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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

One on one with Naazim Richardson (pt.1 of 2): Appreciating Shane and finding a way to defeat Floyd

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Las Vegas Boxing Examiner | Chris Robinson

When Naazim Richardson was brought in to help Shane Mosley for his January 2009 bout with undefeated Antonio Margarito very few could have imagined what would have transpired. At the time Margarito was coming off the exhilarating high of dismantling Miguel Cotto in July while Mosley had struggled severely with wild swinging Ricardo Mayorga just a few months later.

Margarito was simply deemed to be too big and strong for Shane, who despite all of his greatness appeared to be on his way out of the big picture as his reflexes and skills seemed to be diminished against the Nicaraguan. With his back to the wall Mosley would turn back the clock and produce yet another magical performance, battering his Tijuana foe over the course of nine one-sided rounds before referee Raul Caiz called a stop to the bout.

At the ripe old age of 37 Shane Mosley had once again defied logic and his performance spoke volumes of the still apparent fluidity, power, and quickness that he still possessed. When taking a closer look at that evening all one has to do is peel away a few layers of the surface to find out just how instrumental Richardson was to Mosley for that particular bout. Richardson is no stranger to working with world class athletes, as he has been a key ingredient to Bernard Hopkins’ run of success over the past ten-plus years. The North Philadelphia native has an affable nature about him that beguiles his slightly rugged appearance and when discussing Mosley he cuts straight to the chase.

“I describe Shane as a great human being who just happens to know how to fight his ass off,” Richardson says. “He’s very unique. Shane is one of those athletes that everybody sits back and says ‘Man, if I had that guy I would do this or that’. It’s easy to say when you are sitting at home watching. I really felt that going into the Margarito fight that I wanted to take this kid and show off. I used to watch Shane and I could see he could do so many things and wondered why he wasn’t doing any other things. Even in the things he was doing I felt he could do them to a higher level.”

When Richardson and Mosley crossed paths the Pomona native was already nearly sixteen years and 50 fights into his hall of fame career. It goes without saying that Mosley’s style already spoke for itself and that he had already had many fundamentals instilled in him. What surprised Richardson the most was how willing Shane was to still learn.

“I’m just glad that Shane is so open-minded about things because at his level it is impressive,” Richardson continues. “This guy went to eat something once and said ‘Brother Naazim you don’t want me eating this?’ and I said ‘You’ve been eating that for years, go ahead’. But just that he is that open to you and that he is willing to surrender the reigns to you makes you appreciate him. He is a student of the game. He has so much information and knowledge on his own but he is open to what you are trying to do. Even if it contradicts some of the things he is used to he will still try your way. He’s a pleasure to work with as a coach. You realize you are blessed when you have the opportunity to work with Shane Mosley.”

The two men would clique immediately and begin an intense and grueling training camp in preparation for Margarito. Even beforehand Richardson had already seen weaknesses in Margarito’s game and with Mosley as his student he was beyond optimistic of their chances.

“I was so confident going into the Margarito fight that towards mid-range in the camp everybody was kind of pulling themselves back to double check and make sure that we weren’t over-confident,” he states. “Because the game plan that I had for Margarito I felt that I could have given it to any good fighter and beat Margarito, I really felt that way. So with Shane I felt that it was going to be spectacular because here is a special fighter and I knew we could blow him out of the water and I was real confident that Shane could stop him.”

While the Margarito victory was supposed to lead to bigger prizes for Mosley, unfortunately things wouldn’t play out as expected as it was his only fight during his 2009 campaign. Mosley was set to face off with undefeated WBC champion Andre Berto earlier this year but the Haitian-American pulled out due to personal reasons connected to the January 12th earthquake that ravaged his country. But just as one door closed another one opened and Shane soon agreed to face off with Floyd Mayweather Jr. in a match that many have been dying to see for quite some time.

What has made things slightly complicated is the fact that Richardson had to juggle his time between three pugilists over the past few months as he worked with Steve Cunningham for his March 26th bout with Matt Godfrey, which was later scrapped, and later went down to Miami, Florida to help Bernard Hopkins prepare for his second encounter with Roy Jones. Hopkins would end up defeating Jones in an uninspiring fight and Richardson immediately jetted back to Big Bear to be with Shane and soak up the remaining weeks that the two had left together in camp.

While Richardson has said that training has been both intense and relaxed, their opponent on May 1st is a different puzzle altogether in the ultra-confident Mayweather. The Grand Rapids native returned to the sport last September with a thoroughly dominating decision over Juan Manuel Marquez and the win showed that Mayweather’s speed, precision and boxing acumen are all still in tact. For years Mayweather was regarded as the world’s best fighter pound-for-pound and the challenges he presents in the ring are striking yet Richardson feels he can be defeated.

“You beat him the same way you beat anybody else,” Richardson says of Mayweather. “You prepare for them and it doesn’t hurt to have a very special and talented athlete like Shane Mosley. He is going to be well-prepared and well conditioned and well informed. He also has a great boxing IQ. Most young guys don’t have the IQ that Mayweather has but most older guys don’t have the reflexes that Mayweather has. So it makes it harder for the older guys but now with a guy like Shane you have a guy that still has those reflexes but has been around long enough to have that IQ.”

In closing Richardson points out that while Floyd’s gifts as a fighter are certainly dynamic, he still can’t do anything inside of the ring that Mosley himself isn’t willing to try. So-called advantages may look great on paper but Richardson notes that in the sport of boxing a solid plan of attack mixed with sheer will can be enough to conquer the toughest of obstacles.

“You put together a good game plan, you stick to it. When you play chess, your queen can’t do nothing that my queen can’t do. Your rook isn’t more special than my rook. It’s going to be the strategy that we apply and who can adhere to that strategy and make the necessary adjustments to be successful. You beat him like you beat anybody else.”

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