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Would Manny Pacquiao Beat a Prime Shane Mosley?

Picture this, but with Shane Mosley 11 years younger. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
Picture this, but with Shane Mosley 11 years younger. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
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Scott Christ is the managing editor of Bad Left Hook and has been covering boxing for SB Nation since 2006.

This is not a preview of the May 7 fight between Manny Pacquiao and "Sugar" Shane Mosley. That fight is not in question here. We will have plenty of preview-type material in the coming week on that fight, including the audio preview on the debut episode of Bad Left Hook radio on Wednesday, and staff picks on Friday afternoon.

Rather, this is fantasy. We will never see the prime welterweight Shane Mosley fight the prime welterweight Manny Pacquiao. Mosley's first fight at welterweight came on September 25, 1999, against Wilfredo Rivera. Mosley had some trouble jumping up from lightweight, but knocked out Rivera in the 10th and final round. Eight days previous, a 20-year-old Manny Pacquiao had struggled to make weight and was knocked out in three rounds by Medgoen Singsurat, losing a flyweight title. Pacquiao would soon make his own jump in weight, a three-division leap that sent him to super bantamweight.

By the time Pacquiao became even a guy dipping his foot into the pool to test the welterweight waters, Shane Mosley was 37 years old and being counted out as washed-up, having struggled with Ricardo Mayorga in a junior middleweight fight on HBO. Once again, Mosley struggled greatly before stopping his opponent in the final round -- this time at the last second.

Mosley went to welterweight to chase a fight with Oscar de la Hoya. Pacquiao went to welterweight to face Oscar de la Hoya. Both fighters have dreamed big and gone after the top spot in the sport on numerous occasions. They have done things that skeptics said they could not.

On May 7, Manny Pacquiao takes his status as the sport's best pound-for-pound fighter to the ring to face a 39-year-old Mosley. Once again, Mosley is being told he can't win, but now time is arguing against him harder than ever. But what about the prime versions of Mosley and Pacquiao as welterweights? Who would have won that fight?

Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

First off we'd have to examine exactly what version of each fighter we're talking about. For Pacquiao, I think I'd chose the Manny that beat Antonio Margarito in November. That Pacquiao was up against the biggest fighter of his career and thought he got hit and even hurt, he stood up to it and banged away, thrashing Margarito and making hamburger of his face. I know that the fight was not held with a welterweight limit, but Pacquiao weighed in in at 144½ pounds on the scales, well below the 147-pound welterweight limit. Either that Pacquiao, or the Pacquiao who fought Miguel Cotto. I don't think there's really much difference, I just think the opponents were different.

For Mosley, I'd go with the "Sugar" Shane who fought Oscar de la Hoya on June 17, 2000. Mosley won that by controversial split decision, but proved he belonged at the weight and then some, as he and a prime Oscar traded in a great fight.

For completeness sake, let's look at what Pacquiao and Mosley have done fighting at welterweight.

Manny Pacquiao as a Welterweight

  • 2008-12-08 | Oscar de la Hoya | W-RTD-8
  • 2009-11-14 | Miguel Cotto | W-TKO-12
  • 2010-03-13 | Joshua Clottey | W-UD-12
  • 2010-11-13 | Antonio Margarito | W-UD-12*

*Was fought at 150-pound limit.

Shane Mosley as a Welterweight

  • 1999-09-25 | Wilfredo Rivera | W-KO-12
  • 2000-01-22 | Willy Wise | W-TKO-3**
  • 2000-06-17 | Oscar de la Hoya | W-SD-12
  • 2000-11-04 | Antonio Diaz | W-TKO-6
  • 2001-03-10 | Shannan Taylor | W-TKO-6
  • 2001-07-21 | Adrian Stone | W-TKO-3
  • 2002-01-26 | Vernon Forrest | L-UD-12
  • 2002-07-20 | Vernon Forrest | L-UD-12
  • 2005-04-23 | David Estrada | W-UD-10**
  • 2005-09-17 | Jose Luis Cruz | W-UD-10**
  • 2007-02-10 | Luis Collazo | W-UD-12
  • 2007-11-10 | Miguel Cotto | L-UD-12
  • 2009-01-24 | Antonio Margarito | W-TKO-9
  • 2010-05-01 | Floyd Mayweather Jr. | L-UD-12

