Our Last Five Fights feature this time features, of course, Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Shane Mosley, two of the best in the game, two of the best of a generation of boxers, and the two men who go toe-to-toe on Saturday night in Las Vegas. We'll start with Floyd.
Fight 1: Zab Judah (W-UD-12 / April 8, 2006)
This was to be a big, big fight, and one that had a lot of upset potential. Judah, a super-fast southpaw, was reigning world welterweight champion when the fight was signed. All he had to do was get past a slow, punchless Argentinean challenger named Carlos Baldomir in January 2006, and then Judah-Mayweather, for all the marbles, would be a huge fight in April. Mayweather had just tested the waters at 147 with a win over Sharmba Mitchell, after finishing up at 140 by dismantling Arturo Gatti to the point that New Jersey AC rep Larry Hazzard told the Gatti corner to stop the fight.
Cracks in Judah's armor had been showing, though. He lost to Cory Spinks in 2004, then had a nail-biter decision win over Rafael Pineda. But then he stopped Wayne Martell in one, beat Spinks in nine on Spinks' home turf in St. Louis, and dispatched of Cosme Rivera in three. It was enough to propel Judah back into gracious standing. And then came Baldomir, who somehow (to this day, I can't figure out how it really happened) pulled off the 2006 version of Cinderella Man with a stunning upset win over Judah. But that didn't kill Mayweather-Judah. The fight went on.
And Judah, perhaps knowing where his career was at this point, gave it a go. He rocked Floyd, and he was if not matching him in hand speed, coming very, very close. But it wouldn't last. As Floyd began to dictate the fight, all hell would break loose. Judah would pop Floyd with low blows, eventually causing Roger Mayweather to jump into the ring, which started a huge brawl. The fight got to finish, and Mayweather proved his superiority, winning a decision on scores of 119-109, 117-111 and 116-112. Judah was -- and still is -- the fastest man Floyd had ever faced, and if there had been any lingering doubt about just how fast Mayweather was, that should have ended here.
Fight 2: Carlos Baldomir (W-UD-12 / November 4, 2006)
Baldomir threw a wrench into so much when he beat Judah. HBO never intended to feature Carlos Baldomir, but he was a great story. To either take advantage of Baldomir or get rid of him, he was matched with Arturo Gatti in the summer. Many felt Gatti could overcome the determined champion, but he didn't come close. Baldomir battered Gatti into defeat in nine rounds, few of which were very competitive at all.
But Carlos never had a shot against Mayweather. As said before, he was incredibly slow. He had no punching power at all -- that should have alerted everyone to the fact that Gatti, the brave warrior, was 150% cooked as a fighter by the time he took on Baldomir. Baldomir's long unbeaten streak stretched from 1999 until this fight. His rocky career start was a thing of the past, and now he was the welterweight champion, taking on pound-for-pound the best fighter in the world.
And he never had a chance. Predictably, Mayweather routed Baldomir, Mayweather could have gone at 80% capacity and routed Baldomir. Carlos was about as tough as they come, and had a granite chin, so Floyd wasn't going to hurt him, and he didn't. But it wasn't even close. The fight was panned roundly even before it happened, as everyone would have preferred that Floyd fight Antonio Margarito, Miguel Cotto or Shane Mosley. But to be fair, the Baldomir payday was just as good of an offer as he got from anyone else, and Baldomir was the champion. Margarito was not, Cotto was not (and all accounts are that Arum decided Cotto wasn't ready), Mosley was not. It was Baldomir. And then it was Floyd.
After the fight, Mayweather "retired."
Fight 3: Oscar de la Hoya (W-SD-12 / May 5, 2007)
Floyd took an underrated gamble moving up to the 154-pound division to face Oscar de la Hoya on Cinco de Mayo of 2007, going after another belt (one of those things he now claims just collect dust, but which he used to chase incessantly). Mayweather also became a major star thanks to this fight, the biggest in PPV history, because of the debut of HBO's innovative and ground-breaking "24/7" series, which put Floyd on the map to more than just boxing diehards.
This was hyped, stupidly, as "the fight to save boxing." Boxing wasn't going anywhere then, isn't now, and never is. Boxing is always going to be around, even if other sports continue to exist as well. Detractors will always say, "Well at the turn of the last century, boxing was this and that and the other thing." So was horse racing. No one blathers on about horse racing being dead. But I digress.
This wasn't a great fight. Oscar controlled the early rounds with his jab, but eventually Mayweather managed to neutralize it. It was a case where a great fighter, despite being out of his element with the weight, managed to overcome a very good fighter. Oscar is a bigger guy than Floyd. Oscar was comfortable at 154. Floyd was not, and he never returned to the division, and he likely never will. The second half of this fight was a pure display of skill and savvy from Mayweather, who just plain out-boxed Oscar down the stretch. Oscar had one plan for this fight, it did work, and then he had nothing when the great boxer across the ring took it away from him.
