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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Mayweather and Mosley Give Fans a Choice

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Mayweather vs Mosley
By Gabriel Montoya

ust a little more than a week away from an event in Texas, welterweight great Sugar Shane Mosley and the volcanic defensive dynamo that is the superstar boxer known as Floyd “Money” Mayweather Jr. came to downtown Los Angeles’ L.A. Live complex to finish off of a three-city hype parade to announce the most significant welterweight fight since Oscar De La Hoya and Felix Trinidad squared off in 1999.

"These kinds of fights come along once in a lifetime and this is going to be one of the most promoted fights in the history of the sport,” said Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer. “We are here to set new records and set new standards. We have NASCAR-like sponsors. This is going to be the most promoted fight in the history of the sport."

If the press conference was any indication, I have no doubt that this fight can give the record 2.4 million pay-per-view buys that Mayweather and Golden Boy founder Oscar De La Hoya set in their May 5, 2007 junior middleweight boredown known as “The World Awaits.”

While that fight was billed as the fight to save boxing and did extraordinary numbers, the combat itself left a lot to be desired and was not close, no matter what the cards said.

It’s been three years since that fight. Three years of waiting for what that fight promised. And now the fans wait no more. Make no mistake; Floyd Mayweather Jr. is in the fight of his life.

Not only is he facing Shane Mosley (who, despite the fact that on fight night, will have spent nearly a year-and-a-half out of the ring), who is coming off a career-best win over Antonio Margarito in January of 2009, Mayweather faces one of boxing’s best strategists in Mosley’s trainer Naazim Richardson.

In the L.A. Live courtyard, a large proscenium stage was set up with bleachers at stage right, with a gate bordering the crowd gathered in the plaza. Two platforms bookmarked the stage and following a brief clip of each fight on the large video screen above the action, each fighter emerged one at a time amidst a geyser of steam. Two Tecate girls, one ill-fated (she would later faint from standing in the sun), the other a “blonde”, stood on either side of an attached runway where Mosley and Mayweather faced off, jawed at each other in a face-off before strutting down to strike a pose.

Mosley, 39, an aging-but-competitive and dangerous fighter, dreams of returning to the top of the mythical pound-for-pound list via a win over Mayweather, 33, who despite a brief retirement, resides atop that list. This fight is nearly ten years in the making and one that will be hard to wait another two months for. It really is that good.

“May 1, MGM Grand or live on HBO Pay-Per-View,” Schaefer said to the crowd of fans and assembled media. “Floyd Mayweather vs. Sugar Shane Mosley. Two of the best fighters, pound-for-pound. Two of the best fighters, period.”

The bout is being called “Who R U Picking?” (A sort of text message from the boxing gods) and is the kind of fight that already has both casual and hardcore fans choosing sides, which is a great thing for boxing.

“I tell you what; I’m going with the undefeated guy,” Mayweather’s right hand man Leonard Ellerbe told the crowd. “The guy who has never been defeated, faced the top competition throughout all his career. I take nothing away from Shane Mosley. He’s a future Hall-of-Famer, a great fighter. He’s been one of the best fighters of this past decade. And we know, come the night of May 1st, he’s going to bring his best. But his best won’t be good enough. Because when you’re facing Floyd Mayweather, you’re facing simply the best. 40 have come and 40 have gone.”

For Golden Boy Promotions founder and President Oscar De La Hoya, the choice seems easy as he teased the audience with a playfully vague play on words pick.

“I fought both guys. I know both guys. They both beat me,” he explained with his trademark smile, “But I already know what’s going to happen. I already know what’s going to happen and you know what? It ain’t going to be pretty. Because this fight is going to be not only [about] who wants it more. Not only [about] who has the more skills. The determination. No, it’s going to be about who has that whole package. And both of them have proved that they have everything and anything to win fights.”

