On May 7, "Sugar" Shane Mosley once again reaches for the brass ring, perhaps for the final time in his terrific, Hall of Fame-caliber career. The 39-year-old Mosley will face current pound-for-pound ruler Manny Pacquiao at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, which will serve at the very least as a final major league payday for the celebrated Californian, who over his career has ducked no challenge, and has in fact at times gone out and sought challenges that many in his position would have understandably avoided.
Over his 18-year professional career, Mosley has faced Oscar de la Hoya (twice), Floyd Mayweather Jr., Vernon Forrest (twice), Winky Wright (twice), Miguel Cotto, Antonio Margarito, Fernando Vargas (twice), and Ricardo Mayorga, among many other very high-quality opponents. We've seen him dominate at lightweight, reign as ruler at welterweight, and compete well if not at his best as high as junior middleweight. He's been a rock for the sport of boxing for nearly two decades, a reliable action fighter whose instinct when hit is to fight back like hell just opened up in front of him and he can't do anything less if he wants to survive.
But with his age and some of his recent performances, few are giving Shane Mosley much of a chance at all against Manny Pacquiao. Mosley has been counted out before. Should he be given more of a chance against Manny than the popular opinion believes?
Let's examine Mosley's last five fights to get a read on where he's really at right now, from Cotto to Mora. (Note: If you have trouble with video, this could be a bear, as there are five coming after the jump.)
November 10, 2007: Shane Mosley v. Miguel Cotto (Cotto UD-12)
For my money, this was the last time we saw a serious approximation of the "real" Shane Mosley. I know he's won fights since this one, and I know he lost this one, but let me explain.
Cotto at the time was an undefeated superstar, 30-0 and had been decimating his opposition. Mosley, at 36, was already getting long in the tooth, and had just moved back down to welterweight with a February win over Luis Collazo, which came after a pair of wins at 154 over Fernando Vargas. As Mosley had looked very good in the Vargas rematch and was dominant against Collazo, it was right to hope that Shane would give Cotto his toughest test to date, and he did.
Over 12 rounds of good action, Cotto and Mosley traded crisp power shots and savvy tactical boxing. Mosley gave Cotto all he could handle in the close loss (115-113 twice, 116-113) and put the first chinks in the Puerto Rican's armor.
Mosley Performance Grade: A-. His age did show a little bit at times, but it was also a fight against an excellent opponent, a younger man he pushed to the brink.
September 27, 2008: Shane Mosley v. Ricardo Mayorga (Mosley KO-12)
After nearly a year out of the ring, Mosley came back at 154 pounds to face rugged but limited Ricardo Mayorga, a name opponent who in recent years has been a "get a win against a guy people will watch you fight" opponent for Mosley, Oscar de la Hoya, and most recently, Miguel Cotto. There is no denying the Nicaraguan brawler is tough, but these days that and some early fight power is about all he's got in the tank.
Mosley was miserable in this fight, his last with father Jack Mosley serving as his trainer. Shane and Jack seemed to be in completely different dimensions for much of the fight, leading to Mosley looking spaced-out and confused at times, giving away rounds against a guy he really should have chewed up. Mosley has never been the fighter at 154 that he has been at 147, but even still, Mayorga should not have been as close as he was before Shane's light switched on in the 12th round and he knocked Mayorga flat in the waning moments.
Mosley Performance Grade: C-. Shane was really out of sorts mentally and it showed. His performance was so mediocre and flat that promoter Lou DiBella stated afterward that if plans continued for Mosley to face Antonio Margarito in his next fight, Margarito would "put Shane in a pine box." A fight between Margarito and Mosley was signed shortly after.
January 24, 2009: Shane Mosley v. Antonio Margarito (Mosley TKO-9)
Ah, WrapGate. Without going into all of that -- because we've gone into it, over it, under it, and around it at this point -- this is likely to wind up being seen as The Last Stand of Shane Mosley, for all intents and purposes. A distracted and flat Margarito was demolished by Mosley, but truthfully Mosley didn't have to work all that hard to kick Margarito's ass, which he most certainly did. Margarito has always been there to get hit, but this time he couldn't just walk through it. Mosley was big and strong enough to beat down Margarito, and in the ninth round of a one-sided shellacking, referee Raul Caiz Sr. stopped the fight just as Margarito's trainer Javier Capetillos threw the white towel into the ring. A fight that had many questioning how long Mosley could last against the Mexican bomber turned instead into one of Mosley's most memorable performances.
Mosley Performance Grade: A. I mean, on a curve, I'd grade this lower than the Cotto fight, but as a flat grade, he earns the A. Sure Margarito in this fight was not as good as Cotto in 2007, but Mosley did what few thought he could do and just took him apart. This was not a boxing lesson -- this was Shane Mosley going for broke from the get-go and taking Margarito's head off his shoulders.
May 1, 2010: Shane Mosley v. Floyd Mayweather Jr. (Mayweather UD-12)
Mosley sat out a year before a scheduled fight with Andre Berto in January 2010, which was then scrapped late after Berto pulled out of the fight following the devastating earthquake in Haiti. Instead of waiting to reschedule with Berto, Mosley took the unfortunate opportunity in front of him and signed for a mega-money fight with Floyd Mayweather Jr. on May 1.
The Right Hand. Maybe the most shaken Floyd Mayweather Jr. has ever been in a pro fight. In the second round, Mosley landed a stiff right that rumbled Mayweather to his core, forcing "Money" to desperately grab onto Mosley's arm and hang on for dear life. Mayweather survived the dicey second round, and after that, he showed what I expected. That he was too fast for Mosley, whose speed had seemed to decline noticeably against the plodding Mayorga and Margarito. Even against slow guys, Mosley didn't look fast anymore to me. I feared that Mayweather would make him look incredibly slow by comparison, and that's what Mayweather did.
