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Thursday, April 22, 2010

One on one with Naazim Richardson (2 of 2): The misleading ways of Mayweather, Mosley and Pacquiao

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Mayweather vs Mosley
Las Vegas Boxing Examiner | Chris Robinson

With the upcoming Floyd Mayweather-Shane Mosley clash less than 10 days away things have begun to intensify in each man’s camp. Floyd Mayweather’s verbal threats have been coming at a fast clip and you can see a definite sense of urgency with Shane Mosley as he trains rigorously in Big Bear, California. There will be much at stake on May 1st at the MGM Grand and the atmosphere surrounding each fighter is a testament of such.

One man who has kept a cool head as the days draw closer is Mosley’s head trainer Naazim Richardson. The North Philadelphian is a pure strategist and seems to have an uncanny way of dissecting the opposition in front of him. Richardson could be seen in the latest episode of HBO’s 24/7 series staying up late at night and breaking down footage of Mayweather, looking for any possible weaknesses to exploit in the ultra-talented fighter.

During the lead up to the bout Richardson has had much to say about Mayweather but you can sense true objectivity in his voice whenever the Grand Rapids fighter is the center of discussion. Richardson respects Floyd but he certainly doesn’t praise him and when asked to elaborate on his thoughts he first points to Mayweather’s god-given abilities.

“Tremendous athlete,” Richardson states. “Every great athlete misleads you and that is kind of why they are great. When you have an athlete like that you can’t get the full picture on them. What I mean by that is this; when you look at Bernard [Hopkins], he talks so much like it is demolition and a gangster that he misleads you on how technical he is because you just think he is going to be a gorilla. Mayweather talks so much trash and where we come from when guys talk that much trash usually they can’t back it up that well but it’s misleading because he can. He can fight as good as he talks and you can get mislead because you think he won’t be on the level that he is talking but he does.”

Suddenly Richardson shifts his attention from one great fighter to another as Manny Pacquiao becomes the focus of the conversation. After starting his career as a junior flyweight, the Filipino icon has had a great run of success between 140 and 147 pounds in recent fights that has left many dumbfounded. While Richardson has certainly been impressed you won’t find him star stuck in the slightest.

“Pacquiao misleads you because he has the world believing he isn’t as big,” Richardson claims. “He used to be fighting at these lower weight classes but calling Pacquiao small at 147 is like calling Mike Tyson a small Heavyweight. Pacquiao has created a stardom that can only be compared to where Tyson was at his height and were Oscar De La Hoya was. It can only be compared to that.”

Mayweather returned from a lengthy layoff by decisively beating Juan Manuel Marquez this past September and two months later Pacquiao dismantled Miguel Cotto to up the ante. The buzz instantly turned towards a potential bout between the two superstars but the fight never came off as they butted heads at the negotiating table. Mayweather was adamant about both fighters going through a strict Olympic style drug testing process but Pacquiao wouldn’t agree to the exact specifics that Floyd was presenting and both men moved on in separate directions. Speaking on the situation further Richardson starts off by putting himself in Manny’s shoes.

“I hear his point, that Floyd doesn’t control boxing,” Richardson says. “He doesn’t dictate to us what we need to follow. At the same time I understand Floyd’s point in that he had a concern and here it is. He was willing to address it the same way Pacquiao would have had to. But like I said, where I come from, if you ask a girl to dance and she says ‘no’ then you go on to the next girl. You don’t ask her all kinds of questions, you just move on to the next person. After Floyd asked Pacquiao and he said ‘no’ I don’t understand what the holdup was to get to Shane. I don’t understand why we were talking about Matthew Hatton and Paulie Malignaggi. We should have already been here.”

Getting further into his personal opinion on the matter, Richardson seems to dismiss the notion that any guilt should be thrown Pacquiao’s way. All the trainer has to go off of is what he has seen in the ring and he leaves all speculation by the wayside when discussing whether or not Pacquiao is up to something illegal.

“I don’t have any proof that he is,” Richardson says. “From what I can see he is just a tremendous athlete. I hope he isn’t on anything because it gives a black eye to boxing and we are all on the same umbrella. When we found out about Margarito and those hand wraps it makes our whole sport look bad. Even in boxing I am so sick of people coming up to me saying ‘You don’t teach your guys to bite ears off do you?’ Oh my god I am so tired of the Mike Tyson ear-biting incidents. I am just tired of that.”

In hearing him speak it is obvious that Richardson doesn’t let any bias or emotions interfere with his thoughts. His view of Pacquiao is one that comes from a man who can both recognize and appreciate the talent in front of him, even if it is in the form of a possible future foe.

“Pacquiao is a beast,” Richardson continues. “He’s all action. All these things you hear about guys not taking chances and being afraid to engage doesn’t apply to him. There is an old saying that says ‘You gotta bring ass to get ass’ and Pacquiao brings his ass to get your ass. He puts his chin on the line. He will get hit and he sacrifices his defense to get his offense. He’s the Larry Merchant of fighters. Larry wants to see two guys step up there and fight and that’s what Pacquiao does.”

One of the keys to Pacquiao’s success over time has been his undeniably strong connection to his trainer Freddie Roach. The Massachusetts native has a strong bond with his fighter that hasn’t seemed to be affected by their fame and Richardson can completely relate.

“We are in the only sport were the trainers belittle the other trainers,” Richardson points out. “I am better than you and all that. I don’t think I need to stand on anybody to be seen. Listen man, Freddie has done a great job with Pacquiao and he has been good enough to just shut his damn mouth and let him go ahead and be what he is. Freddie knew how to not get in the way and to let him be who he is. And Pacquiao believes in Freddie, whether you believe he is good or not, Pacquiao believes in him and he is going to do what he says.”

One fight of Pacquiao’s that stands out in particular to Richardson is his December 2008 bout with Oscar De La Hoya. When the fight was announced many people following the sport felt it was a mismatch due to De La Hoya’s presumed advantage in size but over the course of eight one-sided rounds Pacquiao would bludgeon his elder foe before making him quit on his stool. It was a resounding win and one that Richardson feels Roach had a huge role in orchestrating.

“Pacquiao didn’t think he could beat Oscar but Freddie thought he could and he convinced him that he could,” Richardson states. “He just went in there and followed Freddie’s lead. He was apprehensive but he followed his lead and it worked out for him. He’s a threat in that sense because when you have a trainer that knows what he is talking about and this guy is going to do what this trainer says, and Pacquiao is a threat.”

With the conversation coming to a close Richardson comes full circle by bringing up his charge Mosley. Richardson has gotten to know the Pomona, California fighter as both a man and a pugilist and that has only enhanced his belief that he has on his hands the most lethal welterweight in the world.

“Shane misleads you because there is no fucking way in the world that a guy can be that nice and that likeable outside of the ring and be that ferocious and viscous inside of the ring. All of these guys mislead cats to a degree until you get in the ring with them and then you realize that there is more to this picture than I was lead on. That attributes to their greatness. But I really believe that at 147 pounds Shane Mosley is the best fighter.”

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