“I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again,” began the always eloquent and often funny Brother Naazim Richardson. “I’m not one to that’s going to stand here and belittle the opponent about what can’t be done and what he’s not capable of doing. I’ve had the privilege of watching [Mayweather] since he was a young kid fighting in the amateurs. Fighting a young man from your area called Carlos Navarro. Like I said, he’s always been an outstanding athlete so I respect him on that level. And I respect the support team around him. Come the first, you have guys that are champions and then you have guys that are elite. Like the Ricky Hattons and the Margaritos. Then you have guys that are special. You’re privileged on May 1 to see two guys that are special. These are not champions. They are bigger than championships. They’re bigger than belts. These guys are special athletes. And that makes for a spectacular performance. Shane Mosley is an outstanding athlete. I feel he is elite at the 147-pound weight class. I feel its premier for him. They say ‘Can he knock the guy out?’ I say Shane Mosley can knock anything out that weighs 147 pounds. Anything he hits solid that weighs 147 pounds, even a farm animal, he’ll knock it dead.

“But we also know that Floyd Mayweather has the kind of defense [where] it’s hard to hit him in the ass with a handful of rice,” continued Richardson. “So we can’t take nothing from him. Just what I tell you. You’re dealing with special. People ask me ‘What do you bring to the table?’ Jack Mosley trained [Mosley] since he was baby and he did a spectacular job. My job is to dissect Floyd Mayweather, find the flaws, and then implement an attack that can exploit those flaws. That’s what’s in front of us. You’re going to see May 1. You’re going to want to be there. They say ‘The guy’s undefeated.’ I say, ‘I wasn’t there for any 40 of those fights. And in those 40 fights, he never fought Shane Mosley.’ I appreciate any man that does what he does as long as he does. It’s going to take hard work to convince him to do something else. I don’t eat pork. You can’t convince me to eat pork. But here’s the thing. We’re going to have no choice but to convince this man that he is going to have to find something new and that’s how to lose. Now he can drop the habit right after us but, on May 1, we’re going to have to convince this man that now he’s going to have to take a shortcoming.”

Before this fight ever became a possibility, Shane Mosley was set to fight WBC titleholder Andre Berto in a showdown on January 30 of this year. But when Haiti was devastated by their earthquake, the Haitian-American Berto, who lost family members in the disaster, pulled out for obvious reasons.

Meanwhile, Mayweather and fellow pound-for-pound headliner Manny Pacquiao were unable to come to terms for a March 13 showdown, due to Pacquiao refusing Mayweather’s demand for more stringent pre-fight drug testing. Mayweather had asked that Pacquiao undergo Olympic-style, random blood tests, which is above and beyond the regular urine screening the Nevada State Athletic Commission requires for all participants in combat sports, but a much-needed change in the ever-evolving world of performance enhancing drugs (PEDs).

The two sides went back and forth, negotiating over the blood tests, agreeing to do them, but ultimately they were unable to agree when the testing cutoff date should be. Mayweather asked for a 14-day cutoff. Team Pacquiao wanted it to be 24 days. This writer was told by a source close to the Pacquiao camp that the final offer was 20 days. Despite the efforts of a mediator brought in to help matters along, the fight died on the vine. Pacquiao filed a defamation lawsuit against Mayweather and went off to fight Joshua Clottey at Cowboys Stadium in Dallas and Mosley vs. Mayweather came to fruition.

“When the Berto fight fell through and the Pacquiao fell through, there was no other choice,” Mosley would say later that day. “That was the best choice to make the most money in the sport and for the fans to get their money’s worth. This is the best fight right now in boxing.”

According to Richardson, the fight also serves another purpose.

“I’m more comfortable [with the Mayweather fight] than the Margarito fight and the Berto fight,” Richardson would say after the main presser’s initial proceedings were finished. “There’s champions, elite level guys and then there’s special. When one of these special guys goes back and fights a champion, they can say what they want, do the job but it’s still hard for them to zero in.”

Before he was ever a star boxer and future Hall-of-Famer, Shane Mosley was a badass kid from Pomona who had an explosive stand-up style full of aggression and combinations that boxing hadn’t seen in years. Both the style and willingness to fight champions in the gym, as early as age 16, combined to form a throwback package that earned Mosley the storied nickname “Sugar.” Richardson feels that this fight can only solidify Mosley’s claim to the nickname.

