The boxing world awaits confirmation on who will next share the ring with pound for pound king Manny Pacquiao. At this point, the rumors seem to be that either Shane Mosley or Juan Manuel Marquez will be next in line if Floyd Mayweather can‘t be lined up. The choice of Mosley seems odd as he is coming off two of the most lackluster performance of his storied career. The argument can easily be made that Shane Mosley has done very little lately to warrant such an opportunity and is thus, a poor choice. But, despite recent results, a Mosley-Pacquiao match up at 147 is not without some compelling factors.
147 and 154
Shane Mosley has never looked good at all at 154. After losing twice to the late Vernon Forrest in 2002, Mosley made his initial foray into the Light Middleweight Division. It began auspiciously with a surprising win over Oscar De La Hoya in Mosley’s second fight at 154. That win gave Mosley both the WBC and WBA Super World (whatever that means) Light Middleweight Titles. However, it quickly became clear that Mosley’s skills simply did not translate well to the 154 pound limit. A pair of losses to Winky Wright sent Mosley back to the drawing board. After a pair of nondescript wins back at 148 pounds, Mosley once again tried his luck at 154.
Once again, the results were at best mixed. Mosley appeared to struggle with a passed prime Fernando Vargas before finally stopping him in the 10th round of their fight in February of 2006. In the rematch however, Mosley had what would have to be considered as his finest performance north of 147. Mosley crushed Vargas in the rematch dominating from the outset before gaining a TKO in the 6th round. Still, it is difficult to completely overlook the fact that even those wins came over a Fernando Vargas that was likely on the downside of a fine career in the ring.
Since that point, Mosley has fought twice more at 154. First, he gave a largely uninspired performance against Ricardo Mayorga in September of 2008. Mayorga should have been an ideal opponent for Mosley; a face first brawler who just wanted to fight. But, far from dominating, Mosley struggled to solve the riddle of Mayorga until the 12th and final round when Mosley was able to hurt Mayorga and eventually knock him out with a sensational left hook. It was a stirring finish, but that shouldn’t erase the 11 round struggle that came before it.
Finally, Mosley moved up once again to take on Sergio Mora in September. Mora, who when it comes to delivering excitement in the ring makes Kevin Johnson look like Manny Pacquiao, was easily able to slow down Mosley and fight on his terms throughout as the fight ended most appropriately in a thoroughly dissatisfying draw. Mosley once again didn’t look good at all at Light Middleweight, though truthfully who looks good against Mora?
The fact is when Shane Mosley has fought at 154 pounds it has been a consistent story of struggle and frustration. Even against opponents that would appear to set up well for him he has struggled at times to find the range. Vargas and Mayorga are fighters who want to engage. That has always been the forte of Shane Mosley, but far from dominating them, he actually seemed to struggle to get going. And, of course, when confronted with someone who wants to box, Mosley has struggled mightily. Winky Wright appeared to have little trouble with Mosley and Sergio Mora had little trouble fighting his fight as well in a pay per view contest that should have been sold as a cure for insomnia.
Conversely, at Welterweight Shane Mosley has been far more consistent and far more explosive. Even as late as last year, Mosley had one of the finest outings of his stellar career when he destroyed Antonio Margarito stopping him in the 9th round of a thoroughly one sided fight. There are losses to be sure, but history would clearly suggest that Shane Mosley is an outstanding Welterweight and a fairly beatable Light Middleweight.
The “Gassed” Factor
Alex Ariza recently suggested that a Pacquiao-Mosley fight need not be made because Shane Mosley simply can’t go 12 rounds anymore. Specifically, that Shane Mosley would run out of gas in a few rounds and quit. I think any cursory look at the career of Shane Mosley will quickly yield the utter absurdity of Ariza’s not so subtle suggestion that Shane Mosley is without heart. But, let’s consider the question of conditioning.
