Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Mayweather vs Mosley
I think the intensity and the challenge that Shane brings into this fight is going to make Floyd Mayweather show his greatness or he could totally be dominated and look very inferior. He won’t be anywhere in between, he’ll go to one extreme or the other and I think that Shane may be the dark horse so to say in this whole situation because he could easily be a big threat and possibly beat Floyd and (Manny) Pacquiao.” —Emanuel Steward (from episode 65 of On the Ropes Boxing Radio)
Going into his bout with Antonio Margarito few observers were giving Sugar Shane Mosley much of a chance and not without good reason. After all, Miguel Cotto had already beaten Mosley and yet he looked powerless against the iron-jawed Mexican. Cotto hit him with everything but a baseball bat and was never able to neutralize the relentless pressure applied by Margarito. Following the fight, an aura of invincibility surrounded Margarito, and many felt Shane would suffer a similar fate as his promoter Oscar De La Hoya had when he was bludgeoned by Manny Pacquiao a month earlier. Not only were people refusing to give Shane a chance to win, the majority doubted whether he could even make it competitive.
Of course, Shane shocked everyone when he made easy work of Margarito and did the unthinkable—cracked Margarito’s granite chin and knocked him out. The subsequent controversy surrounding Margarito’s hand wraps has had a profound impact on Mosley’s brilliant performance. Instead of focusing on the fact that Mosley did what nobody before him could—stop Margarito—people focused on the plaster of Paris found on Margarito’s taped hands, but Margarito could have had bricks in his gloves and it would not have helped him against Mosley. Shane simply overwhelmed and dominated him without receiving his due credit. If anything, the biggest beneficiary of Shane’s victory was Miguel Cotto—the controversy caused most to speculate that Margarito had an unfair advantage when he beat Cotto. This tainted Margarito’s biggest win and raised questions about his entire career. Still, even if Margarito did have an illegal advantage, this had no bearing on Cotto’s inability to hurt Margarito. Mosley still did hurt him.
When Manny Pacquiao scored an impressive stoppage victory against Oscar De La Hoya, demand for a showdown between him and Floyd Mayweather followed. This was at a time when Floyd was still officially “retired”. Pacquiao’s subsequent victory over Ricky Hatton and Mayweather’s comeback win against Juan Manuel Marquez added fuel to the fire and by the time Pacquiao finished off Miguel Cotto, demand had reached an all time high. Meanwhile, Sugar Shane Mosley was stuck on the outside looking in. Pacquiao and trainer Freddie Roach seemed to have no interest in fighting Mosley, and Mayweather had not fought a legitimate threat at welterweight (with the possible exception of Zab Judah) since moving up into the weight class several years earlier. Despite being top dog, Mosley was in a position where he was literally left begging for a fight with Pacquiao or Mayweather. The collapse in negotiations between Pacquiao and Mayweather over Olympic style drug testing and the unfortunate circumstances surrounding the demise of a fight between Mosley and Andre Berto helped pave the way to a most unlikely encounter.
Mosley versus Mayweather was on!
Going into his bout with Floyd Mayweather few observers are giving Sugar Shane Mosley much of a chance. To be sure, a lot of people think this is going to be a tough fight for Mayweather and possibly his toughest to date, but in the end most expect Floyd to win. Their reasons for thinking such largely stem from six common myths which I will dispel in this article. In order to Mayweather to win he is going to have to perform at a new level and display the type of heart, courage, and risk-taking chances inside the ring that we are not accustomed to seeing from him. He is going to need to make great use his tremendous athleticism, in particular, he is going to need to control the fight with foot speed and movement and he is going to need to avoid any punishing blows for a full twelve rounds while reducing Mosley to landing no more than one punch at a time. As good as Floyd is, I do not believe he can succeed in doing this. Mosley is going to win. A lot of you will probably be surprised when this happens, but let us explore the popular myths going into this one.
