Saturday's HBO pay-per-view main event has rightfully drawn some major criticism, since nobody in their right mind really feels this is a pay-per-view main event. Put simply, this is just not a fight fit to headline a major pay-per-view. But for the diehards and idiots like me who will buy it, the fight does have some intrigue.
Junior Middleweights - 12 Rounds
Shane Mosley v. Sergio Mora
In the last five years, Sugar Shane Mosley (46-6, 39 KO) has been a little difficult to read. Now 38 years old and starting to both fight and look the age of a 17-year pro who has been through a number of serious battles in the ring, Mosley is likely nearing the end of the line for what has been a Hall of Fame career.
Since losing back-to-back fights to Winky Wright 2004, Mosley has gone 7-2 (4 KO). The first two fights on his comeback trail were 10-round decision wins over David Estrada and Jose Luis Cruz, both fought a pound over the welterweight limit as Mosley started making his way back to the 147-pound ranks. But then money called him back to 154 for a pair of victories over Fernando Vargas. Their first fight was a brutal brawl, with Vargas getting stopped when his head began growing another head.
That fight was competitive. The rematch was not, as a reinvigorated, focused Mosley pounded the hell out of Vargas and took him out in the sixth round. Seven months later, Mosley did officially return to welterweight, facing crafty contender Luis Collazo. Mosley won a wide decision in a letdown of a fight where Collazo injured his hand early and just couldn't get anything going.
After nine more months off, Mosley faced then-unbeaten Miguel Cotto at Madison Square Garden. The two of them gave great performances in a good, back-and-forth fight, with Cotto winning by unanimous decision. Despite the loss, Mosley appeared to be truly "back." But he was out of the ring another 10 months after that, and returned at 154 pounds against limited but rugged and powerful Ricardo Mayorga.
That fight was telling on many levels. Mosley was never as good at 154 as he had been at 147 (let alone how destructive he was at 135 early in his career), but he looked terrible against Mayorga, who had himself seen better days. Mosley was lost in the ring. Sometimes he looked alive and in the fight, and when he was in that mode, he fairly well dominated Mayorga. But there were other rounds he simply gave away. It was one of the more frustrating performances in recent memory, and there was an obvious disconnect between Sugar Shane and father-trainer Jack Mosley in the corner. Mosley did finish the fight in spectacular fashion, knocking Mayorga out with one second remaining in the fight, but overall I don't think anyone came away impressed with Mosley's performance that night.
He dropped back down to 147 to take on Antonio Margarito in January 2009. Mosley, old and iffy in his last bout, was a huge underdog. But working with new trainer Naazim Richardson proved to be a great career decision that night. Mosley demolished Margarito, bullying him around the ring and lifting the WBA title, and an unofficial standing as the "real" welterweight champion, though that line remains broken from Floyd Mayweather's retirement in 2008. As much as some might argue for it, the Margarito over Cotto, Mosley over Margarito line is not legitimate.
And then ... Mosley didn't fight for 16 months. Coming off of his biggest win since the Oscar de la Hoya rematch in 2003, Mosley sat around for all of 2009, and then signed on to fight Andre Berto in January 2010. Berto pulled out when the devastating earthquake struck Haiti, and Mosley signed to fight Floyd Mayweather Jr., a match long in the making and well overdue. Mayweather was rocked early by Mosley, but then completely took over the rest of the fight. For the second half of the bout, Mosley looked lost at sea, totally unsure of what to do anymore, and fighting mostly to survive.
But if there was worry that Shane Mosley would let the outcome weigh heavily on his mind, I guess his quick return to the ring might settle that idea. And Sergio Mora, though a favorite of few, is no pushover.
Mora (22-1-1, 6 KO) has himself been "interesting" over his career. The 29-year-old from East Los Angeles turned pro in 2000, but didn't make any real waves until winning the first (and only popular) season of "The Contender." After the show, he just sort of stagnated. He made a real bonehead career move in 2007 when he turned down a career-high payday and shot at the world middleweight championship against Jermain Taylor, feeling that the fight being in Memphis was too much of an advantage for Taylor. That Mora had not really earned consideration as an opponent for Taylor did not dawn on him, and then he took a fight with Elvin Ayala on special Tuesday show on ESPN, which was headlined old "Contender" castmate Alfonso Gomez.
Mora fought to a draw with Ayala, and at the time, his career was stopped dead in its tracks. But you can say this much: "The Latin Snake" did not give up or go away quietly. After a win over Rito Ruvalcaba to stay busy and get a win on his record, Mora challenged Vernon Forrest for his WBC junior middleweight title in June 2008. And though he was a big underdog going in, Mora was simply too good for an out-of-shape Forrest, who may well have been looking past Mora.
When Forrest and Mora rematched three months later, it was Mora who showed up at less than 100%, and was thoroughly outclassed by "The Viper." After that fight, Mora indicated that he wouldn't be fighting at 154 pounds anymore, as the weight cut had really drained him of his strength and sapped his energy.
Then Mora just didn't fight at all. A 2009 fight was signed and ready to go against middleweight champ Kelly Pavlik, but Pavlik pulled out with a staph infection (and some contract issues with Top Rank). Mora didn't get another fight signed for the rest of the year, and had taken off the first half anyway. He didn't return until April of this year, facing Texas club fighter Calvin Green, a natural welterweight who stood a good four inches shorter than Mora and had fought just three times since 2005, and wasn't good before he was out of the sport for four years.
For Mora, this is a fight that more or less makes or breaks him as even a possible headliner. For Mosley, this is a fight that can break his career. If Sugar Shane loses this one, what else is there to do?
