Shane Mosley dominated from start to finish Saturday night in Los Angeles, scoring a technical knockout of Antonio Margarito at 43 seconds of the ninth round to win the WBA welterweight title in a stunning upset.
Margarito was coming off an impressive victory over previously unbeaten Miguel Cotto six months ago, and boxing experts had tabbed the 30-year-old Mexican slugger one of the top pound-for-pound fighters.
But Mosley must not have been paying attention.
Despite his advancing age, the 37-year-old Mosley used his superior quickness from the beginning, and Margarito never was able to display the power and fortitude he showed against Cotto.
"It was my strategy, my focus, my game plan," Mosley said when asked what won the fight. It was a tough fight, but it was a great plan. It was my left hook. I caught [Fernando] Vargas with it, I caught [Richardo] Mayorga with it.
"He's a tough fighter, he had a lot of endurance. I prepared very hard, I trained hard. He was very powerful, but he couldn't resist my rhythm."
Mosley brought in Nazim Richardson to train him for this fight, replacing his father, Jack. That move worked to perfection.
"When you have a great game plan and an excellent athlete, then everything works out very well," Richardson said.
The bout was held before an announced crowd of 20,820 — the largest to attend a sporting event at Staples Center since it opened in October, 1999. The fans were clearly pro-Margarito despite the fact that Mosley grew up in suburban Pomona, but it meant little once the bout began.
"I feel OK. I was just getting caught over and over," Margarito said.
Margarito didn't win a single round on one judge's scorecard, one on another and two on the third. The Associated Press had Mosley every round but one.
Mosley, who weighed the maximum 147 pounds, raised his record to 46-5 with 39 knockouts. Margarito, known as the "Tijuana Tornado," weighed 145.8 pounds. He dropped to 37-6 with 27 knockouts after being stopped for the first time.
Both fighters earned around $2.4 million US.
Before the fight, HBO's Larry Merchant reported Margarito had to have his hands rewrapped after a complaint by Richardson during his pre-fight inspection.
Stephen Espinoza, lawyer for Golden Boy Promotions, said he was told by Dean Lohuis, co-executive director of the California State Athletic Commission, that a plaster-like substance was found under both of Margarito's hand wraps and had been bagged as evidence.
The crowd roared when the fighters traded solid punches early in the third round, and Margarito again flashed a grin after Mosley nailed him with several blows, none of which seemed to do much damage. But Mosley was connecting more often.
Margarito appeared to be picking up steam in the fourth round, but again, Mosley caught him with several punches, and Margarito didn't respond with a smile until Mosley nailed him with a right hand as the round ended. That grin appeared to be one of acknowledgment.
Supporters of the champion began a pleading "Margarito, Margarito" chant as the eighth round began, and the Mexican boxer's corner came to life when he landed his most solid blows of the fight to that point.
But Mosley staggered the champion late in the round, and floored him with a barrage of punches as the round ended. Margarito wobbled to his feet to beat the count to 10, but looked like a beaten man as he sat in his corner.
Mosley continued to force the action in the ninth, and battered Margarito to the canvas, landing 18 of 21 power punches in the final round.
"Something happened in the first round," said Javier Capetillo, Margarito's trainer. "We were too slow. I didn't think he was reacting properly. It was frustrating to watch because he kept getting hit by overhand rights."
Both of Mosley's biggest wins have now come at the downtown Los Angeles arena. He won a 12-round split decision over Oscar De La Hoya on June 17, 2000 in the first boxing match held at Staples.
There were several celebrities on hand including Mark Wahlberg, Tobey Maguire and Sylvester Stallone, as well as governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
On the undercard, Robert Guerrero of Gilroy, Calif., stopped Edel Ruiz of Los Mochis, Mexico, just 27 seconds into their 10-round featherweight bout.
Guerrero (23-1-1, 16 KOs) used a single left hand punch to the body to floor Ruiz, who spent a couple minutes on his hands and knees before being helped to his feet.