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Past, Present and Future: Mosley-Berto a chance for both to shine

After weeks of sniping on the internet, Shane Mosley and Andre Berto announced a January 2010 fight in Las Vegas this weekend. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
After weeks of sniping on the internet, Shane Mosley and Andre Berto announced a January 2010 fight in Las Vegas this weekend. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

In January of 2009, Shane Mosley and Andre Berto both made headlines in boxing. But they almost fought each other.

Back in November 2008, Antonio Margarito and Shane Mosley were lining up to fight in January 2009. But Margarito wavered over money, and spent most of the season complaining that Oscar de la Hoya took no challenge by facing Manny Pacquiao (funny how that turned out, huh?). With Margarito-Mosley on the rocks, Mosley turned to Andre Berto, the unbeaten young titlist that HBO had been pushing hard for the last couple of years.

Mosley-Berto, said Mosley in a radio interview, was good to go. Berto said the fight was agreed to in principle.

Shortly after that, Margarito came around, and Margarito-Mosley was signed. Berto fought past Mosley victim Luis Collazo instead, one week prior to the Mosley fight.

On January 17, Berto overcame the first truly stiff challenge of his career, furiously showing his grit and desire in a 12th round he absolutely had to win. Not only did he win it, he dominated the round, leaving no doubt which way that frame should have been scored. Berto was fought tough, and he proved himself.

On the 24th, Mosley was the underdog against Margarito, the super-sized welterweight with the iron chin and relentless spirit. We all know the wraps controversy, but whatever -- Margarito's gloves were clean that night, and Mosley picked him apart from the opening bell. It was the 37-year old "Sugar" Shane who was the relentless banger, as Margarito was too slow to find Shane, who beat him ferociously until Margarito's corner threw in the towel at 43 seconds of the ninth round.

His win was so overwhelming, so complete and so dominant that it left boxing in absolute shock. Lou DiBella (Berto's promoter) can say what he wants about that fight now, but when it was first brought up months prior, DiBella was quoted as saying that Margarito "would put Shane in a pine box."

11 months later, Mosley has tried and failed to land a fight with Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao. Both went in other directions. And though he spent most of the year making his case verbally, he steps back into the ring at 38 years of age on January 30, 2010, to face Andre Berto in a welterweight title fight that will have past, present and future all stamped on the banner.

Berto, 25, is fast. And he's strong. He made brick-built 140-pound titlist Juan Urango look immobile in May, a fight so uneventful it's been nearly forgotten already on the sheets of both men. It wasn't the sort of impressive we wanted from Andre, and Urango simply went back to 140 and put on a wild slugfest with Randall Bailey a couple months later.

Shane Mosley is an active legend, a Hall of Famer-to-be whose career looked to be winding down before he beat the living crap out of Margarito and gave himself new life. But as fashionable as it has become to fight into your 40s, and is improved an experience it is for those fighters these days, we can't ignore his age.

Mosley is 38 years old, and no one's going to compare Margarito and Berto as similar fighters. Shane won't have Margarito's slow punches coming back in this one; it'll be Berto, who can at least match Shane for speed, if not outquick him at this stage of their careers. And while Berto doesn't have the sort of thunderous power that many of Mosley's past opponents have had, he's got more than enough to keep Shane honest, even considering Shane's own granite chin.

Mosley (46-5, 38 KO) once lost four of six fights, with another one of those bouts ending a no-contest. Those days seem like an age ago, as he's lost just once since 2004, a heated 2007 confrontation with Miguel Cotto. He has shown no actual signs of slowing down, other than his occasional jumps to 154 pounds, a weight he simply doesn't carry well.

Berto (25-0, 19 KO) will have to hope Mosley is slowed down, or that he can at least make him look like he is. His natural ability and speed will help him, but he's also going to face a new toughest test ever, and Shane Mosley is not Luis Collazo. Berto showed guts and fortitude against Collazo, but Luis doesn't hit like Shane, isn't as fast as Shane, and just isn't as good as Shane.

It's way too early to start making predictions, but this is a fight that has me excited already. If Mosley pulls this one off, he continues an outstanding career with another fantastic win. If Berto pulls what will be an upset over the veteran, a new star could be born. This is the fight Berto has been groomed for, and it's time for him to show what he's got on a new level.