much speed and power into the ring for Rupa. Although he was wild at times, Reid did not give Rupa a chance to test his still-drooping left eyelid. Rupa (29-6-1) represented another in the list of experienced fighters Main Events has paired Reid with. While DelaHoya has mentioned Reid as a November opponent, instead look for Reid to be pushed into a 154 lb. title fight before 1999.