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Friday, April 30, 2010

Shane Mosley – Doin’ Work The Right Way

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Mayweather vs Mosley
By Thomas Gerbasi

At Big Bear Lake, Shane Mosley isn’t “Sugar Shane” – boxing superstar and future Hall of Famer. He’s just Shane, and after ten years there, the conversations with the locals are the kind you have with your own neighbors, with the exception of the fact that the soft-spoken Mosley is a prizefighter.

“Hey, getting ready for another fight?”

And that’s it. No hour-long heart-to-hearts giving Mosley the secret formula to beating Floyd Mayweather this weekend, no prying into a personal life that has gotten more than enough press in the lead-up to the biggest boxing match of 2010, and no mention of anything that happened in 2003 unless it’s about someone falling into the lake that year or one of the members of the local bowling league rolling a perfect game.

“They’ve known me for years and I’m kinda like a local up here,” Mosley told “Everybody knows where I live and they all know me.”

As one of the locals, Mosley is protected from the outside world to an extent and free to practice his trade without the distractions that come with life at his home outside of training camp – Las Vegas. “Sin City” is the polar opposite of Big Bear, California, just like Mosley is the polar opposite of Floyd Mayweather. While “Pretty Boy Floyd” excels in the midst of chaos and seems to live for it, Mosley appreciates the peace and the quiet that comes before one of the biggest fights of his life.

“I think that’s why I’m up here in Big Bear a lot,” he said. “It’s because I’m at peace. I can be by myself in my room, I can look at TV, and do what I want to do. I don’t have to worry about the outside distractions.”

There have been enough of those leading up to Saturday’s showdown at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, most of them coming in the form of pointed barbs from the Mayweather camp. Yet if these verbal jabs were designed to rattle Mosley or get under his skin, round one will go to the pride of Pomona, California.

“I don’t think that he can get under my skin,” said Mosley. “I’ve been through a lot worse than that as far as mental torture, so I don’t think he can get under my skin.”

Mental torture? A quick rundown of the 52 fight career of Mosley will show that there was some verbal jousting with opponents like Ricardo Mayorga, Fernando Vargas, and Vernon Forrest, but nothing that would really constitute mental torture, at least not to us on the outside. So Mosley clarifies.

“That was back around the time when I was losing,” he says with a chuckle, referring to the 2002-2004 season when he was only able to muster a 1-4, 1 NC record. Granted, his four losses came to Forrest (twice) and Winky Wright (twice), but still, four losses to anyone can put a dent in your earning potential and ego. What makes it worse is when those closest to you start to question whether you still have what it takes to succeed in the hardest game.

“When you have inside people talking crap to you all the time,” said Mosley, “that can be mental torture.”

Since the second loss to Wright in November of 2004, Mosley has resurrected his career, winning seven of eight fights, with the only defeat coming via a close 12 round decision to Miguel Cotto in 2007.

In his most recent bout, in January of 2009, he destroyed heavily favored Antonio Margarito in nine rounds, a performance many applauded not just for the nuts and bolts of the systematic dismantling of the Mexican champion, but because Mosley did it in the eye of a personal storm that included a separation from his then-wife Jin, his involvement in the BALCO performance enhancing drugs scandal from 2003 that was still rearing its head, and the fact that he was breaking in a new trainer in Naazim Richardson after splitting with his father Jack a second time. Most would have broken – Mosley excelled, seemingly finding peace in the midst of war.

So if you think a little trash talking from Mayweather is going to rattle the 38-year old, then you don’t know Shane Mosley.

“When you get ready for fights, you don’t want to be emotional and you try not to have things weighing on your mind too much,” he said. “That’s the most important thing about boxing and about being a fighter – you have to have a clear mind and just worry about the boxing at hand. I’ve never really gone into a fight angry at a fighter. Maybe I’ll be angry about certain things, but not at the other fighter. We’re just doing our jobs; we go in there and fight, and we’re living our lives, wanting to be the best.”