“I want him to stay at the level where he can solidify his status as the third “Sugar” in the history of this sport,” explained Richardson. “There’s Robinson, Leonard and now there’s Shane Mosley. Because they’ll be another young fighter coming up behind him. They’ll be some young kid who will earn the name of ‘Sugar’. So raise the bar high for him like Robinson and Leonard did for you. So you should be fighting the Mayweathers, the Pacquiaos, the guys who are deemed special.”

“Hello L.A. How you doing out there? P-Town’s in the house, baby,” Mosley said to his L.A. fans with a sheepish, mild manner that did nothing to hide his fighter’s confidence. “You know, first of all, I just want to thank all you great fans. [Mayweather] took the fight and I’m happy because, before, he was fighting everybody else, but he wasn’t fighting me. So I’m happy. I’m happy for this. I want to thank my team for being so inspirational in my boxing camp. I want to thank everybody. Everybody. The media for coming out to Staples. There is one thing I’d like to say. The fight is going to be on May 1. But you know May 1st is going to be May’s first [loss]. I’ll make sure of that.”

Since Mayweather burst on the scene and made his mark at 130 pounds with stellar performances over Genaro Hernandez and Angel Manfredy, a fight with Mosley- who was making his mark at lightweight, at the time- seemed a natural. But despite callouts from both sides at various times in their careers, the timing was always off. Mosley first moved from lightweight to welter to fight Oscar De La Hoya. Years later, Mosley would cite the need for a vacation with his family and there was an infamous “toothache” excuse that few fans and Mayweather have let Mosley forget ever since.

When Mayweather returned to the sport last year, a Mosley fight was dismissed as either too tough for a comeback fight or, according to Mayweather, it didn’t have any heat because Mosley had five losses.

But that was then and now Mosley has the fight of all fights in front of him against an undefeated, defensive genius trained from the day his eyes first looked upon the world by his father/ex-fighter/trainer, Floyd Sr. and then later taken to championship heights few have known by his uncle/ex-fighter/trainer, Uncle Roger. Not only that, but Mosley has a fighter in front of him who desperately wants to silence all his critics with an emphatic win over an elite fighter his own size and skill level. Because of this, Mosley understands that he isn’t the only starving-to-win fighter in this match.

“The guy’s been chasing me all his life,” claimed Mosley in a roundtable interview with the print media. “So I have to be able to box, move side-to-side, give him angles. I have to do a lot of different things. I have to give all of myself. I have to be ‘Sugar Shane’ to the fullest.”

For Mosley to win, he has to not allow Mayweather to get comfortable by changing up both his style and the tempo, round to round.

“[Tempo] could be a factor in the fight,” conceded Mosley. “There’s a lot of different things that I can do to make Mayweather to feel uncomfortable. Maybe I’m going to do body shots; I’m going to do head shots. I’m going to go forward. I may even go backwards a little. I might box a little bit. I might do a lot of everything. I’m not going to just do one thing. You can’t say ‘Ok, Shane’s coming right at me and I’m prepared for that.’ He has to prepare for everything just like I am.”

What makes Mosley dangerous in this fight is not just his experience against the best boxers and fighters of the post and current modern eras. It is his retention of the majority of his formidable attributes as a fighter. Comparable speed, agility, endurance, and a powerful right hand remain, as well as one of the best chins in the game. While the speed of his combinations may have dwindled a shade, power is the last thing to go in a fighter and if his ninth-round destruction of Antonio Margarito is any indication, Shane hasn’t lost his one bit.

“They may doubt but it’s not up to the people how I‘m going to attack this fight,” said Mosley. “My job is to win the fight. I’ll definitely win by knockout if I catch him on the chin and he wobbles a little bit. That’s a knockout. If not, then I have to be prepared to fight 12 hard rounds. This is going to be a tough fight.”

Mosley is right for a few reasons. Not the least of which is an extended layoff that can’t be good for a fighter his age. But tell him that and he’d disagree.

“It doesn’t concern me because when I fought Margarito I had a long layoff,” explained Mosley. “And I jumped in the ring and looked even better. The way I stay in the gym all the time and train, it just doesn’t make a difference. I’m always ready to go.”

