By John F. McKenna: When future hall of fame fighter “Sugar” Shane Mosley (47-7-1, 39 KO’s) enters the ring Saturday night to face WBC light middleweight champion Saul “Canelo” Alvarez (39-0-1, 29 KO’s) at the MGM Grand Arena in Las Vegas will he be facing the final curtain?
It has long been said that fighters are always the last to know when it is time to hang up the gloves.
Who can ever forget the sorry spectacle of a way over the hill former heavyweight champion of the world Joe Louis being draped across the ring apron by future heavyweight champion Rocky Marciano on October 26, 1951? It was one of the most heart wrenching scenes in boxing history. Many in the crowd wept including “The Rock” who visited Louis in his dressing room after knocking him out.
What was so ironic about the scene was that a horrified “Sugar” Ray Robinson, who was a close friend of Louis and had been inspired by him said that no one would have to tell him when it was time to hang up the gloves. But Robinson in reality fought for close to ten years past his prime, not retiring until he was forty five years old. In fact “Sugar” Ray’s once brilliant record, which stood at 128 victories with only one defeat in 1951 suffered to the point that he was losing almost every other fight by the time he retired in 1965. Thankfully though boxing fans are a forgiving lot and they chose to remember Robinson as the great fighter he once was.
But the problem with fighting too long is a serious one. Robinson wound up suffering from a form of pugilistic Alzheimer’s disease which eventually took his life. The same is true of Floyd Patterson and Ingemar Johansson.
Other fighters who suffered or are suffering from pugilistic diseases such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s are Bobby Chacon, Jimmy Ellis, Mike Quarry, Jerry Quarry, Wilfred Benitez and Billy Conn. The list goes on and on. The great lightweight champion from the 1940’s Beau Jack who was a headliner at Madison Square Garden a record 21 times, was also a victim of the disease. Beau Jack in fact was years ahead of his time in that he attempted to set up a pension plan for fighters who were forced to fight way past their primes.
For Shane Mosley the fight with Saul Alvarez is another payday. It is hard for boxing fans to fathom why the 40 year old Mosley would want to continue his career after begging his trainer Nazim Richardson to stop his fight with WBO welterweight champion Manny Pacquiao a year ago. Before the Pacquiao fight too, “Sugar” Shane gave assurances to his fans that he was still a top quality fighter and that he expected to defeat “Pacman”.
His actions however, after being floored by Manny in the third round demonstrated otherwise. For the remainder of the bout Mosley was in full survival mode with no thought of victory.