Myth #1: Margarito was tailor made for Mosley
Since Mosley’s impressive victory a lot of observers say Maragrito was an ‘easy’ style match-up for Shane because Margarito was slow, plods forward, and lacks the defensive skill set required to trouble Mosley. Of course Shane was going to have a field day opening up and landing right hands at will. Hindsight is always 20-20, but the problem is—nobody was saying this before the fight. On the contrary, most assumed Margarito would wear Mosley down and outwork him down the stretch because nobody thought Mosley would be able to hurt Margarito.
Those favoring Mayweather are quick to mention that Floyd is much more elusive than the lumbering Margarito. This much is true. Mayweather presents an entirely different set of obstacles for Mosley. Mayweather is an extremely fast, super athletic, defense-oriented fighter who excels when he makes opponents miss and counter punches. He focuses on footwork, timing, reflexes, and ring intelligence whereas Margarito used durability, relentless pressure, and volume punching—the two are like day and night. The only thing Mosley’s fights with Margarito and Mayweather have in common is people counting him out during the lead-up.
Even though Mosley matches up well style-wise with Margarito, few people anticipated the dominant performance that unfolded because Shane has not looked that lively in the ring for many years. Nazim Richardson is the X-factor that a lot of people seem to be missing. Richardson and Mosley both share a deep passion for boxing which inherently makes them a good pairing. Richardson is a master strategist who not only understands how to create a brilliant fight strategy, but he also has the unique ability to motivate his fighters and bring out their best. The most important thing we learned from the Margarito fight is that Mosley was rejuvenated under the guidance of Richardson. Without Richardson in his corner, it is doubtful that Mosley would have performed anywhere near that level.
Myth #2: Mosley has trouble with defensive fighters
Those quick to dismiss Mosley’s victory over Margarito are also quick to point out that Mosley will never be able to land flush with any frequency against Mayweather. The most commonly cited reason for this is because Mosley ‘struggles’ with defensive fighters. The example everyone is quick to use draws parallels to Shane’s fight with Winky Wright. It is true, Wright is probably the best defensive fighter Mosley has ever faced and Winky gave Mosley hell both times they fought. Shane was simply unable to penetrate Winky’s guard effectively, and if he was unable to mount a successful offense against Winky, then naturally he is going to have more problems with Floyd because Mayweather is an even better defensive technician. This line of reasoning has two flaws.
First, even though Winky and Mayweather are both accurately described as ‘defensive fighters’, they both employ vastly different defensive techniques. Winky is an offensive-minded defensive fighter who presses forward behind an active jab. He utilizes a high guard and freakishly long forearms to block incoming fire. Mayweather, on the other hand, is more of a ‘make you miss’ type of defensive fighter. He often fights off the back foot while moving about the ring and making opponents miss by using head movement, upper body movement, and footwork. He is more apt to dodge, deflect, pick off, and role with punches. He is not an offensively-minded defensive fighter like Winky, and blocking punches with a high guard is not really his thing.
Also, the reality is that the main reason Mosley was so troubled by Winky had less to do with his defense and more to do with his natural size advantage. Despite having mixed success north of the welterweight division, Mosley was never truly built for that weight class and always had problems with the bigger, stronger guys. The important thing we learned from Mosley’s fights with Wright is not that Mosley struggles with defensive fighters, but that size can play a major factor in the outcome of a prize fight. It is rather ironic that Mayweather now finds himself in a similar position with Shane that Mosley was in with Winky. Shane is the naturally bigger fighter and his size advantage will trouble Mayweather much like Winky’s size troubled him.
Myth #3: Mosley has problems with good jabs
Mayweather supporters are quick to note that Mosley’s main problem in his five losses largely stemmed from effective jabbing by his opponents. Winky Wright, Vernon Forrest, and Miguel Cotto all worked behind a solid jab and this gave Mosley all sorts of trouble, especially against Wright and Forrest—two fighters who were stuck on the outside looking in until Mosley provided each with an opportunity. Those adhering to this train of thought believe Floyd will simply follow the blueprint established on beating Shane. After all, Mayweather has a good jab and is a better overall boxer and athlete than Forrest or Winky. If they had success with the jab, so too, should Mayweather.
