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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Mayweather vs. Mosley: Fate Plays the Hand

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Mayweather vs Mosley
April 28th, 2010
Julie Cockerham

Floyd Mayweather is a consummate scientist. He is a fighter who understands boxing thoroughly from the practitioner’s perspective, from the observer’s perspective, and from the businessman’s perspective. Disregarding appraisals of his brutish conduct, Mayweather forms the model of boxing’s most intriguing image. He is a study in contrasts. He has the unparalleled ability to run, hide, stand, and shine all in one instant.

He isn’t widely loved, and many consider his obnoxious bravado as a deterrent in evaluating his technical prowess. It is hard to ignore. But it is that challenge that brings him to the forefront of any pugilistic conversation. He can’t be ignored, so he plays on the mind. There, he swells into a figure that is both maddening and dazzling. He is great and terrible all at once, and so he draws similarities with born leaders. It explains his unyielding dominance in boxing for the time that he has graced the sport.

There is no question that Manny Pacquiao is a phenomenon who is deservedly adored. But even with all the accolades that constantly surround Pacquiao, Mayweather is hardly eclipsed by his sun. “Money” matters.

And he knows it.

This time, though, something has happened out of place. This time, Mayweather emerges the winner of the skirmish in the ongoing battle of the two kings. Usually outgunned in all terms of affection by the pound for pound number one fighter in the sport; oddly, this time, it has become Mayweather who has seized the prized territory.

Shane Mosley trumps Joshua Clottey.

Undoubtedly, Pacquiao would have been willing to fight Mosley, but fate has a funny way of intervening. Pacquiao, in his eagerness to paint over the eye sore of the fallen- through super fight with Mayweather, was too quick to draft Clottey as an opponent. Mosley was still scheduled to fight Andre Berto, until the earthquake in Haiti required the latter’s withdrawal. Mosley was left raring with nowhere to go.

Meanwhile, Mayweather had been brilliantly plying his trade by selecting Mexican great Juan Manual Marquez as his comeback opponent from a short-lived and unappreciated retirement. Mayweather won the fight. But the next logical step toward Pacquiao was unfulfilled when he decided to play the role of commission and demand his own drug testing. When it fell through, Mayweather was left with a staff in his hands and a question of whose court to preside over.

Mayweather let Pacquiao go and it was unlikely that he could legitimately pick through Pacquiao’s vanquished for his next outing with any material success. And even those who had not fallen to the Filipino’s sword -- they too were thinning out with each passing day. Clottey was tied up. Antonio Margarito was still on suspension. And Tim Bradley hasn’t yet become a recognizable enough name to summon Mayweather through the ropes.

So it became that Mayweather’s only viable option would be to fight Shane Mosley, and in the process realize a bout that had been in the making for years.

By all logical accounts, Mayweather’s hand was forced. But he is to be commended nonetheless. He could have announced another mock retirement, and claimed dubiously that he had nothing left to prove. But he didn’t do it this time. He chose to stand and fight.

Mosley is, hands down, the most threatening opponent of Mayweather’s career. Styles make fights, and Mosley’s, whether it proves to be tempered by age or not, should give Mayweather some good grief. This, take a breath, is a calculated risk for Mayweather.

He has injected into the pre-fight blitz his usual blend of narcissistic, brash tongue lashing. And in doing so, he betrays his own contradictory nature. Mayweather talks the talk, but there doesn’t seem to be anything behind it. He is behaving in the way he thinks he is supposed to behave; an actor playing the role of villain. He’s been surrounded by this kind of conduct his whole life. His family is a collection of oddities; loud figures who have generally been an unflattering influence on Mayweather’s character development.

But this is not the portrait of a man who believes dogmatically in his own invincibility, no matter how vocally he swears to that effect. His post-fight actions completely oppose his pre-fight actions; crumbling to his knees in tears of victory, and praising his opponent’s valor. At the fight’s conclusion, he doesn’t behave like a man who feels entitled to victory. He behaves as though he is grateful, relieved that he has validated his claims of being the best. It is, in a vague and complex way, an expression of humbleness.

As for his opponent, Shane Mosley, he is far too experienced to be rattled by Mayweather’s taunts. He knows the game in and out, and being established long before Mayweather, he understands the source. In their face-off interview on HBO, Mosley recounted a time earlier in Mayweather’s career when he approached him before a fight to wish him luck. Mayweather reportedly responded, “I think you’re a great fighter and I want to be just like you when I get up in the ranks.”

Mayweather isn’t acknowledging that sentiment now and Mosley can only view him with disdain for being a good seed that was poorly cultivated.

But the moment of truth is fast approaching. Fight night has the potential to deliver a masterly spectacle, and one that will promise contributions from both fighters. Mosley may not be the exact image of his old self when he steps into the ring. But whatever he is, it may be enough. Mosley has height and reach advantages. His speed is at least comparable.

What Mosley has to be cautious of is being drawn into a mind game with Mayweather. It is virtually impossible to win against him on those terms. Mayweather’s reflexes enjoy an instantaneous bond with his brain. If he sees even a momentary gleam of an opening, he can exploit it immediately. Mosley at 38 years of age might not be able to rely on that response timing. But even if decreased by age, his arsenal is threatening enough to create a chance for him.

Mayweather said in the face-off interview: “There’s no blueprint on how to beat me.”

This is untrue. Boxing writer Springs Toledo created a blueprint in March of 2009, aptly titled: “THE BLUEPRINT: How to Beat Floyd Mayweather.”

A possibility of victory over Mayweather exists for the fighter who is multi-faceted; possessing qualities of skill, focus, determination, strength, fearlessness and sharp, blood-born instinct. Mosley fits all the criteria. The pressure he will apply will fluster Mayweather; he’s not used to being handled. Feeling Mosley’s power, he may fold, fly, or fight. Naazim Richardson’s prediction of Mayweather turning into a dragon in the ring is telling. Mayweather could, after all, show a side of himself that will put all questions to rest of him having any true, modern-day peer.

But Richardson’s prediction also implies that his battle-worn soldier is ready for anything. A win for Mosley would vault him into another realm. Crowns would change heads and the battlefield would be populated with a new, yet familiar force. It would steal the splendor from a clash between the two, original kings, but would supplant it with a contest equally as enticing.

If Mayweather wins, he’s survived another day. It supplies him with the precious validation that is his air, food, and shelter. Mosley, in that event, would become another victim; but of the best, most noble thread. Mosley’s journey is complete with or without a victory over Mayweather. He imprints on the mind as a consummate warrior; green-eyed, without envy.

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