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Wright defeats Mosley in decisive upset

JOHN C. COTEY
Published March 14, 2004

LAS VEGAS - Shane Mosley passed on millions and millions of dollars to fight Oscar De La Hoya for a third time, refusing to take less than the Golden Boy.

Instead, he decided he would fight for history, to determine the best junior middleweight in the division.

Well, it's not him.

In the most magnificent performance of his unheralded career, St. Petersburg's Winky Wright shocked the boxing world by winning a 12-round unanimous decision over Mosley on Saturday night at the Mandalay Bay Events Center.

Wright, dismissed his entire career as a technical defense fighter with little more than a strong jab, took the fight right at Mosley from opening bell to final bell, knocking Mosley down to a knee with three seconds left to put an exclamation point on his victory.

Wright, the IBF champ, added Mosley's WBC and WBA titles, unifying the junior middleweight division for the first time in 29 years. He is the first fighter from the Tampa Bay area to hold three championship belts.

Judges Dave Moretti and Chuck Giampa scored it 117-111, and Paul Smith had it 116-112. Punch stats showed Wright landed 250 to 166 for Mosley.

"I always thought I was the better fighter," said Wright, 47-3 with 25 knockouts. "I felt stronger in the fight. It was just a matter of catching up to him."

And he did, early and often. Wright used his jab sparingly and threw more power punches than he had in any other fight in recent memory.

Mosley (39-3, 35 knockouts) never mounted a challenge, landing a few single punches but letting Wright move him all over the ring and into range for short, chopping power shots.

"I couldn't do what I wanted to do," Mosley said. "I really wanted to show my skills, but I had muscle fatigue. It was a big fight. Winky's a great fighter. But I didn't feel he was overwhelmingly strong. It was more of what was wrong with me than what was right with him."

Though he earned more than $800,000, less than Mosley's $2.1-million, the victory should vault Wright into his first million-dollar payday. Because of a rematch clause in their contract that Mosley will exercise, Wright will have to give him a rematch, but the prices both fighters were paid should be reversed.

Bigger fights may loom with De La Hoya or Bernard Hopkins. And, of course, Felix Trinidad, who was sitting ringside, is now free.

Mosley's promoter, Gary Shaw, took the unusual tack of announcing that his fighter had a $10-million deal with Trinidad if he got past Wright. It was an expensive gamble that didn't pay off.

Criticized for coasting in the final three rounds and losing a lead in 1999 to Fernando Vargas in his only other big marquee fight, Wright kept up the attack. Mosley charged at him in the final round and landed some of his best punches in the fight, but Wright stood at close quarters and exchanged with him.

"I knew I needed a knockout to win," Mosley said.

Wright, who usually spends the first few rounds feeling his opponent out with a steady diet of jabs, backed Mosley up from the start with jabs but went to a straight left to get inside when he landed shorter punches.

In the third round, he put Mosley in the corner and drilled him with a right cross that turned him around, prompting the crowd of about 9,000 to begin chanting "Win-ky."

After the round, Wright raised his hand, the first of many times he would do that in the fight.

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