After the fight, Mayweather "retired."
Fight 4: Ricky Hatton (W-TKO-10 / December 8, 2007)
The undefeated junior welterweight champion moved back up to 147, where he had struggled with Luis Collazo, to take on the undefeated welterweight champion. This fight had an atmosphere I will never forget. I have rarely had more fun watching a fight than I did this one. It was chippy, the crowd was amazing, and the two men themselves could not have been more different. The talkative, likable Hatton was an everyman. All darts at the pub with his mates and constant joking. Mayweather was also talkative, but a braggart, an egotist run wild, and a fighter that on paper, Hatton could not beat.
Ricky gave it his best. The early rounds were tense, and it seemed like Floyd came out just a little tight. Hatton, with his short arms, seemed physically overmatched even then. He was a short, powerfully built junior welterweight up against an athletic, fluid welterweight. As the fight wore on, Mayweather took control. He was able to time Hatton, and easily. He was able to catch Hatton with good shots more and more. Hatton, for maybe the first time in his career, started developing the look of a beaten fighter. He'd been in rough fights, and in fights where he was having problems. But never like this.
In the tenth round, the infamous check hook sent Hatton crashing head-first into the turnbuckle and down to the mat. The courageous Mancunian made it to his feet and intended to fight on, but Mayweather went for the kill and got it. After the fight, Mayweather and Hatton became friendly, as Mayweather and Baldomir had. Baldomir, in fact, served as one of Mayweather's chief sparring partners for this fight. It wasn't Hagler-Hearns or Vazquez-Marquez, but Mayweather and Hatton put on an incredibly memorable fight, and both played their roles in it being what it was.
After the fight, Mayweather "retired."
Fight 5: Juan Manuel Marquez (W-UD-12 / September 19, 2009)
Coming out of the longest break in his pro career (or the longest of his three "retirements," however you want to put it), Mayweather returned to the welterweight division to face lightweight champion Juan Manuel Marquez. The fight sold very well when all was said and done, but those waiting for this one to gain greater respect among boxing fans and media alike will be waiting forever. Floyd, in my view, deserves plenty of credit for the wins over Oscar de la Hoya and Ricky Hatton. Hatton was coming up in weight, but was a natural 140-pounder, an unbeaten champion, and the fight made a lot of sense.
Mayweather had plenty of options here. Marquez made no more sense than Shane Mosley did, and Shane Mosley wasn't busy at the time. In January, Mosley and Richard Schaefer tried to lure Floyd out of "retirement" after Mosley waxed Antonio Margarito. Floyd stated he was retired. A month later, Marquez beat Juan Diaz in a Fight of the Year thriller, and called out Mayweather. Mayweather decided he wasn't retired anymore. There's no getting around that. Mayweather took a fight with a great fighter, but a great fighter who coming up to 147 was not going to be much trouble for him. And in the end, after 12 shutout rounds of a Mayweather sparring exhibition against an overweight foe who all but flat-out said the fight was simply about the money for him, no one's mind had changed.
I don't care if you love Floyd or if the people who love Floyd accuse you of hating him, or if you actually hate him. I don't see how you can spin Mayweather-Marquez as something admirable. I give Mayweather no more great credit for beating Marquez than I would give Wladimir Klitschko for beating Chad Dawson. And since it has a habit of coming down to two men anymore, no, I wouldn't give Manny Pacquiao any credit for fighting Marquez again at this point, either. There was a time and place for Pacquiao-Marquez, and it's gone. There may have been a time and place for Mayweather-Marquez, but it wasn't September 2009 at 147 pounds. I know it sold a lot of PPVs, and I was happy for them. But the fight showed us nothing we didn't already know. I left it just wanting Floyd to take the great fights. That's all. And now he has.
Shane Mosley's last five after the jump.
Fight 1: Fernando Vargas (W-TKO-6 / July 15, 2006)
In 2002, Shane Mosley lost back-to-back fights to Vernon Forrest. He then had a no contest against Raul Marquez when he moved up to 154, then beat Oscar de la Hoya in a rematch. In 2004, he lost back-to-back fights against Winky Wright. So for five official fights, Mosley was 1-4. At 33 years old, Mosley's career looked to have hit the wall. (For the record, Mayweather is now 33, so you can really see the different paths they've taken to get here.)
Vargas and Mosley fought first on February 25, 2006. Mosley did this to Vargas' face, getting the fight stopped in ten. But there was still a rivalry there, still a lot of talking. Vargas, for all his flaws and limitations, could fight. And in the rematch, the beat in Shane Mosley really came out of hibernation. If what he did to Vargas' mug the first time around was nasty, you can't ignore that the fight was, at the time of stoppage, very close. Mosley led 86-85 on two cares, and trailed 86-85 on the third.