**Were fought at 148-pound limit.

Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images

At 147 pounds, nobody has yet given Manny Pacquiao much trouble. Margarito hurt him, but it was momentary. Cotto gave him some good looks in the early rounds, but that didn't last, either. An old, drained Oscar did nothing, and an in-shape Joshua Clottey found himself in turtle form for the majority of the fight.

Mosley has faced more fighters -- and in my estimation, better fighters -- and has lost three fights at the weight: to the tall and very talented Vernon Forrest, in what were Forrest's two greatest performances, and to Floyd Mayweather Jr., who picked off an aged Mosley all night long last year outside of a great second round from "Sugar" Shane.

But counting the very tight win against Oscar, Mosley's struggles have come against fighters nothing like Pacquiao. Forrest was six feet tall, had really good power, and knew how to use his size. Oscar was tall, carried a nasty left hook, and was very sound in basically all aspects of the game. Mayweather is a defensive and counter-punching genius. Mosley fought Miguel Cotto very tight, and lost to a younger man at the top of his game.

Pacquiao is a little over 5'6", a southpaw, and an offensive hurricane who loves to throw both fists in constant combination. His ability to dart in and out would give a prime Mosley all kinds of trouble; Mosley's ring IQ has never been great, and despite not being a defensive fighter in the mold of Mayweather, knows how to frustrate opponents into not being able to do much offensively themselves. He has taken good fighters all but out of the fight simply by constantly keeping them on the defensive.

But if you remember the younger Shane Mosley they way I do, you know this: Shane Mosley didn't stay on the defensive. When hit, Mosley loved to fire back with reckless abandon. Pacquiao is open to be hit. One of the ways that Juan Manuel Marquez was able to keep pace with Pacquiao was to be almost careless in his counter-punching attempts. After round one of their first fight, Marquez learned the score against Manny Pacquiao, and over their next 23 rounds the two were nip-and-tuck. Marquez was willing to go through hell to exploit Pacquiao's openings and weaknesses. It got him put on his ass and hurt, but it kept him in the fights. Since the second fight with Marquez in 2008, we've seen nobody do that with Manny Pacquiao. They've all been too overwhelmed. They simply didn't have the same attitude as Marquez.

Mosley used to have that attitude. And he was a lot bigger than Juan Manuel Marquez. Mosley was a sturdy 5'9" welterweight with a great chin, very good hand speed, and very good power. Shane Mosley's right hand and left hook have put down some tough men over the years.

I don't think it's a question of whether or not the two could keep pace. I think the biggest question of this mythical matchup is whether or not Manny Pacquiao could stay out of Shane Mosley's wheelhouse for 12 rounds. I think Pacquiao could definitely win a decision, maybe even fairly wide. But he wouldn't knock out Shane Mosley. Nobody ever has, and even if Pacquiao manages on May 7, that's not the Shane Mosley we're talking about here.

But could Mosley knock out Pacquiao? Absolutely. At welterweight, Manny has not faced a beast like the 2000 version of Shane Mosley (or Shane Mosley 2K as I like to call him, starting now). Mosley had a chin that stacks up to Margarito's and the same attitude: "Fine, you're going to hit me, but I'm going to take it and keep coming."

Mosley, though, had hand speed and "fast" power, which Margarito has never had. As a full package, I would have to consider Shane Mosley 2K a favorite over the modern Manny Pacquiao. The size, the power, the fact that Mosley can take Manny's best shots add up to a role as favorite. Not a sure bet, but the favorite. I'd take Mosley with a late stoppage, finally rallying and catching up to an excellent Pacquiao who gives him all he can handle and then some.

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