Shane Mosley lost badly to Floyd Mayweather Jr. last night. Does he still have the fire to go forward? (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn / Getty Images)
"I just got finished cussing out Shane, because he was making excuses -- 'My trainer told me what to do, and I didn't do it' -- and I told him, 'Nobody trashes my fighter, including the fighter.' There's only one person wants to hear excuses -- your mom. She's always going to ask, 'What happened baby?' Shane's an important dude to me."
--Naazim Richardson (ESPN Los Angeles)
Shane Mosley has been here before. Kind of.
Looked at by many then as one of the very few best in the sport pound-for-pound, Mosley got his ass kicked (to put it both bluntly and realistically) by Vernon Forrest on January 26, 2002. It was the first loss of his career, a semi-manhandling against the also-unbeaten "Viper," who proved his own worth as among the sport's elite at that time.
But Mosley came back and fought Forrest again. Six months later, they hooked up for a rematch at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. Forrest again won. Though Mosley put in a better performance in the rematch than in the original fight, he clearly lost.
Mosley was at something of a crossroads. In 1999, Mosley jumped two divisions, leaving behind a stunningly dominant and destructive run at lightweight to move to welterweight and chase down a mega-fight with Oscar de la Hoya. After a couple of tune-up wins at the new weight (including a tough test from Wilfredo Rivera in his 147-pound debut), Mosley and Oscar got it on, with Mosley coming out the winner in a highly-competitive fight.
Now, he was looking at another jump in weight. Though a huge lightweight and a big, strong welterweight, the junior middleweight division presented a whole new challenge. Oscar de la Hoya had moved there, and Mosley (after a no-contest against tough Raul Marquez) signed on for a rematch with Oscar. He won, very narrowly (many felt he lost), and had some of his mojo back. Years later, we'd learn that Mosley was affiliated with BALCO at this time, and would admit using their supplements for the Oscar rematch.
But at the time, it was a pure bounce-back. Mosley was back in action, back in the upper echelons of the sport (truthfully, he never left), and searching for a challenge.
Winky Wright was at 154, and nobody wanted a damn thing to do with Winky Wright. So Mosley fought him. And he lost badly. Like the Forrest situation, Mosley simply went right back at Wright, fighting better in their rematch eight months later, but still coming up short.
After bouncing back with five straight wins, including the fight that functionally retired Fernando Vargas, Mosley was lined up to face unbeaten Miguel Cotto at 147. Cotto won a hotly-contested, underrated and exciting fight in November 2007. So Mosley, once again, came back, knocking out Ricardo Mayorga in a very erratic performance, and then thrashing Antonio Margarito.
Shane Mosley is 38 years old. His career has been fantastic, a shoo-in Hall of Fame resume in my mind. He will go down as a fighter who fought great competition, who wasn't afraid of a challenge, and when he did lose, wasn't afraid to try and get the win back. It never came up, but I'd be willing to bet Shane would have fought Cotto again if that fight had been available to him. But Cotto, unlike the other losses, was the A-side in fight number one. With Cotto, for the first time, Mosley hadn't entered the fight in the driver's seat.
He didn't this time, either. After a January bout with Andre Berto was canceled, Mosley and Mayweather signed to get it on. It was a long-overdue battle. I don't have the patience or the desire to go into who ducked who, but I'll say again that I truly feel neither of them ever really wanted the fight as badly as they might let on. In 2010, it made sense for them both. Mayweather needed a credible opponent. Mosley was the most credible man out there. Mosley just needed, and wanted, a big fight. Fights get no bigger than Mayweather's anymore.
He's lost before. He's lost badly before. Shane Mosley, for all the praise he's earned, has never been a great pure boxer. I've always likened him more to the Mexican stars of the era -- Erik Morales, Marco Antonio Barrera, Juan Manuel Marquez. Those guys can/could box. Mosley can box. But Mosley never did become the boxer that perhaps he had the ability to be. He never was a great counter-puncher, always had so-so defense, and with his resume, you'd really expect a better jab than he ever developed.
Shane Mosley never had "mental issues" in a fight -- what I mean is, he never seemed like he was truly collapsing or folding his tent. He was badly frustrated and discouraged by Wright especially, and by Forrest, but he tried his best. Still, Shane Mosley has never been a thinking man's fighter. Like Morales, Barrera, Marquez, and many others, when Shane Mosley is at his best, it's because he's ferociously attacking. When he gets hit, he blanks on the boxing knowledge he does have, and he goes for the other man's chin. He wings wild shots. He makes reckless charges frequently. He's always done this. It was no surprise that he fought the way he did against Mayweather.