Plus, no one likes being ignored, and the more Mosley deflects Mayweather’s attacks, the more it apparently unnerves the pound-for-pound great. Mosley believes that by engaging, he’s entering Floyd’s world, and when he does that, the master chess player from Las Vegas will have gotten an edge on him that will be hard to overcome.

“I think that’s where Floyd gets the upper hand on fighters,” he said. “He’s already a mental wreck, so he brings you into his game and then you can’t fight the way you want to fight. With me, I don’t think about hating the fighter; I think about winning.”

Mosley isn’t the first fighter to say that, and he won’t be the last. He is one of a small group that actually means it though. I’ll qualify that by saying that there are fighters who think solely about winning, but only because a win will guarantee a bigger payday down the line. But fighters are liars by nature – they tell themselves that they feel fine when they’re hurt, they tell their bodies to keep moving when the natural response is to shut down, and they say it’s all about the love of the game when the bottom line is, there are much easier ways to make a buck than by torturing themselves mentally and physically in the name of sport, and they know it.

But there are some mavericks, like Mosley, who still have that competitive spirit that makes them get up every morning to train and compete, and it’s evident in some of the statements that he makes. In the lead-up to this fight, the three division world champion speaks of proving himself as the best in the world. It’s a place where he has already held court, and that’s a claim only a select few can make, yet doing it once or twice before isn’t enough.

“I’d like to prove myself at this point in time,” he explains. “I know I’ve already proved myself as far as being the best, but I have a personal goal within myself to be able to beat anybody and be at the top of my game. So I just want to prove that I’m the best, even at this time.”

Two fighters keep him from that type of recognition: Mayweather, and the current pound-for-pound boss, Manny Pacquiao. Depending on the outcome of Saturday’s bout, Mosley could leapfrog the Filipino icon should he dismantle Mayweather in dominating fashion, but to most observers, if Mosley wins, it will be in a fight that is anything but one-sided. And even if you’re picking Mayweather to score the victory, you are probably conceding that Mosley will push the Michigan native harder than he has ever been pushed in his perfect 40-0 pro career.

“When everybody puts that “but” or “what if” in there, that means it’s a great fight,” smiles Mosley, and he also believes that the pundits are right; that he will be the man who will force Mayweather to bite down on his mouthpiece, stand his ground, and not box, but fight. Of course, he’s not the first Mayweather opponent to make that claim, so what makes his assertion any different.

“If you look at the guys that he’s fought, they’re a lot lighter and a lot smaller, and the guys that I’ve fought were a lot bigger than me in the last couple of fights, so you can just see the difference,” said Mosley. “He’s been pushed a little bit but he hasn’t fought the top big guys. I fought big guys and knocked them out. That’s the difference. When I get in the ring, I see the difference right away between smaller guys and big guys when I spar with them.”

In other words, Mosley, who is more acclimated to life around 147 / 154 pounds, is expecting to be the bully on Saturday night. He laughs.

“I’m gonna be the bully, the matador, I’m gonna be everything.”

He’s going to need to be. Because in spite of Mayweather’s bluster and ‘bad guy’ persona, when you take that away, he’s still perhaps the most gifted fighter of this era, someone who makes what he does in the ring look effortless. Mosley, on the other hand, has always given the impression that he’s the type of guy that puts on his hard hat and goes to work when the bell rings. Despite his natural gifts, Mosley’s fights end up exhausting not only the participants, but those watching from the safety of their seats. They are comprised of 36 minutes or less of constant motion, with bursts of intensity followed by a close quarters wrestling session and then more action. Conversely, Mayweather’s bouts are like those seen in a video game. A flick here, a push there, and nothing happens that isn’t already programmed into his mind and his fists. When it’s all over, you shut down the console and it’s off to the next game – no marks, no blood, no sweat.

So can boxing’s blue-collar battler beat the computer-like calculations of its most pristine talent? Las Vegas will be on lockdown for as long as it takes to find out, while in Big Bear Lake, the lights will be off in Shane Mosley’s cabin, but there won’t be a panic. The folks there will simply say ‘don’t worry, Shane’s just gone to work.’

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