At the time Mosley fought Mayweather there were a couple of circumstances that seem noteworthy. First, Mosley had fully trained for Berto and then had the fight canceled. At that point, Mosley almost immediately went right back to camp and began his preparation for Mayweather. A seventeen month layoff including back to back camps followed by a supremely flat performance by Mosley. With all due respect to Floyd Mayweather who overcame some turbulence early and fought a magnificent fight, isn’t it possible that Shane Mosley might have been a little over trained for the fight? But, that was just one factor in the Mayweather fight.
Part Two: Testing
Manny Pacquiao has always maintained that he feels weak and even sick after having blood drawn. Indeed, when blood was drawn days before his first fight with Erik Morales, Manny Pacquiao just happened to suffer his only loss of the decade. How much of that was a great performance by Morales and how much was a weakened Pacquiao will never be known for certain, but it remains Pacquiao’s only loss since 1999. If it is possible that Pacquiao can be affected than how come it’s not possible for Mosley and Mayweather to be affected? In fact, neither Mosley nor Mayweather even need subscribe to Pacquiao’s bordering on superstitious beliefs on the subject in order to be affected. After the fight, Freddie Roach even commented on the fact that Mayweather was perhaps on the slide as he appeared more flat footed than ever in the fight with Mosley. Was Mayweather a little sapped for the fight as well?
Here the different circumstances meet under one possible truth. Was Shane Mosley over trained for the fight? No way the can be known for certain, but it was a very flat performance from a fighter that is often quite dynamic; and it came on a night that just happened to follow a double camp and the longest layoff of his career. Similarly, did the blood testing impact the fight? Once again, who can know for sure. But, it was a pretty flat outing on the part of both men in the one fight when both men gave blood throughout their camps. Neither of these circumstances will be the case if and when Mosley and Pacquiao meet in the ring. Will the absence of those conditions impact Mosley’s performance? Who can say for sure.
An Ideal Opponent….For Both??
If Mosley is chosen as the next opponent for Pacquiao a familiar refrain will commence quickly. People will suggest that Team Pacquiao once again eschewed an opponent that would move and attempt to counter the uber-aggressive Pacquiao and instead have chosen a fighter that will engage Pacquiao and stand right in front of him and trade shots. In choosing this type of opponent, the team all but guarantees that Pacquiao will get to fight his fight and thus almost surely deliver another highlight reel performance. All of which, heightens his growing legend and brings in more money; a nice ancillary benefit of great matchmaking.
Like the great majority of fight fans, I want to see Pacquiao challenged. That is what we all want for great fighters. Naturally, a prime boxer who can move and counter would be refreshing and would truly test just how far Pacquiao has come since his second fight with Marquez. That is exactly why everyone wants to see Pacquiao and Mayweather meet in the ring. But if we can’t have that, this might due. Shane Mosley will be the biggest and fastest fighter Pacquiao has ever faced. Roach has passed on a Mosley fight for Pacquiao for some time for those very reasons. Manny Pacquiao was just hit over 200 times by an Antonio Margarito that is both slower and less powerful than Shane Mosley. This is a fight that carries some risk. Moreover, the match up of styles is a boon for Shane Mosley as well.
Vernon Forrest, Winky Wright, and Floyd Mayweather are a few things that Manny Pacquiao is not. They are big and they are primarily safety first boxers who specialize in maintaining distance and countering aggressive mistakes. Now, to be clear, Manny Pacquiao is a first rate counter puncher as well, but that is where the comparisons end. Manny Pacquiao is a warrior who loves to fight; so is Shane Mosley. Antonio Margarito had some offensive success against Pacquiao in their recent encounter. Yet, every time Margarito landed some punches in the fight, Pacquiao responded not by running or trying to find safety, but by immediately firing back against the much bigger man. The results were spectacular, but from the Mosley perspective that tendency likely merely excites him. The last thing he wants is a fighter who will look for safety when he goes to engage.
