Many fans may not be buying the line, but everyone on Team Pacquiao is selling it: Shane Mosley should not be overlooked come May 7.
"Nobody can count Shane Mosley out," Top Rank chief Bob Arum said at Wednesday's media day workout. "He is a good, good fighter, especially when he fights an aggressive opponent like Manny Pacquiao."
Arum is counting on Mosley's toughness being a key bit of danger. The 39-year-old Mosley has never been stopped in a career that has seen him face Oscar de la Hoya, Floyd Mayweather Jr., Vernon Forrest, Winky Wright, Ricardo Mayorga, Antonio Margarito, Miguel Cotto, Fernando Vargas, and other top fighters.
"Shane Mosley is a dangerous fighter. He is bigger than Manny, strong and he still has his speed. He has never been stopped. He can take anyone's best punch and come back as strong as ever. He's so resilient. You can't hurt him," said Arum.
"I'm excited about this fight because we know that Shane is going to bring it," said Pacquiao's trainer, the celebrated Freddie Roach.
"The fight with Sugar Shane will not be easy. But my prediction is that Manny will win by knockout and become the first boxer to stop Mosley," he added.
Pacquiao himself is complimentary of his opponent's abilities. "Shane can still fight. He's fast and he's training hard. It's hard to rate him against the other (opponents). This time he's determined to shock the world. It's going to be a good fight."
The good fight -- Pacquiao maintains that he strives to give his fans bang for their major pay-per-view event buck. "My concern is what fight we can give to the fans. My first concern as a boxer is to try hard and give a good fight for the fans," he said.
"Mosley is bigger than me. He's fast and his hand speed is still there. He's faster than most of my opponents. He's also preparing hard and he's also good, so we never underestimate our opponent," said Pacquiao.
Now, no doubt this sounds like company line stuff, and a lot of it is. As a boxing fan, and a big Shane Mosley fan, and yes, a fan who is looking forward to this fight against his better instincts, the instincts that say Mosley is done at this level of the sport, I have to argue some points. I can't help it.
If anything has left Mosley, it is, in fact, his hand speed. Mosley was never a Mayweather with the lightning fists, but back at 135 pounds -- in the ancient days of 1993-99 -- Mosley was very fast. He was a destroyer. Powerful, quick, and constantly dangerous to his opponents, it has at this point been years since we've seen Mosley display the hand speed that helped make him the dominant lightweight and top of the line welterweight he used to be.
When Mosley faced Mayweather last year, some felt that the aged "Sugar" Shane would have the speed to trouble Mayweather. I warned against it then, saying that the difference in hand speed would be stark and readily apparent very quickly. It was. Mayweather made Mosley look incredibly slow, and not only that, but Shane appeared trigger shy last year against both Mayweather and the far more lightly-regarded Sergio Mora, against whom Mosley went to an ugly and ultimately highly regrettable draw in a fight he probably never should have made.
And with that, and his two 2010 outings, comes the reality that this Shane Mosley is 39 years old. The hand speed line doesn't hold water. And he hasn't won a fight in over two years. Even Arum, in his own way, seems to admit that this fight is less about being competitive than it is about having a good fight for Pacquiao's fans -- something Mosley is like to provide with his style, and in many ways, his depleted skill set.
"My matchmakers said Shane would make the most entertaining fight for the fans," said Arum. "For pure name recognition Shane Mosley is the best fighter for marketability."
Roach says the fight may not be ideal -- and takes a dig at Floyd Mayweather Jr. in the process. "Since we can't wait for the No. 1 guy - you know who I mean -- to stop running away from us, we have to fight who's available. We got this offer to fight Shane and it made sense."
Never one to shy away from speaking his mind, Roach didn't stop there when talking about the missing link in making boxing's biggest fight in decades.
"Mayweather likes to say he is better than Sugar Ray Robinson, but I think it is more important for him to keep the zero on his record than it is to fight Manny," Roach opined. "We hope the opportunity comes for a fight with Mayweather, but Manny is going to continue to fight, even if it means moving up in weight to go after nine titles."
"For me, there's a chance," Pacquiao said of fighting Mayweather, addressing the discussion that won't die. "It's up to him if he wants to fight. He's trying to wait for me to get older."
While Roach seems to hint of the possibility of fighting middleweight world champion Sergio Martinez, Pacquiao was a bit less sky-high with his ceiling on a potential next fight. "I don't know who I'll fight next. No idea. (Juan Manuel) Marquez is good for me - he's not too big."
But for now, the focus is Mosley. And everyone reports that camp has gone well. This is quite a change for Pacquiao camp, as training in recent fights has been hyped up as anywhere between spotty and disastrous.
"Manny has trained harder than I have ever seen. He's in the same condition as he was before he fought Miguel Cotto," said Arum.
"I'm in top condition for the fight," said Pacquiao. "I'm just excited to fight and beat people up."
"I never distract myself. I'm always in full force in the fight, full force in training," the Filipino added. "I'm ready for the fight. I don't want to predict. I just do my best and give a good fight. The way I'm training now I'm only 144 pounds."
Roach was particularly enthusiastic about the camp.
"Manny has had maybe his best camp ever and is in tip-top shape," the trainer said. "He's still hungry, and is training harder now than when he first started. There is no way he is taking this fight lightly and he is definitely ready for Sugar Shane.
"His motivation is his concentration. For this fight, he's been able to stay totally focused. Before his last fight he had to worry about campaigning, Congress, music and making movies."
While the vast majority of hardcore boxing fans are going to call for a Pacquiao domination -- which has replaced constantly trying to find ways for Pacquiao to lose in the minds of many -- Manny is his usual self when forecasting his performance. "I'm just going to punch him and do my best. If the knockout comes, it comes."
One fight fan interested is Jalen Rose, the former NBA player and University of Michigan Fab Fiver. Rose, now a TV analyst, is a big fight fan and attended the media day. "I'm a big Manny Pacquiao fan. It's a tough call to pick between him and Shane," said Rose. "Sugar Shane is a vet. He asked for this fight and he got this fight, but I think Pacquiao has too much speed and too much power. I'm a big fan of both fighters though. It's going to be a great fight."
In a perfect world, we'd be seeing the Shane Mosley of at least 2007 here. But it's 2011. And that Shane Mosley is long gone. In his place is a tough-minded veteran, whose heart is in the boxing game these days more than his physical abilities. When Mosley fights these days, you can see his gears turning -- you know that he's thinking of doing the things that the younger Shane Mosley used to do, but he can't execute the way that Mosley did.
But one thing you can't question is Mosley's desire to be the best again. To be the man, as Ric Flair said, you have to beat the man. Mosley tried last year against Mayweather. Almost by default -- and with a ballsy move to leave Golden Boy Promotions -- Mosley has the chance again, a year older.
Can the fight be competitive? Does Mosley have more than a prayer for a miracle? And if not, can Manny Pacquiao become the first man to knock out the celebrated but badly faded star? These questions may not entice everyone, but they mean something, anyway. And as unfortunate as it may be, with Mayweather exiled and getting booed when he shows up at the fights these days, this is as good as it was going to get. For now, at least.