The final ten rounds of Mayweather-Mosley were a slow crawl into reality for the aged Mosley. Hours after the fight, in the wee hours of the May 2nd morning, I reflected back on the performance, the troubling, glazed-over stare in Mosley's eyes, and what I felt like watching one of my favorite fighters find himself so hopelessly out of his depth:
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.
Mosley Performance Grade: D+. In some ways, you can argue he did the best he could. But down the stretch of the fight, Shane was lost. Not even the great Naazim Richardson in his corner could get him to respond. It looked like a fighter who realized that his time was up.
September 18, 2010: Shane Mosley v. Sergio Mora (D-12)
That HBO even produced a "highlight" video for this, or could find enough material to fill out two minutes, is staggering. Just about four months after the Mayweather loss, Mosley made an incredibly strange decision to move back up to 154 pounds to fight Sergio Mora, a largely washed-out former "Contender" winner who never capitalized on his brief fame that reality TV brought him. Even though Mora had beaten Vernon Forrest (and then lost the rematch badly), that came after Mora had made some boneheaded career decisions and lost his luster, turning down a fight with then-middleweight champion Jermain Taylor, and winding up fighting Elvin Ayala to a draw on Friday Night Fights instead.
Mora hadn't even been active. In June 2010, he won an iffy fight against blown up ex-welterweight Calvin Green, a part-time fighter who had only been active again in the year prior, after a four-year absence from boxing. Mora, with no fanbase and an ugly-to-watch fighting style, didn't seem to be a good choice of opponent, and many expressed disgust toward HBO for putting such an unappealing fight on pay-per-view.
The disgust got even greater after what was arguably the worst televised fight of 2010. Mora spent 12 rounds desperately avoiding any interaction with Mosley, who tried his best to make a fight of it but wound up doing nothing more than gassing himself out. While I scored it in Mosley's favor for at least trying to fight while Sergio "A Feint's As Good As a Jab" Mora feinted and didn't jab for 36 minutes, the end result was a draw, which cosmically-speaking, felt appropriate. There were no winners after this awful fight, where Mosley looked older than ever and at a loss for ways to get to Mora, an above average defensive fighter at best whose defense, unlike Mayweather's, never creates offense, and whose own offense, unlike Mayweather's, has no real strengths.
Losing wide to the great Floyd Mayweather Jr. at age 38 was one thing. Drawing with Sergio Mora was quite another, and it confirmed the belief, in my mind, that Mosley was shot.
Mosley Performance Grade: D. I only go higher than an F because Shane did at least try to fight. It took two to tango, and the other fella didn't feel like dancin'. But even handicapping for Mora being a chore to watch, Mosley looked awful.
How Does This All Bode for Shane Mosley Against Manny Pacquiao?
Not well, to put it simply. Over his career, Shane Mosley has struggled with strong defensive fighters who can prey on his aggression, and with guys who could physically hang with him. Winky Wright and Floyd Mayweather Jr. fit the bill on the first count, while Vernon Forrest and Miguel Cotto (to a lesser degree) check in on the second. Truthfully, a younger Mosley would have, in my estimation, beaten Cotto fairly convincingly. By the time he was 36, he was far enough gone that Cotto could keep pace with him. Even the pre-Margarito version of Cotto would have had an awful time with a tall, strong, aggressive guy like a prime welterweight Mosley, in my view.
Manny Pacquiao is not tall, and he's not a great defensive fighter. But as Mosley nears his 40th birthday, he has weaknesses he didn't when he fought Winky or Vernon. Mayweather and even Mora showed just how far Mosley's speed has declined over the years. A younger Mosley would have eventually been able to find Mora and batter him, I suspect. But he couldn't do it anymore.
We know how Manny Pacquiao fights. He's a machine gun of offense whose punch output, with power in both hands, keeps all opponents at bay, no matter how big or strong. Though a select few cling to the belief that Manny's incredible run of wins has come over guys who were carefully picked, the fact is that Juan Manuel Marquez, Oscar de la Hoya, Ricky Hatton, Miguel Cotto, Joshua Clottey and Antonio Margarito are all good fighters, and only Marquez, back at 130 pounds (!) managed to give Manny any trouble whatsoever. It's my firm belief that today's Mosley pretty closely compares to the bewildered Oscar we saw clueless on his stool between rounds, or the tough but too-far-gone Margarito of last November. Maybe a mix of the two. And that's not a good thing.
The last time it seemed so unanimous (or close to it) that Mosley didn't have a shot was his fight with Margarito. Shane threw down that night and achieved something glorious. But this isn't slow, flat-footed, distracted Antonio Margarito. This is a Manny Pacquiao who has been putting fighters out to pasture and destroying those he didn't retire. As he's moved up in weight, he has been a force of nature. My feeling is that if Manny Pacquiao were an incoming hurricane, he's a category five bearing down on Mosley, posing as the New Orleans levees during Katrina. This fight is in so many ways ill-conceived and poorly-designed. And plenty of people have been saying it since the moment it was signed, yet because Erik Morales surprised us with a valiant effort against Marcos Maidana, there is it seems a slight uptick in those not willing to count out Shane Mosley.
But looking at Mosley's recent history just doesn't support the idea that his hand speed is still there (a favorite Top Rank go-to fluff comment) or that he really has much of a chance against Pacquiao. Yes, Mosley could knock Pacquiao out, but we're talking about Shane Mosley here -- and we're giving him but a puncher's chance.
Someday, Manny Pacquiao is going to face a stern challenge again. It will happen. But right now, I can't see it happening on May 7.
"A man is not old until regrets take the place of dreams." -- John Barrymore (1932-2004)