For the record, Mosley had roughly a four-month layoff coming into his bout with Margarito. This layoff eclipses that one by over a year.

In Mayweather, Mosley also faces the second defensive wizard of his career. The first was in two consecutive fights with former junior middleweight champion Winky Wright. Even in losing efforts, fighting an elite fighter yields experience but Mosley said that from a style standpoint, this new puzzle doesn’t resemble Wright in the least.

“Mayweather’s a different guy because Winky was bigger than me. A southpaw. Just different altogether. Mayweather is going to be a little smaller than me and he’s defensively pretty good at swiveling and moving, but I am too. When I fought Winky, I was more flat-footed than anything. Now I have more movement. It’s going to be a different fight, even for Mayweather.”

Beyond making history by being the first to defeat Mayweather, this bout also has a different kind of significance for Mosley. According to leaked grand jury testimony and later sworn statements by the now-defunct BALCO Labs founder, Victor Conte and former Mosley strength and conditioning coach Derryl Hudson, Mosley knowingly used the substances known as Tetrahydrogestrinone (or “The Clear”) and a testosterone cream mixed with epitestosterone (or “The Cream”) as well as Erythropoietin (or EPO) in preparation for his 2003 rematch with Oscar De La Hoya. In the fallout from these allegations, some in the sport have called for the bout to be called a “no-contest” (though the Nevada State Athletic Commission has yet to do so) and defamation suits and counter suits were filed by Mosley, Conte and Hudson.

While Pacquiao, who has never tested positive in any commission, pre or post-fight test for PEDs, refused to agree to Mayweather’s demand, Mosley had no problem at all submitting to the tests. At the same time, he feels this fight isn’t about redemption of any kind.

“Well I’ve been clean,” insisted Mosley. “I’ve been clean my whole career. It’s just in 2003, which is seven years ago, they talk about it. I haven’t tested positive for anything. I didn’t even test positive in 2003. And this wasn’t even considered an enhancement drug back then. It was considered after the fact. And what they had on TV and all that different stuff. I mean, whatever, I think that the sport should be clean. People should know what they are taking. And they should know they are taking the right stuff, the clean stuff. They don’t know that it can be a problem for their health later in life.”

For the record, it is true that Mosley has never tested positive for PEDs.

No matter how Mosley feels or doesn’t feel about redemption in the eyes of the public, beating Mayweather while undergoing extensive blood testing will go a long way to restoring the public’s faith in his greatness at his advanced age.

To Mosley, however, the victory would simply be icing on a future Hall of Fame cake.

“Each victory has its value,” explained Mosley. “When I beat Oscar the first time, that gave me a lot of respect and credibility. And then, me and Margarito, at that time and at my age, that also gave me a lot of notoriety just to make this fight. If I beat Mayweather, I’m already in the history books, but that would be icing on the cake. This is a chance for me to shine; a chance for me to show the people that I am truly the best welterweight right now on this Earth.”

When asked about testing and how and if it would be happening, Schaefer had this to say, “It’s going to be up to the USADA. Whenever they decide to start it. But thing is of random. Random, you don’t know. If I could tell you, then it wouldn’t be random anymore so I really don’t know when. It could happen right now.”

According to one source, the random testing period began the day after the final press conference.

If there is a figure as polarizing as Mayweather, it’s his uncle/trainer Roger. A man known for dismissing both boxing writers as knowing nothing about the sport and Mayweather Jr.’s opponents as not being up to the task, no matter how prepared they are. In the case of Mosley, Uncle Roger was more respectful than ever while explaining why Shane Mosley, though great, would be a tough fight for his nephew.

“Shane has the biggest amateur background,” Roger explained. “I had a guy Shane beat four times.”

When reminded that Mosley’s first loss came against the taller, rangier Vernon Forrest, who fought nothing like Mayweather, Roger said, “Even if Forrest was tall, Floyd is still the most skilled fighter Shane has ever faced. It doesn’t matter how tall he is. It’s about skills. Skill wins fights.”

Uncle Roger understands that as much as Floyd has accomplished, there is always more; that there is always a fighter who can push you to the limit and take you to greatness. In short, he understands who Shane is and how he can lift his nephew to heights he has yet to know.

