Floyd Mayweather Jr. puts his undefeated record on the line when he meets veteran powerpuncher Shane Mosley tomorrow night over 12 rounds at the MGM arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, in the biggest fight of the year so far. Mosely is also being touted as the toughest fighter Mayweather has ever faced.
Saddled by perhaps the stupidest tagline in all of boxing history–Who R U Picking?–Mayweather-Mosley features two of the biggest names in boxing facing off for the kind of glory most fighters only dream of. Both fighters have won an assortment of alphabet trinkets in various weight classes over the years–too many to keep track of without the help of the Cray Jaguar Supercomputer–and both fighters have been near the top of the sport for over a decade. In a sense, they will also be fighting for the potential right to face Manny Pacquiao in a super event whose financial implications rival that of a Powerball jackpot.
As it is, Mayweather-Mosley will be a blockbuster fight, with staggering pay-per-view projections and a general interest so high that the fight was front page news for The New York Times. Floyd Mayweather, Las Vegas, Nevada, has transcended boxing by becoming a crossover celebrity. His outrageous persona, a perfect fit for the crass reality-show crowd, has made him a bona fide sports star. Over the last few months, Mayweather has insulted Mosley with the kind of impunity one imagines a loopy third world despot like Idi Amin Dada or Jean-Bedel Bokassa might have shown to one of his cowering subjects. Nothing has been off-limits for Mayweather. Mosley, Pomona, California, has been castigated for everything from steroid abuse to his taste in clothing to his recent divorce to his relationship with his father to his nickname. Even his nose has come under scrutiny.
Now, like the narrator of The Cask of Amontillado, who coolly states, “The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as best I could; but when he ventured upon insult, I vowed revenge,” Mosley has the chance, unique in boxing, to make Mayweather, who doubles as Fortunato in this case, pay for his insolence. Mayweather appears to enjoy being a public spectacle so much that it seems hard to believe that he trains in a gym and not an odditorium, and that he lives in a mansion instead of a panopticon. His brash persona has been played to perfection, however; for facing off with Mosley, Mayweather, 33, is guaranteed a minimum of $22 million.
Nor should his antics take away from the fact that Mayweather is inordinately skilled, practically the archetype of the natural or born fighter. Fast hands, tight defense, quick feet, a preternatural sense of timing, and precise combinations are reinforced by an astonishing work ethic.
For his part, Mosley, 38, last fought 16 months ago when he resembled a rogue wave in smashing Antonio Margarito into splinters for a 9th round TKO. In retrospect, knowing what we now know about Margarito and his Renfield-like trainer Javier Capetillo, it was one of the most satisfying knockouts in recent history.
After the Margarito flaying, however, Mosley sat idle for months before signing to fight Andre Berto on January 30. Soon after Berto withdrew from that bout for personal reasons, Mosley was announced as the opponent for Mayweather. This means that Mosley has been training, for one bout or another, for nearly half a year. There are two possibilities here: either Mosley enters the MGM Grand on Saturday night fitter than a decathlete, or he enters it with gym staleness in his bones. No one will know for sure until the bell rings and Mosley finds himself swapping leather with one of the best fighters of the last decade or so.
Nothing less than a peak Shane Mosley will be able to rattle Floyd Mayweather tomorrow night. The question here is whether it will be a peak, or at least near-peak, Shane Mosley who enters the ring against Mayweather. If it is the fellow who showed up against blowhard Ricardo Mayorga or shot Fernando Vargas (in their first bout), then Mosley may resemble an astral projection of himself going through the motions against a gifted boxer. Age and inactivity are not the first things you want to pack in a go-kit on the way to a fight with Floyd Mayweather.
By thrashing Margarito, Mosley also managed to overshadow the spotty nature of his career over the last few years. He hit a 1-4-1 NC streak only a couple of fights after beating De La Hoya in 2000 and has a 8-5-0-1 record over his last 14 bouts. His biggest win over that stretch, against Oscar De La Hoya in a rematch, a fight in which Mosley admitted to using performance enhancing drugs, could easily have been a loss.
Mosley, 46-5-0-1 (39), looked good winning a decision over Luis Collazo, stopping worn out Fernando Vargas, and pummeling Antonio Margarito. He was also impressive in dropping a unanimous decision against Miguel Cotto in 2007. But if you remove Margarito from the equation, then Mosley has not exactly been blazing a trail of glory over the last seven or eight years. His destruction of Margarito has been viewed by some as a return to form and seems to have instantly erased nearly a dozen performances of varying quality. Indeed, against Margarito, Mosley resembled The Blue Diamond, Captain Marvel, and Shock Gibson all rolled into one. Maybe it was a return to form in 2009, but now, over a year later, it looks like he will have to return to form all over again to truly test Mayweather.
Basically, Mayweather is faster, younger, better defensively, and the more skilled boxer. Since both fighters are among the most dedicated athletes in boxing, conditioning, stamina, and durability are non-starters as far as an edge goes. The only significant advantage Mosley has going into the ring tomorrow night is power. Mosley is a damaging puncher with either hand and from bell to bell. He has scored several brutal late-round knockouts in his career. A case can be made that Mosley is also the stronger man in the ring, but unless Mosley decides to change tactics and start roughhousing, this advantage seems relatively insignificant.
In order for Mosley to win, he will have to hope that his hand speed, or what remains of it after nearly two decades as a pro, can eventually catch Mayweather while Mayweather is on the ropes or in the middle of a combination. Mosley may toss a few decoys –throwaway punches–to set up some big shots, but will Mayweather be there to take them? Mosley has fast hands, but he is probably a tad slower than he was a few years ago, and he is a step or two behind Mayweather. After all, his speed did not exactly overwhelm Ricardo Mayorga, Jose Luis Cruz, Miguel Cotto, and Fernando Vargas, fighters who virtually crawl in comparison to Mayweather.
According to Roger Mayweather, Mosley does not jab enough to trouble Mayweather, and it is true Mosley often neglects his jab. He also has a habit of throwing it out from too far away and bringing it back low. But Roger Mayweather is cagey enough to make this public criticism in order to get Mosley to actually use it more, and thus leave Mosley open for counter rights over the top. Besides an iffy jab, Mosley is not nearly as clever defensively as Mayweather is, and if Mayweather starts to connect with regularity will the exasperation Mosley showed against Vernon Forrest and Winky Wright resurface? If Mosley and his trainer, Naazim Richardson, have mapped out a strategy, it will be costly if Mosley deviates from it early out of frustration.
Maybe Mosley decides to play juggernaut at the sound of the bell and charges Mayweather early, applying pressure in an effort to open Mayweather up. If so, and if he can maintain the pace for a significant stretch of time, then Mosley can make a fight of it early. With less time to react, Mayweather may have difficulty using his exquisite counterpunching skills and may be forced to exchange with a far bigger puncher. The defensive posture Mayweather, 40-0 (25), often adopts in center ring will only serve as an invitation for Mosley to rattle off combinations that will keep Mayweather occupied and influence the judges. Most likely, though, Mayweather will box defensively, pick his spots, use his speed and quickness, and open up in the late rounds.
By far the likeliest outcome tomorrow night is a points win for Mayweather, and unless Mosley lands one big shot that short circuits a chin that has rarely been rattled, then it is hard to imagine Mosley outworking or outboxing Mayweather. He will, however, try his damnedest to win. Even so, Mayweather ought to be able score a decision in a competitive bout and look forward to the looming shadow of Manny Pacquiao.