One can be certain that Mosley, more than anything, would like an opponent who will stand in and fight him. With all due respect to the tremendous fighters who have bested Mosley in his career, it could be argued that he has never lost a real shootout in the ring. That streak may very well end against Pacquiao. If Pacquiao can end that streak, he will have become the first man to beat Shane Mosley at his game. Ironically, such a win will probably earn Pacquiao little credit as Shane‘s age will become the primary factor in the bout in the eyes of most observers. Yet, the credit should come because there is risk in fighting Shane Mosley in an all action fight.
The other men to defeat Mosley did so by taking him out of what he does best. Pacquiao will fight Mosley’s fight; he may do it better, but he WILL fight Shane Mosley. He and Mosley are the same in many ways in that they are both fast and powerful fighters who excel in a fierce give and take fight. One suspects that Freddie Roach has known this all along.
Money….Mayweather….and a Mosley-Pacquiao Fight
There is a major problem confronting Mosley in this fight beyond the seemingly invincible Manny Pacquiao….Floyd Mayweather. Conservatively, one would have to imagine that a Pacquiao-Mayweather fight is worth 40 million dollars or more to Manny Pacquiao and his team; and it all goes out the window if Manny Pacquiao loses a fight. The bottom line is, if Pacquiao faces Mosley it has to mean just one thing. Team Pacquiao is convinced that Mosley has slid to such a degree that he presents no real threat anymore. Mosley is 39. At some point, he will lose the ability to pull the trigger on his punches even if the opportunities are there; it may have already happened. Still, it’s difficult to know that based on his last two performances as Mayweather specializes in slowing down his befuddled opponents with great defense and precise counter punching. In fact, he may be among the best at it in the long history of the sport. And as for Mora, he makes ugly fights. The ebb and flow of those fights are likely far different than a Pacquiao-Mosley fight would be and therein lay the danger of Mosley as a potential opponent for Pacquiao.
It remains telling that as the hype begins for the next opponent, Roach continues the stance he has maintained all along. Roach would like to see a third fight with Marquez at 147. And why not? The fight is likely the most marketable (other than a Mayweather fight of course) and in all likelihood still pretty safe. Marquez may be a match up problem because of his incredible timing, but he is also in his late thirties. In addition, he has appeared north of 135 exactly once and, Mayweather‘s brilliance notwithstanding, Marquez didn‘t appear to carry the weight well.
Marquez is coming off of an impressive stoppage of Michael Katsidis on November 27th. But, in the fight, Marquez was dropped once again and was hit cleanly for much of the night. With all due respect to the talent of Katsidis, Pacquiao is bigger, faster, decidedly more powerful, and generally in another universe talent wise in comparison to Katsidis. Marquez at 147 is a dream scenario for Pacquiao. Conversely, Roach seems cool on Mosley. Actually, Roach recently even placed Berto ahead of him as a worthwhile opponent for Pacquiao’s next fight. To be fair, Mosley has struggled of late and money is the cardinal issue here, yet curiously Pacquiao promoter Bob Arum, who likes money, still sees value in a Mosley fight.
In the end, it seems clear that from the start, Roach’s interest in Mosley has been pretty lukewarm. First, it was an offer to fight at 142. Then, it was a decision to decline an offer to meet at 144. Perhaps Roach does indeed feel that Pacquiao would easily beat Mosley much as he did Margarito and that it isn’t worth the time. Yet, he knew Pacquiao would beat De La Hoya easily. He knew Pacquiao would beat Hatton easily. He knew that Pacquiao would beat Cotto, Clottey, and Margarito easily. Somehow each of those fights was worth the time, but not Shane Mosley. In the end, it’s a business and to be fair Marquez is likely a better business move. But, for whatever reason, history has shown that Shane Mosley has had to work awfully hard to get in the ring with Manny Pacquiao. Ultimately, Mosley might be passed over once again and a lack of interest might be the absolutely legitimate reason why. But, one can’t help but wonder if that particular result won’t be just fine with Team Pacquiao.