“There is only one Sugar Ray Robinson,” explained Roger. “Everything is up there but there is only one Sugar Ray Robinson. That’s why he’s called the best ever. So if this is going to be the defining fight about what Floyd will be in history, we’ll see.”

The best is generally saved for last and on this day, no exception was made.

“I’ve been here before so I know what it takes,” Floyd Mayweather Jr. said to the crowd. “I want to test my skills against the best guys they got out there. And me and Shane were supposed to fight back in 1998-99. It didn’t happen, so we moved on. Things happen in life, you know? We’re fighting in 2010. I want Shane to believe in his skills. I want him to believe in himself because I’m a fighter who believes in myself and I believe in my skills, just like Shane. He has a great family; he has great backing, people that love him. I have the same thing on my side. We know that I have a great trainer, Roger Mayweather. He has a great trainer. We must understand our trainers can’t fight for us. Come May 1, I want to get out there and display my skills. Display my talent. He’s a future Hall-of-Famer. I’m a future Hall-of-Famer. It’s going to be a tremendous fight. It’s going to be a great fight. And that’s what I want to do. I want to test my skills against the best guys they’ve got out there. Like I said before, I just want to change the way the sport of boxing is. I just want to clean up the sport and say that my sport is clean. That’s why me and Shane is taking [random urine and random blood]. I’m pretty sure Shane’s going to have a tremendous camp. I’m going to have a tremendous camp.”

There is no fighter today, in boxing in or out of the ring, like Floyd Mayweather Jr. He’s more polarizing than politics or religion rolled into a giant-sized talk show burrito. He could read the phonebook in a crowd of boxing fans and half would be angered by the way he did it while claiming he left a few names out and the other would stay until he got to the Zs, while claiming no one had ever read so well.

Early on in his career, when he infamously turned down a multi-million-dollar HBO contract and referred to it as “slave wages,” it cost him fans and cast him in a negative light. In 2010, three years after the De La Hoya fight and the first episodes of the Emmy award-winning HBO boxing “reality” show “24/7,” it’s clear Mayweather has mastered the art of self-promotion. Appearances on “Dancing with the Stars,” a WWE wrestling pay-per-view event against “The Big Show” and commercials have proven his crossover appeal. A million PPV buys for his return to the ring against Juan Manuel Marquez has proven he doesn’t need a crossover name on the marquee with him to sell fights. Mercurial, arrogant, funny, and combative, Mayweather seemed in his element, surrounded by fans and boxing press in a question-and-answer session following his speech to the crowd.

“I’m just me. And you know I just like to go out there and be me,” he was telling members of the press as I approached the tight circle enclosing him. “There are those who say Floyd is too much of a defensive fighter. And because I make an extraordinary fighter look ordinary, then they say I’m boring. It’s not my fault that God blessed [me] with that good of an ability to be that much better than my opponents. Marquez was the number-two pound-for-pound guy and once I faced him, it’s no disrespect to the Mexican heritage or the Mexican background. There are those who say he was too small but, once again, I came from a small weight class and moved my way up through the ranks. When I did it, there were no excuses. Like I said before, no matter who I face, I’m always in a no-win situation. ‘He was too old’, ‘He was too slow’, ‘He was flat-footed’. I just want my just due. One day, I will get my just due. Ten or 20 years from now, I will get my just due.”

Mayweather was referring to his fight with Marquez, a career featherweight (with a handful of outings at junior featherweight) who had recently made a move to lightweight and, upon beating Juan Diaz in one of the best fights of 2009, called out Mayweather. Floyd took the challenge and returned to the sport to face Marquez in a 144-pound welterweight catchweight (a weight Mayweather ultimately did not make, missing it by two pounds and paying $600,000 in penalties to Marquez). It’s a fight many criticized as being a physical mismatch and added to the perception that Mayweather has picked and chosen his opponents carefully since he left the lightweight division.

