In November 2007 I flew to New York to watch Shane Mosley fall just short to Miguel Cotto in an exciting and competitive back-and-forth title fight at Madison Square Garden. A few months later, at the Home Depot Center near Los Angeles, I watched Mosley throw a killer left hook at Ricardo Mayorga’s jaw, rendering him unconscious, with one second left in the 12th round. It prompted HBO commentator Larry Merchant to yell, “Shane Mosley, I love you!” In January 2009, my friends, father, and I — along with a few massive former heavyweights sitting next to us — celebrated as Mosley unexpectedly pummeled Antonio Margarito inside the Staples Center.
Unfortunately, last May I was also there to watch the Sugar Man throw the last great punch of his career against Floyd Mayweather Jr. Junior took the punch, but by the end of the round was in control of a fight he would go on to dominate. I did not buy, let alone fly to watch Shane Mosley and Sergio Mora put a less-than-capacity crowd to sleep last September. And I will stay put on Saturday night when Manny Pacquiao meets Mosley at the MGM Grand for a welterweight title fight.
It's a fight that would have had me salivating in the spring of 2009, but I am approaching this “showdown” with a sense of foreboding. In an event that will feature in one corner a still-prime Pacquiao, with fierce speed, power and agility, and in the other, not the Shane Mosley of old, but the old Shane Mosley. In a story all too familiar in boxing and many other professional sports, Mosley did not quit after his last great outing, but instead kept fighting, tarnishing his legacy and taking unnecessary beatings in the ring.
There is an old adage in boxing that all great fighters have one more great fight left in them. Recently, Bernard Hopkins and Erik Morales proved this point can have merit. The problem is that Mosley has already had his last great fight. Today, he is a shell of the former fighter that implemented his dad’s “Power Boxing” style as a lightweight and welterweight in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Although he still has the ability to throw a fast hard overhand right, or a quick leaping left hook, his reflexes have slowed, his body softened, and his balance subsided.
I focus this post on Shane Mosley instead of Pacquiao because Mosley’s recent fights cause most fight fans to question whether he is a worthy challenger for the Pac Man. Pacquiao is a known entity; Shane Mosley at this stage of his career is not.
Prediction: Pacquiao will knock Mosley out. Pacquiao will start the fight by moving around the center of the ring for the first couple of rounds. As the fight continues, he will gravitate to his toes and off of his heels, bouncing hard one-two combinations off of Mosley’s jaw and left flank. Pacquiao will continue to pick up the pace through the third, fourth, and fifth rounds, leaping in hard three-, four- and five punch combinations from all angles. By the sixth or seventh, a worn-out but courageous Shane Mosley will be mercifully stopped by the referee or by his trainer, Nasim Richardson, between rounds.
Pacquiao’s speed, balance, and continually improving skills will show why he is increasing distance between himself and Floyd Mayweather on most pound-for-pound lists. His easy victory will also illustrate his need to take on younger; more energetic fighters in the future instead of faded stars. As long as the Mayweather fight remains a fantasy and Pacquiao is not prepared to fight Juan Manuel Marquez below welterweight, then he should fight Victor Ortiz. Ortiz’s youth, speed and power will create a fun fight (while it lasts) and both men’s defensive liabilities will further enhance the intrigue behind this entertaining fight.
On the other hand, if I were in Mosley’s corner I would advise the following: To fight aggressively in the early part of the fight, to throw a hard jab to offset Manny’s timing, and to circle to the left (staying on the outside of Pacquiao’s right hook). Mosley’s uppercut could also be an important punch if he can pull the trigger. Pacquiao’s only weakness is that he does not fight on the inside. When an opponent is in his chest, he normally stretches his arms out and waits for the referee to break up the two fighters. Mosley therefore, needs to fight in this territory, or be a great distance away from Pacquiao and out of harm’s way. Though I think some of these strategies could exploit Pacquiao’s defensive shortcomings, I do not think Mosley has enough left to take advantage of this strategy.
A few years ago I watched Mosley fight Luis Collazo on HBO. Mosley came on strong in that fight and ended up winning handily. I remember thinking, as he bravely pushed the pace, that though I admired his guts, being a fan of such a brave fighter would be very difficult as his skills declined. I am beginning to see that I was right. Watching Mosley get old is painful, and it will be for both his fans and for him on May 7.