But the rematch was a pummeling. Shane Mosley beat the crap out of Fernando Vargas for five rounds, then knocked him flat with a left hook in the sixth. It was the functional end of a short, highlight-filled, and inarguably gutsy career for Vargas. Mosley had his mojo back.
Fight 2: Luis Collazo (W-UD-12 / February 10, 2007)
The tricky Collazo was next for Mosley, who again showed his willingness to fight guys other people just didn't want to, as he had done with Winky Wright. This was also Sugar Shane's return to the welterweight ranks after years at 154. If anyone thought dropping back down would be a problem, that was dismissed pretty quickly. Shane was fit, fast and strong.
But you can't talk about this fight, which Shane won easily, without noting that Collazo did injure his hand very early in the fight, which basically took him out of it. I don't think Collazo ever beats Mosley, or rather if they fought 100 times, Collazo probably only scores the upset a handful of times. While Luis did well against the slow Hatton before and the overanxious Andre Berto after this fight, Mosley was just the wrong guy for him. Shane's size, speed, useful aggression and power at 147 would always give Luis fits. Collazo does well when he can feed off someone's aggression, but he's not a Winky Wright. He's not one of those guys always a step ahead mentally. Luis is crafty and very good, but not crafty and great.
Fight 3: Miguel Cotto (L-UD-12 / November 10, 2007)
With Mayweather set to fight Hatton, it was this clash a month beforehand that had a lot of people convinced we'd really see the best fighter in the welterweight division emerge victorious. I didn't agree, as I felt Mayweather was definitely the best in the division, but the detractors had something to rally around, and you can certainly do worse than this fight.
This was Mosley's first fight at Madison Square Garden, and he and Cotto (mostly Cotto) packed the joint. The unbeaten Cotto had been on a savage run at 147, tearing through Carlos Quintana, Oktay Urkal and Zab Judah. But Mosley represented the truly elite level, which Cotto seemed to be at in terms of talent, but didn't have that one GREAT win to fully claim the status.
This was that great win. In a terrific, action-filled, back-and-forth battle, Cotto eked out a close but in my view decisive decision victory. This was a turning point for Miguel, who didn't work the body as much as his reputation called for. It was also a turning point for Mosley. Though he lost, Mosley showed he could still hang with the best of the divison, against a younger man. There was definitely still gas in the tank.
Fight 4: Ricardo Mayorga (W-KO-12 / September 27, 2008)
Mosley had been set to face Judah on May 31, a fight scheduled for HBO PPV, which drew a lot of criticism. Then Judah fought a shower door and the fight was canceled. So Mosley made the decision to move back up to 154 pounds for a fight with Ricardo Mayorga, the dangerous brawler who had been the kryptonite to Vernon Forrest, Shane's original kryptonite.
It was almost stunning that Mayorga could even make weight. He'd fought Vargas in a loudmouth grudge match in November 2007, a fight that took place with a 164-pound weight limit, and Mayorga had been having difficulty making weight for years.
This was another turning point for Mosley. When Shane's head was in the fight, he dominated Mayorga as you'd expect he would. But a lot of this fight, he seemed like he had no real clue what to do. Rarely do you see a fighter and trainer so obviously on different pages, but Shane and his father Jack just weren't clicking for this one. Mosley wound up giving rounds away to Mayorga. Mayorga didn't win any rounds, as far as I'm concerned, but he got the 10-9 on a few of them simply because Shane was lost in a haze.
In the 12th, Mosley did something that woke him up, and he flattened Mayorga late in the round. Then, with one second left on the clock, he knocked Mayorga out. Mayorga, as is often the case with him, took the loss with some humor. When months later he pulled out of a fight with Alfredo Angulo due to supposed injuries, he told people to "blame Mosley.'
But it was obvious that Mosley and his dad just weren't together mentally on this fight. There was talk of Shane fighting Antonio Margarito. After this unimpressive performance against Mayorga, neutral promoter Lou DiBella said that anyone who let Shane fight Margarito should be arrested. Margarito, he said, would "put Shane in a pine box."
Fight 5: Antonio Margarito (W-TKO-9 / January 24, 2009)
But Shane took the fight and hired Naazim Richardson, the famed trainer of Bernard Hopkins, to take over his team. The handwrapping incident before the fight is well-worn territory and we all know about it, so I won't go into it here.
There's no other way to put it. Shane Mosley beat the living crap out of Antonio Margarito. Margarito, the iron-chinned robot, came forward. And he met Shane Mosley's fists. Over, and over, and over, and over again. Mosley utterly and completely dominated Margarito. The Mexican was too slow, had no mustard on his punches (I know, I know), and Mosley even roughed him up early in the fight; to pull a Lampley, it was as if to say, "I'm not afraid of you." He showed no fear of Margarito. By the sixth or seventh round, Margarito was clearly a little intimidated by Mosley. In the ninth, Shane closed the show in spectacular fashion.
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We'll have our full and final preview of Mayweather-Mosley up soon.