Grading the Fighters
Mora is about as feather-fisted as world-class boxers come these days, up there with the likes of Paul Malignaggi. He just is not a powerful puncher at all. But he makes up for his lack of power with unique technique and, when he's at his best, really good defense and overall movement. He's good on his feet and has quick enough hands to trouble just about anyone, and he can be trickier than all hell to figure out and attack.
In a way, I'm being a bit generous with Mosley's hand speed grade. I said before the Mayweather fight that there would be an enormous difference in the hand speed of the two, and some doubted that, thinking Mosley could keep up with Floyd. It wasn't even close. Mosley is not as quick as he used to be, especially up at 154, and he doesn't punch in combination a whole lot anymore, either. Against Margarito, he looked fast because Margarito is really slow and whatever you want to say about the wraps, there was also the issue of Margarito struggling to make weight that week. Margarito was not himself in that fight, and Mosley took advantage of that. But no, I don't think Shane Mosley is really fast anymore, and I don't think he'll have an advantage over Mora in that category. The fact that Mosley still doesn't have an effective jab negates a lot of what's left of his speed when he isn't facing plodding brawlers, too. But I'm keeping it at B for now -- Mora is actually a perfect test to see where his hand speed really is these days, as few are on Mayweather's level and few top fighters are as slow as Margarito. Mosley basically faced two ends of the spectrum in hand speed in his last two fights. Mora is somewhere between them.
Defensively, Mosley has never been particularly good, and that hasn't improved with time, either. I wouldn't expect he'll be too afraid to mix it up with the punchless Mora, either. Mora is really slick when he's at his best. Both can take a good punch. Mosley's heart grade would've been an A before the Mayweather fight, but he was really discouraged and basically gave up on himself in that one. I keep him up high because it is, after all, Floyd Mayweather Jr. we're talking about, and he's pretty good.
It's slightly relevant because it has Shane Mosley, but the fight takes a hit because really, what's the future in whatever the outcome is? Mosley is much better off not staying at 154 unless he's having trouble making 147. The top guys at 154, outside of Miguel Cotto, are not good matchups for him. Sure, he could overwhelm Alfredo Angulo because that fight would sort of be like the Margarito bout, but Angulo is fresh, young, and ferocious, and could well take Mosley's head off, too. And what if Mora wins? He probably won't stay at 154. He's coming back to the weight because it's big money to fight Mosley. That Mosley and Mora are meeting in the middle of where they're best off, and that middle being a weight that gives them different problems, is a knock on the fight. Mosley isn't all that great at 154 and Mora might be out of shape like the last time he fought as a junior middleweight.
Good Fight Potential:
Most likely this is not going to be pretty to watch, and the uglier it gets, the more that suits Mora, so expect him to try to take it in that direction. Mosley might not have enough left in the tank to force it the other way.
Overall Pre-Fight Score:
Its relevance to the boxing landscape is middling at best and the fight probably isn't going to be good. I truly do believe there is intrigue here, but it's for only the most loyal of the diehard fans at $44.95, and that's just being honest. On paper, this is just not a good fight.
I don't want to put words in his mouth, but our own Ted "The Bull" Sares believes that Sergio Mora is primed to take this fight, and a lot of smart folks agree with him. He has said it since the moment the fight was announced. The more I've thought about it, the more I have to admit even as an unabashed huge Shane Mosley that Mora is all kinds of wrong for Sugar Shane. Mosley has badly struggled with crafty boxers in his career, getting blown out by Mayweather and beaten soundly twice by Winky Wright. He also went 0-2 against Vernon Forrest, back when Forrest was truly at his best, and was in tremendous struggles against Oscar de la Hoya on two occasions. Those are the best fighters Mosley has faced in his career, and he went 2-5 against them, and a lot of people might argue that that should be 0-7.
I am absolutely not trying to compare Sergio Mora to Floyd Mayweather Jr., Winky Wright, the 2002 version of Forrest, or Oscar de la Hoya. He's not that good. But Shane Mosley isn't as good as he used to be either. At 38 and with the light flickering on his career, expect Shane Mosley to come hard on Saturday night. He's looking to secure another big fight. And overall, he's a better fighter than Sergio Mora. But styles make fights, and Mora's style could be pure hell for Shane Mosley.
If Sergio Mora is in good shape with the weight cut and everything -- and that's a big "if" -- I find it hard to say he won't win this fight. If that happens it will be a fairly ugly points win. He will have to frustrate and discourage Mosley often, and he has just the type of approach to do that. If he's not in shape, Mosley will eventually get to him and beat him up, I think. But to hope for a guy to be out of shape is a tough way to go into any fight. Mosley might have picked the wrong bounce-back guy.
Yet despite all of that, I just don't see it happening. Every time I want to praise Mora's skills, I have to throw in something like "when he's in shape" or "when he's focused." Mora too often doesn't look like he's very good at all. The talent is there. Is the legitimate drive to fight there? He took off all of 2009, and while you can't blame the Pavlik fight falling apart on him, he could have fought someone at some point during the year. He turned down a fight with Jermain Taylor in 2007. His comeback this year started with a completely ridiculous opponent for a fighter of Mora's class to be facing, long layoff or not, and then he was supposed to face another mediocre opponent. Mora's best win came when Vernon Forrest was out of shape, and it's really his only truly notable win, as otherwise you get into solid, competitive guys like Peter Manfredo Jr., Jesse Brinkley, Ishe Smith and Eric Regan, and the first three guys faced Mora in five, seven and eight round fights. Fine wins, but not eye-popping stuff.
Is he really good enough to beat even a 38-year-old, worn out version of Shane Mosley? I don't mind being wrong if he is. I'm not trying to make a lock of the week prediction here. But I don't think he's good enough and I wouldn't gamble on him being in shape and ready to face his first legitimate opponent in two years. And I think that perhaps once and for all, the book on Sergio Mora: Legitimate Contender is going to get closed on Saturday night. Mosley UD-12