The difference is, regardless of his superior athleticism and pedigree, Mayweather lacks the size and strength to jab as effectively as the aforementioned. Vernon Forrest was a tall, rangy fighter with good fundamentals and a powerful right hand. Winky Wright was a natural junior middleweight who was strong, and pressed forward behind a turtle shell defense. Both of these fighters had two things that Floyd lacks—superior size and strength. Mayweather is undoubtedly quicker than these two and perhaps even more accurate with his jab, but he never uses his jab to dominate a fight like either of those two. If anything, Mosley is the one whose jab can become a more important factor because he is the taller fight with the longer reach.
The most troublesome aspect of my argument derives from the fact Cotto was having success with his jab while boxing on the back foot against Shane, and unlike Winky and Forrest, he did not have a size advantage. There are, however, two points worth noting on this. One, the thing that Cotto does have in common with Winky and Forrest is that he was a great offensive fighter with good punching power. Cotto was able to gain Shane’s respect because he could punch hard and consistently applied pressure during his best moments. The other thing worth mentioning is that Mosley did not employ a smart fight plan in this one and Jack Mosley was particularly bad when it came to giving Shane advice and instructions in between rounds. This father/son trainer/boxer duo had already been growing dry for some time and that staleness in their collaborative efforts peaked the night Mosley fought Cotto. This time, however, Mosley will have Nazim to train him and there will be no issues with a subpar corner giving poor advice.
Myth #4: Mayweather is too fast for Mosley
There is no doubt that Mayweather is faster than Mosley. This, however, does not mean that Mosley is too slow for Mayweather. Speed is something that can be neutralized in a variety of ways. Mosley himself has lost to fighters he was faster than and a great way to neutralize speed is by jabbing and applying pressure. Floyd’s shoulder roll style defensive works well against smaller fighters and enables him to exploit amazing speed and quickness to his advantage. Against taller fighters, however, this does not work as effectively so Shane should be able to find the mark by reaching over Floyd and using his longer arms. Combined with good body punching, a nice left hook, and a great right hand, this should force Mayweather into a fight. It is also worth noting that Shane himself exhibited a good jab against Margarito and used it authoritatively.
Mayweather fans like to bring up the comparisons with Mosley’s fights against Forrest, Winky, and Cotto, but the more prevalent comparisons would be examining Mayweather’s fights with Oscar De La Hoya and Zab Judah. De La Hoya was very effective with his jab through the halfway point in his fight against Floyd. In fact, De La Hoya was winning the fight after six rounds almost exclusively with his jab. It was not until De La Hoya had his traditional fade down the stretch that Mayweather took control of the action. Zab Judah was giving Mayweather fits through four rounds of their fight, and his speed is on par with Shane’s. The problem for Judah was that once Mayweather began making adjustments, Judah was unwilling (or too stupid?) to make counter-adjustments and he just stuck with what was working for him earlier in the fight.
Mosley is not going to fade down the stretch like De La Hoya and he is not going to have the same problems counter-adjusting to Floyd’s adjustments like Judah. Instead, he will be able to combine the best of both worlds and do the things that enabled each man to have moments of success against Floyd—only Shane will be able to do those things for the full twelve rounds (if needed).
Myth #5: The long layoff will hurt Mosley
Mosley has not fought since January 2009. That means by the time Mosley enters the ring against Mayweather it will have been sixteen months since he was inside the squared circle. Sixteen month layoffs are never good. Making matters worse, the last time Mosley had a long layoff was prior to his fight with Ricardo Mayorga and a lot of observers site this as a sign of trouble ahead for Mosley because he did not look his best against Ricardo. It is important to remember, however, that Mayorga weighed in at 170 pounds on fight night. This fits in with the common theme about bigger fighters posing problems for Shane. It is also worth noting that Mayorga has always been the type of fighter who ran hot and cold, and against Mosley, Mayorga looked as motivated as we have seen him since his somewhat controversial decision loss against Cory Spinks after which he seemed to lose interest in boxing.