“I don’t pick and choose my opponents,” said Mayweather of that perception. “The thing is this: Marquez was one of the best guys when I came back and went right at him. Once again, Marquez called Mayweather out after his fight. He called me out. He had just knocked out a hungry young pup but they didn’t say nothing about that. But then, I had taken two years off boxing. The thing is this: I think if I was boxing toe-to-toe and banging head-to-head with these guys, you guys wouldn’t be here right now giving me an interview. It’s just I haven’t taken no abuse. If you don’t believe, I’m being honest; just look at Shane’s face, he’s slurring. He’s taken a lot of abuse in the sport of boxing and there’s nothing about that that’s cool. I’m still smart, still sharp, still intelligent and that’s the main thing that counts. Making a lot of money and not taking abuse in the sport of boxing.”

When asked about if he is bothered by the possibility that the L.A. fans, who are largely Hispanic, may feel some sort of animosity for that win, Mayweather answered “I love the Mexicans. I love the Latinos. I’m not fighting against nobody but Shane. It’s not my fault. To be the best, you have to beat the best. And in my era, Mexican fighters were some of the best fighters and they got some of the best fighters. Right now, in the sport of boxing, when you see somebody from another race in the sport do something that just makes a little bit of noise, that’s abnormal; but when you see a Mexican or a black American dominating the sport of boxing, that’s normal.”

There has also been talk that when the Pacquiao fight fell through, Mayweather was stuck having to take the Shane Mosley fight. With it being a tough fight and with the previous perception out there, some fans and writers felt he was forced to take a tough fight he never wanted. Floyd would disagree with that.

“I’m not ducking no one,” he said. “There’s just options in the sport of boxing. Shane was one of our options, so that’s what we went for. When you look out there in the sport of boxing, you got heavyweights that want to fight Floyd. Light heavyweights. Middleweights. Flyweights. Super flyweights and, like I said, all roads lead to Floyd Mayweather. I think that I’m in a position where I should be able to pick and choose who I want to fight because to get to pound-for-pound before in the ranks, that means you have to have fought everybody and that has what I have done in my career.”

“You earned that,” chimed in a nearby Leonard Ellerbe.

“I earned the right to pick and choose,” agreed Floyd.

When the subject turned to blood testing and why Mayweather decided why now would be the best time to make that change in the sport (a full Q&A of this portion of the interview is available here:, he answered “Because I’m the face of boxing. I just want to show the world that my sport, that I’m in, is a clean sport. That’s all I’m saying. And you’ve got to realize this, I don’t read negative articles, but you know I hear the fans say ‘Floyd, don’t listen to the media; don’t listen to the writers because of this.’ The thing is this: I’m fighting against the media; I’m fighting against all the writers, all the photographers; I’m fighting against everybody. I’m fighting against all the internet blogs AND I’m fighting against the opponent. You have to be mentally strong to be able to do that and to be able to hold up 15 years as a professional and dominate in the professional ranks.”

When pressed further to provide the moment of inspiration for this stand on PEDs and better drug testing, Mayweather explained that change happens all the time and that for every change, there is a moment it begins.

“It’s out with the old and in with the new. At one particular time, fighters didn’t have to take a urine test at all. At one particular time, fighters didn’t have to take HIV tests. But they do because somebody had to make a stand. So I’m making a stand. That’s all I’m saying.

“The thing is this about boxing,” he continued when pressed for further clarity, “a guy don’t come from- and understand I am saying any guy in the sport- he’s not going to be ordinary and then get to the age of 25 or over-25 and then become extraordinary. So you should ask yourself that question. As a reporter, you should know that.”

As a reporter, I know one thing about this fight: it’s going to be a great one. Two fighters, neither in their prime, but at a place where their skills and experience are enough that they will be a problem for the other, all night long, when they meet on May 1st at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada. It will be a historic night because, for the first time in a long time, Floyd Mayweather will face a fighter every fan can agree they want him to. Additionally, it will be the first time ever that any two fighters subjected themselves to stringent blood testing to prove to the world they are on an even playing field.

“May 1. Don’t miss this,” said Mayweather. “It’s going to be a blockbuster. Two of the best welterweights of this era meet toe-to-toe in a blockbuster fight.”

I couldn’t agree more.

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