This Saturday night on CBS Sports Network (10:30 p.m. ET), Shane Mosley returns to action against David Avanesyan, as the 44-year-old former three-division titleholder looks to will himself back into the title mix at 147 pounds, fighting for an interim WBA belt and a shot at Keith Thurman or Shawn Porter later this year.
Here's a look at the matchup.
Shane Mosley vs David Avanesyan
Record: 49-9-1 (41 KO) ... Streak: W2 ... Last 5: 3-2 ... Last 10: 5-4-1 ...Stance: Orthodox ... Height/Reach: 5'8½" / 71" ... Age: 44
Thoughts: Shane Mosley is one of my all-time favorite fighters. I love his style, I love his willingness to fight the best and take chances. He was a monster at lightweight, a hell of a welterweight, and a solid junior middleweight. But he's also 44 years old and doesn't have much by way of good performances in the last seven years.
The last time Shane Mosley looked like Shane Mosley, it was January 24, 2009, when he destroyed Antonio Margarito at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Mosley was the underdog in that fight, and for good reason. Margarito was coming off of a big win over Miguel Cotto, who had beaten Shane in 2007, and Mosley was coming off of a frankly lousy performance against Ricardo Mayorga, where he looked distracted and way off his game for much of the fight, before scoring a sensational KO with one second left in the bout.
Mosley was 37 years old when he beat Margarito, already getting up there in age. That upset win was a doozy, and it led to a matchup against unbeaten young WBC titleholder Andre Berto for January 2010, which wound up canceled. Instead, Mosley got a long-awaited fight with Floyd Mayweather for May of that year. For two rounds, Shane Mosley looked like he might have had some answers. He stunned Mayweather in the second, buckling the pound-for-pound king's knees on a vicious right hand, and hurt him again moments later. It's as truly rocked as Mayweather has ever been. Then that round ended. And then next 10 of them were one-way traffic in Mayweather's favor. By the later rounds, Mosley looked confused, deflated, and lost.
To say the next couple of years weren't kind to him would be an understatement. Four months after the Mayweather fight, Mosley fought to a draw with Sergio Mora in an absolutely wretched fight where neither man looked good. Mora has a style that can be a pain to deal with, but even considering that, Mosley looked bad. And that was the third time in four fights that he didn't at all resemble the prime version of Mosley, save for that second round against Floyd and that knockout at the end of the Mayorga fight.
Despite the wide loss to Mayweather and the awful fight with Mora, Mosley got a fight in May 2011 with Manny Pacquiao, which nobody asked for, and wound up being about what was expected. Pacquiao shut out Mosley in a fight so uncompetitive that James Brown, working the Showtime pay-per-view telecast, all but apologized for being associated with and helping to sell what was truly a non-event.
A year later, Mosley was back as a stepping stone for young Canelo Alvarez, who dominated Mosley over 12 rounds again. Mosley flirted with retirement, ultimately taking another year off before finally scoring a win again, beating Pablo Cesar Cano in Mexico. Six months later, he went to Australia to face Anthony Mundine, and was stopped for the first time in his career, retiring after the seventh round due to a back injury. He was also losing the fight. And once again, Mosley was thought to be retired.
21 months later, he was back again, facing an old foe in Mayorga. It was, quite frankly, an embarrassing fight for Mayorga, who was grossly out of shape, clearly only there because he wanted a paycheck, and had absolutely nothing to offer. Mosley beat him up and finished the once-brash Nicaraguan brawler, now reduced to a clown trying his best and failing to convince the audience that he wasn't just putting on an act. Mosley fought again four months later, going to Panama to face Patrick Lopez, an aging, lower-tier welterweight from Venezuela. Mosley won with a 10th round TKO.
All of that is meant to say this: no matter what happens on Saturday, Shane Mosley's chances of becoming a top fighter again are slim. He's old, it's been seven years since he's won a fight near at top level of the sport, and three years since he's won one even close, and that's honestly being a bit generous to Cano, which was a solid win, but, well, it's just Cano. That doesn't exactly make one think that three years later he's fit for facing the Keith Thurman-Shawn Porter winner, which he will if he's victorious here.
But I do respect Shane Mosley's determination. What he's doing right now is his very best to prove naysayers like me wrong. He's still in great physical shape, still looks the part standing there, and still has the heart. He says injuries hampered him greatly for years, and now he's healthy and ready to get back to the top. And he's trying. He could have sat and waited after the Mayorga "fight," but instead he went to Panama and fought someone to end 2015. And now he's taking the biggest opportunity there is for him at 147, an interim title fight that, if he wins, will force him into a world title fight.
It's up to Shane Mosley now. Either he proves people like me wrong, which would be a great story, or we're proven correct, which is a familiar story in boxing history. It's exceptionally rare that fighters are real contenders at age 44. He'll give it a shot, though.
Record: 21-1-1 (11 KO) ... Streak: W8 ... Last 5: 5-0 ... Last 10: 9-0-1 ...Stance: Orthodox ... Height/Reach: 5'8" / 68½" ... Age: 27
Thoughts: David Avanesyan is famous as a pro boxer for one thing, and "famous" probably isn't the word for it. But he's best-known as the guy who caused a rib injury to Kell Brook last October, which canceled Brook's scheduled December title defense against Diego Chaves.
Other than that, Avanesyan has had a fairly quiet career. The Russian turned pro a couple of months before his 21st birthday in 2009, and wound up losing his second pro fight, but that also came against Andrey Klimov, who is a pretty decent fighter himself, and it was a six-round bout. He won his next 12 before a March 2013 draw with Aslanbek Kozaev, also a decent fighter. (When I say "decent" I mean decent, not contenders, not world class, but competent fighters.)
For his last three fights, Avanesyan has gone abroad, beating journeyman Laszlo Fazekas and fading Irishman Dean Byrne in the United Kingdom, followed by a win in Monaco last November over Charlie Navarro, a fringe contender who once received a world title bout against Vyacheslav Senchenko in 2010, if the name rings a bell. (It could be that or Navarro's losses to Thomas Dulorme, Jorge Paez Jr, or Omar Chavez, or maybe his pre-Senchenko loss to Sebastian Lujan.)
The fight with Navarro put the interim WBA welterweight title in Avanesyan's possession, a ridiculous belt that doesn't need to exist and was contested by two fighters that nobody sane had in the top 15 of the division.
Avanesyan does not have any wins that really leap out. If Navarro isn't his best, then it's Kaizer Mabuza, a South African who put together a nice pair of fights in 2009-10 against Serhiy Fedchenko and Kendall Holt, then saw his career as a contender fall apart with losses to Zab Judah, Chris van Heerden, Khabib Allakhverdiev, and Bethuel Ushona, before Avanesyan handed him another.
At this point, Avanesyan is maybe top 20 in the 147-pound division. Maybe. His résumé is lacking, and even if Mosley is as shot as some believe him to be, a win over Sugar Shane might honestly be the best of the Russian's career to date. He's not a bad fighter, mind you -- he's got enough ability that if Mosley really is done, he should be able to beat him. It's just that he hasn't proven to be an actual contender.
Matchup Grade: C. The fact that the winner of this fight is going to be a mandatory opponent for the Keith Thurman-Shawn Porter winner doesn't sit well with me, because neither of them, even with a win here, are really qualified for that fight right now. Other than Mosley being more famous, it's no better than Kell Brook's mandatories against Kevin Bizier and Jo Jo Dan. But as a fight, it's not so bad. Mosley is trying to make his point, and Avanesyan is the best opponent he could get. It's not a mismatch, it's not scary on paper. It's a mid-level fight with a famous guy past his prime.