It was good to catch up with Sergio Mora not long ago. “The Latin Snake,” who calls fights for DAZN, has recently been back at work consistently, spending his weekends prepping and then performing in (almost) the same vein as he was pre-COVID.
He called the Billy Joe Saunders win over Martin Murray from his living room, adding some analysis alongside Nick Halling and Paul Smith, and also worked the Daniel Jacobs-Gabriel Rosado fight the next night from Florida.
Mora also had a birthday on Dec. 4, and it was a big one: 40. The former titleholder celebrated in a manner befitting an older and wiser version of himself, going overnight camping at the beach with his son.
It was something of a bittersweet birthday, Mora told me. You don’t want to throw unintended shade right after a milestone birthday, so I don’t want to say he was an over-achiever in compiling a 29-5-2 mark, while collecting a world title at 154 pounds, the result of his 2008 upset win over Vernon Forrest.
Coming from a home where his mother worked her tail off to provide for the kids and had to carry most of the responsibility load because her partner didn’t step up, Sergio certainly did achieve. He won a crown against an A-grade foe and he kept battling until 2018. When we last saw him in the ring, he defeated Alfredo Angulo via split decision. Mora transitioned well to his role as an analyst for DAZN.
“If it weren’t for the full-time analyst gig I definitely would’ve had another fight,” Mora told me. “I wanted that 30th win. Fate intervened. Being ringside, talking and walking a high wire on live TV is a different kind of adrenaline rush that fighters miss, need, and crave.”
That is as low-key a retirement announcement as you’ll see in this age, and it fits his personality. He was never a blow-hard trash talker who looked to feed his ego off beefs.
Mora can look back and be proud he was the winner of the first season of “The Contender,” coming to the show 12-0 and left with a significantly higher profile, being that the reality show/boxing tournament ran on NBC and was hosted by Sylvester Stallone.
He was quite a refined ring technician, which you may not have expected when he got his boxing start knocking out guys at backyard BBQs in East LA. As an amateur and young pro, Mora got educated in the gyms, with an Ivy League level of tutoring offered up by a parade of champs, ex-champs and future champs.
Terry Norris, David Reid, Antonio Margarito, Oba Carr, David Kamau. He was with Oscar De La Hoya in Big Bear ahead of his Felix Trinidad bout.
The articulate assessor of in-ring action didn’t allow decades in the game to render him exceedingly hardened or with a diminished neural capacity, and that deserves a ceremony, a gold watch, and a succession of laudatory speeches from friends and foes who admired what he brought to the sport. Talent, decency, dignity. Giving props to the deserving, like his mom, Ines.
As he told Lance Pugmire back in 2010, the day he won “The Contender,” Sergio’s mom had been working in a warehouse, and he told her, “You’re not going back to work tomorrow. She didn’t want to quit, but I had just won the damn show. I called her boss myself, and told him, ‘She’s done. Retired.’”
He was and is filled with common sense, a pragmatist, and didn’t let fame get into his head and bloat his ego.
“I put in three bids on three different houses, and I got out-bid on all three,” Mora told a local reporter in 2005 after winning on the TV show. “I am realizing that $1 million ain’t much, not if you want to buy a house in Los Angeles.”
“I’m happy with my decision,” Mora says now. “I came in winning. I’ll leave the same way. I won’t let boxing retire me.”
And we also dove in to some of the recent fights and fighters featured on DAZN.
On the oft-criticized Billy Joe Saunders, Mora says expecting him to be anything other than himself is a fool’s errand.
“He’s a sniper-like fighter, he’s a smart boxer, and he wasn’t going to be taking any chances against Murray. But he did take a few chances! He had Murray hurt a few times, but wasn’t able to stop him, so he then went back on cruise control. He is who he is.”
We talked about the need (or not) for boxers to understand that this is the sports and entertainment business, and also if he thought maybe Saunders had reined in some of his propensity to make moronic and sophomoric statements, and act like an adolescent ninny at times. Mora said that has him thinking of a Jay Z lines, from “Public Service Announcement” (2003’s The Black Album).
No matter where you go, you are what you are player
And you can try to change but that’s just the top layer
Man, you was who you was ‘fore you got here
Only God can judge me, so I’m gone
Either love me, or leave me alone
“He is who is, he can try and behave for a bit, but then the blood stops pumping, and he goes back at it,” Mora said. “It’s like Charles Barkley, when he’s off the cuff. You want the epitome of a role model, that’s Anthony Joshua. The other side of that is BJ and Adrien Broner. I feel for what Broner is going through, apparently on Instbegging and stuff. The flip side is, when you act like an asshole all the way up, the judge is eventually gonna throw the book at you.”
We chatted more how styles can make fights, and make some almost certain to be duds. Would a fight between a Saunders and Demetrius Andrade is “smart” to make, from the standpoint of wanting to make fights that mesh well to produce action and excitement?
“That’s a really intriguing fight, that’s two high-level southpaws,” he said. “The winner moves on and the loser takes a huge step back. With those sorts of styles, when you lose, you take like four steps back.”
He made an interesting point; because Saunders would be facing a fellow southpaw, that itself might make for a more “fan-friendly” fight than many would assume.
“Southpaws aren’t used to facing a fellow lefty, and so they are both going to be at a disadvantage, and that could result in each having to bring the action.”
Mora recalls how as the wondrous technician Pernell Whitaker got older, he moved less and we saw him standing in the pocket more, trading more. We saw he could take a shot, and we became more impressed with his chin and heart.
We touched on a fight that impressed me not a stitch, the Jacobs-Rosado bout. They talked a great game leading in, set up the spot with a brilliant trash talk moment. And then, when it came time to put up, both shut up.
“Money changes fighters, their hunger level is different,” Mora told me. “The way you look at the sport is different, you look at it as a business. For Danny, you saw Andre Rozier not being in his corner, and money being introduced into the mix, that changed their relationship. That was a huge change for Danny. And then you saw him in his corner, him and his trainer had no chemistry. The guy asked him if he was betting on the fight. I think you have to give credit to Freddie Roach for a wonderful game plan for Gabe Rosado.”
I took the opposite side, opining that the lack of urgency exhibited by either man made a draw a fitting ending.
“That happened to me against Shane Mosley, it was a horrible feeling,” he said. “In a way, it’s worse than losing. It’s not that I think Gabe got robbed. But I’ve been guilty of what we saw in that fight, feeling like you are fighting not to lose. Thinking like a father and a businesman. It’s a problem when you maybe have one foot out the door, and you’re thinking of other ventures in life. For Danny, at 168, because of the way this fight looked, he’s going to have to take a big chance to get back to a money fight, against GGG or Boo Boo or BJ.”
We also processed that Dec. 5 Errol Spence miraculous comeback clash against Danny Garcia. “We thought he might be timid, we had to see how he’d react to his jaw getting hit,” Mora said. It turns out that what Derrick James had told us, that he saw what he needed to see in sparring, played out as gospel. And we both marveled at how Spence had not been touched by PTSD, that he wasn’t held down by any dark memories, or self doubt, from that traumatic car crash.
We ended on a high note. “I’m looking forward to 2021, no face masks,” the now-ex-fighter told me. “Hopefully, vaccines in the pipeline turn this around. It will be a whole new look at life. Fingers crossed!”
On a personal note, I would offer congratulations on a fine body of work in the boxing game, Sergio Mora, and for giving of yourself to entertain us in the ring. And maybe even more than that, for acting the right way and doing the right thing as a human being while toiling as a fighter. You were and are a role model the sport can be mightily proud of.