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Which Shane Mosley Will Show Up?

By Matthew Hurley: As the super fight between Floyd Mayweather and Sugar Shane Mosley approaches most of the questions surrounding the bout pertain to the thirty-eight year old Mosley. Despite a night of renewed glory against Antonio Margarito in January of 2009 one wonders if that overwhelming performance was merely a mirage.

Once Mosley’s trainer Naazim Richardson discovered that Margarito’s hand wraps were tainted it’s safe to assume that not only was the so-called ‘Tijuana Tornado’ shorn of his illegal weapons but was mentally stripped as well.

On top of that, Margarito’s style – plodding, but tenacious forward aggression – was picture perfect for Shane’s counter punching abilities. He didn’t have to seek out his opponent. Margarito prided himself on his chin and his ability to walk his man down. Style wise, whether or not he or his trainer had been loading his gloves for years really didn’t matter against Mosley. In retrospect he was a perfect opponent for Shane.

He was there to be hit. And when Mosley can find his target early in the bout everything else falls into place and he ultimately looks spectacular.

However, when an opponent presents an awkward style, or a defensive-minded approach, things can get sketchy.

Four of his five losses have come against rangy, tall fighters with defensive mind-sets. Both Vernon Forrest and Winky Wright were able to befuddle Shane twice apiece with their slick defense and a long sharp jab. In his fifth loss, Miguel Cotto went into a defensive posture in the final three rounds and was able to keep Shane at bay and win a unanimous decision.

No recent fighter has mastered the art of defense better than Floyd ‘Money’ Mayweather. At his best it can be nearly impossible to land any clean blows on him. And against the offensive minded Mosley it’s hard to envision Floyd purposely engaging with him. That shoulder roll defense he has perfected and his quick feet will be in full force right from the opening bell.

Mayweather has been criticized unmercifully for his recent opposition but with his selection of Mosley as his next opponent the naysayers have quieted down. Mosley, even at this advanced stage of his career, is still viewed as a highly formidable foe. He currently resides at number three on Ring Magazine’s pound-for-pound list – one slot below Mayweather.

Still, the reverence for Mosley is really based on two things – his unceasing willingness to take on anyone and his ninth round stoppage of Margarito.

His recent fights before Margarito might be a clearer indicator of where Shane really is at this stage of his career. There is a distinct up and down quality in his performances against a timid Luis Collazo (W12), the badly faded Fernando Vargas (TKO10, TKO6), then welterweight champion Miguel Cotto (L12), and the sloppy struggle against the punching bag aging greats tee off on, Ricardo Mayorga (KO12).

Despite Larry Merchant’s cry of “I love you Shane Mosley!” after he finally found the wherewithal to stop Mayorga in spectacular fashion with only seconds left, Shane looked awful in every round of that fight. One could say that Mayorga was awkward and bigger than Shane but at the time there were many who were convinced that Shane’s time had passed. He certainly looked like an aging legend.

Great fighters oftentimes have one last superb performance in them. Think Sugar Ray Leonard against Marvelous Marvin Hagler, Thomas Hearns against Virgil Hill, or Erik Morales in his first go round with Manny Pacquiao. Perhaps Shane’s last great victory came against Margarito.

In his most recent article for Ring Magazine Don Stradley opines that Mayweather may have signed on the dotted line because he doesn’t view Mosley as a real threat.

“He may see Mosley as a variation on Juan Manuel Marquez, a fighter with name value who is a bit past his prime.”

On top of that when the two fighters step into the ring at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on May 1st Mosley will not have fought in sixteen months. Long layoffs are the bane of a fighter’s existence, but in particular for older fighters. Ring rust gathers much more quickly on old bones than fresh, thriving ones.

Shane waves all this off. “The rust comes off in the gym,” he said recently. But age and wear and tear cripples every fighter. Witness the recent Bernard Hopkins – Roy Jones debacle. It can hit a fighter like a phantom punch. All of a sudden a fighter’s prime is gone and a former great fighter is just a shell of himself. We’ve seen it happen so many times. It’s become a sad epitaph for nearly every fighter, great or ordinary.

The questions surrounding Shane will not, in the end, have any impact on his desire and fighting spirit. Whatever he has left will be left in the ring. He’s that kind of fighter and it’s the main reason he is so beloved by so many boxing fans. Put him in the ring with the reigning braggart of the sport and people seem to be willing to focus only on Shane’s performance against Margarito and assume that will be the version of the ‘Sugar Man’ who will show up on May 1st. That Shane Mosley could present all sorts of problems for Mayweather.

But Mayweather is not Margarito. He’s a defensive wizard who is faster than Mosley and has a brilliant jab that will be snapping in Shane’s face from opening bell to last.

Will Mosley be able to crack that seemingly impenetrable defense? Or will Floyd just glide around the ring and turn what so many hope will be an exciting fight into a typically dull Mayweather affair? That’s the biggest question surrounding this fight of all.

April 7, 2010

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