A Super Lightweight Conspiracy Theory Oscar De La Hoya lost his long-awaited rematch with Shane Mosley, then made wild charges that suggest he might have also lost his mind

September 21, 2003

Oscar De La Hoya has had vivid explanations for his defeats--you
would be disappointed in any boxer who didn't--but his loss to
Shane Mosley in a unanimous 12-round decision at the MGM Grand in
Las Vegas last Saturday fired his imagination in a way neither of
his other two defeats had. Presuming a widespread conspiracy that
somehow (against all logic) singled him out, the onetime Golden
Boy declared his intention to launch a probe that could bring
boxing to its knees, which is very nearly where he was at the end
of this WBA-WBC superwelterweight title bout.

Appearing at a postfight news conference with a big puffy piece
of gauze decorating his right eye, the otherwise dapper De La
Hoya declared he was going to deploy his considerable "financial
resources to putting the best lawyers on this, to my fullest
power, to put on an investigation."

This was a remarkable charge, especially in Las Vegas, where De
La Hoya is regarded as such a hometown favorite that his
opponents dread being at the mercy of the judges' scorecards.
Every fighter, justified or not, girds himself for disappointment
here. Jack Mosley, Shane's father and trainer, even invoked the
bias in his corner instructions. "We're in Vegas," he told his
fighter during the later rounds, "not Staples Center [in L.A.,
the site of the first fight between the two]. You gotta at least
knock him down."

Mosley, now 39-2, never did knock De La Hoya (36-3) down, and he
certainly didn't dominate him. But he did curry favor with the
judges by landing the harder punches, beginning in the ninth
round and culminating in a vicious 12th that had De La Hoya
nearly dead on his feet, his mouth gaping horribly, only his
heart keeping him upright. The fight was arguably closer than
their first bout three years ago, when Mosley outpointed De La
Hoya in a split decision to take his welterweight title (a loss
De La Hoya blamed on bad oysters he had eaten the day before the
bout). But Saturday's decision hardly calls for a congressional
inquiry.

It's unfortunate that the fight, between two boxers who respect
each other so much, should now be remembered for wild
accusations, and not as the bout that restored two wobbly
reputations. Mosley, of course, was almost out of the picture,
having failed to capitalize on his upset victory over De La Hoya
in 2000. Mosley subsequently lost twice to Vernon Forrest (who
was beaten in turn, twice, by Ricardo Mayorga) and, for all his
onetime promise, hadn't won a fight in 26 months.

De La Hoya himself had lingered in disgrace after the Mosley
fight (there was still dismay about his failure to press his
advantage over Felix Trinidad in the late rounds, which resulted
in his first loss, in 1999) and had only last year regained fan
approval with a violent knockout of Fernando Vargas. Entering the
rematch with Mosley, he was thought to be a man on a mission, on
his way to completing a dramatic final go-around before retiring.

But even though De La Hoya was clearly moving more and boxing
better in Vegas than he had in their first fight, it was quickly
apparent that he would not be able to walk through Mosley. De La
Hoya scored well and often with his jab, but Mosley's punches,
especially right hands to the ribs, seemed to be having an
effect. "He took my speed and volume away," said Mosley
afterward, "all I had left was strength."

In the ninth round, Mosley simply beat up the 30-year-old De La
Hoya. And this was after Mosley had bloodied Oscar's brow with an
accidental head butt in the fourth.

The problem, for both broadcasters and losing fighters who have
too much access to (or belief in) ringside punch stats, is that
De La Hoya won the numbers game, if not the actual hurting game,
landing 221 punches to Mosley's 127. (He was also guaranteed
$17.5 million for the bout, to Mosley's $4.5 million.) In
announcing his investigation, De La Hoya even read the numbers
off for reporters, as if they were proof enough of conspiracy.
However judges (and ringside reporters) do not have access to
these numbers and consequently scored the fight differently. In
coming to identical 115-113 scores, the three judges seemed to
have seen the same fight, all three giving Mosley the final four
rounds. Many reporters at ringside agreed.

For all the good it will do him, De La Hoya would have been a
better sportsman if he'd eaten bad oysters and complained about
them (or not eaten them and complained) than he was as he accused
judges and a state boxing commission of joining in a conspiracy
that even he couldn't put his finger on. If he follows through
with his sore-loser-of-the-new-millennium probe, everybody's
going to be sick to their stomachs this time.

COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPH BY JOHN IACONO GUT-WRENCHING Mosley (left) threw fewer punches than De La Hoya,but he landed the ones that did the most damage.

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)