Those hoping for a great jab to dictate the pace were doing the equivalent of asking Shaquille O'Neal to hit 75% of his free throws this year. He's never done it before, why would he now? Mosley has always been reactionary in the ring. He loves to be aggressive.
And as I said before the fight, Mosley's a great aggressive fighter. And nobody makes guys pay for aggression like Floyd Mayweather Jr. does. Floyd did it again last night. Good boxers, and guys who move well, and guys who have great defense, have given Mosley problems in the past. Mayweather is an all-time elite pure boxer, he moves exceptionally well, and his defense continues to amaze.
Mosley's only true chance in this fight was pure power. He showed some in the second round. He hurt Mayweather worse than Floyd's ever been hurt, and won a dominant round. But Floyd didn't get rattled. Floyd didn't cower as many skeptics might have expected. He used his brain, got his hands up high (very unusual for Floyd), clinched when he could until he got his legs back, and from there on out it was a clinic.
Actually, Shane Mosley's never been here before. Shane Mosley's never been 38 years old, with rumblings that his long-term health might be a concern, coming off of a tremendously one-sided loss to arguably the best boxer in the world.
He's never had to think, "Am I done?" And he's never had to say after a fight, "Well, I'll go on vacation, relax, and see how I feel," at least not in the manner with which he had to say that last night.
I said in the immediate post-fight that I don't think Shane should retire unless it's what he wants. But he does need to consider everything, of course. And a retirement now would come with absolutely no shame. It would mean that Shane Mosley went out of a brilliant career losing to the best fighter he could face. That once again, he went after the brass ring, tried to stake his claim as the No. 1 fighter in the world, showing a substantial amount of drive and desire.
In fact, maybe there's no better retirement to sum up Shane Mosley's career. But that's for another day.
As an unabashed Shane Mosley fan, I will say that it did pain me from about round eight on to watch him against Mayweather. I was in greater awe of Mayweather than I ever have been before. Those desiring Mosley to "shut Mayweather's mouth" instead watched as Mayweather, frankly, threw a handful of corks at his so-called "haters." He was aggressive and he picked Shane Mosley apart.
But it wasn't that Mosley was losing, and badly, that really bugged me. It was looking at Shane in the corner. The photo used for this article caught my eye because it took me right back to those just hours-old moments. Mosley, with a somewhat blank stare, going through the motions in the corner. Naazim Richardson half-pleading with Mosley to do this or that, giving consistently strong advice. At the end, all Richardson had was a rah-rah-esque, "You can do this! I know you can do this!" moment for Mosley in the corner before round 12. Richardson had threatened to pull the plug on the fight. Mosley seemed in another world at times. The man who never was much of a thinking man's fighter in the ring was either thinking too much, or not thinking at all. That is a credit to Mayweather and his team's gameplan as much of anything. Floyd took Shane out of the fight, and hammered home his point repeatedly with right crosses and left hooks.
As the fight hasn't left my mind and it's closing in on 5am here (CDT), those are the moments that are most sticking out. There is a lot of how great Mayweather did in the ring, but Mosley, long one of my favorite fighters, looking like a lost cause, a beaten man who didn't know what to do with a superior physical specimen, is sort of haunting my thoughts on the fight right now. I see and even hear those corner moments with Naazim and Shane, and they fade out and give way to Pink Floyd's "Comfortably Numb." That's as much to do with Richardson's growing frustration over the fight as anything. I've seen trainers frustrated with fighters, begging fighters to do something, but Naazim and Shane are both such passionate and genuine people that this somehow felt different to me. When I think purely of Mosley and Richardson, and their admirable and double-hard work that led ultimately to pretty spectacular failure, that's the song that I keep thinking of.
There is no pain you are receding
A distant ship's smoke on the horizon.
You are only coming through in waves.
Your lips move but I can't hear what you're saying.
When I was a child
I caught a fleeting glimpse
Out of the corner of my eye.
I turned to look but it was gone
I cannot put my finger on it now
The child is grown,
The dream is gone.
But I have become comfortably numb.