Ring rust should not be a huge factor in this fight. Not only is Mosley a gym rat who always stays in top physical condition, but he was also training hard for a January clash with Andre Berto. Mosley has been staying in good shape and with Nazim Richardson in charge of preparations it is a safe bet that we will see Mosley at his very best come May 1.
Myth #6: At 38, Mosley is too old to beat Mayweather
A lot is being made of Mosley’s age in this one. Many observers seem to feel that in a prime for prime sense, Mosley would defeat Mayweather but now that he is older, some say this will provide Floyd with an advantage too big to overcome. Remember, though, there is a long-storied history behind Mosley and Mayweather and after years of talk between the two camps the fight is finally happening. Mosley is the top dog at welterweight but was never given his due credit because of the unique circumstances surrounding Floyd’s return and Pacquiao’s amazing rise through the weight classes. To reiterate an earlier point, he was literally begging for a fight with either Pacquiao or Mayweather, and with Floyd—this is a fighter Mosley has wanted to prove himself against for a very long time. His obsession with Mayweather is eerily similar to the obsession that Bernard Hopkins and Antonio Tarver each had with Roy Jones.
Mosley may be physically older than Floyd, but he is better prepared to face adversity because he has continuously tested himself in battle against the best available. Since moving to welterweight, Floyd has done no such thing. His wins at welterweight were against the unheralded Carlos Baldomir (who despite being champion, was never viewed as an elite welterweight), the underachieving Zab Judah (who had already dropped a fight he should never have lost against Baldomir), the undersized Ricky Hatton (who was already proven too small for the division when he struggled badly with Luis Collazo), and the grossly undersized Juan Manuel Marquez (who had absolutely no business fighting a welterweight). These are the fighters Floyd faced after first making the jump to welterweight against Shambra Mitchell in November 2005! That’s nearly five years without a true challenge! The list of opponents he did not face during that duration is far more impressive than those he did.
Mosley will be the first legitimate threat Mayweather has ever faced at welterweight. While almost everyone is willing to admit that Mosley might well be Mayweather’s toughest fight to date, few seem willing to admit that Mayweather is ill-prepared to face adversity because of his refusal to prove himself against top welterweights in recent years. Now, Mayweather is finally testing himself against a top level fighter who is hungry and motivated. Mosley may be older, but unlike Floyd, he has always been willing to prove his greatness with the best and he has always dared to be great. This alone will provide another huge advantage for Shane on fight night.
Contrary to popular belief, Mosley was not begging for fights against Mayweather or Pacquiao because he wanted a payday. He was begging for those fights because he always wanted to prove his greatness by fighting the best available and Pacquiao and Mayweather are both widely perceived as the two best boxers in the world. Mosley is not a perfect fighter, and there are fighters out there who would give him trouble. He struggles with naturally bigger fighters who utilize their size and power while working behind a jab. Someone like Paul Williams would represent a very bad style match-up for Shane at this point in his career, but against Floyd, the style match-up actually favors Mosley when you look at the bigger picture. Mayweather is not going to be able to ‘exploit’ Shane with quickness and counter-punching the way many seem to believe. On the contrary, Mosley will present the same type of problem for Mayweather that guys like Winky and Forrest presented to him.
Shane Mosley is going to win this fight and he is going to do so in dominant fashion. There is a reason Mayweather has avoided elite level welterweights for nearly five years. He has always been reluctant to fight the best this division had to offer, and against Mosley, in order for him to win—he is going to need to fight at a level we have not seen him fight at some time and a level we have never seen him fight at north of the junior welterweight division. Mosley is going to force Mayweather into a fight, and when push comes to shove, Mayweather is not ready for a fight because he would much prefer to put on a boxing clinic against someone who poses no threat to him. Make no mistake, Mayweather did not want this fight with Mosley—he was backed into a corner after the collapse of failed negotiations with Pacquiao, and in order to save face he had no choice but to fight Sugar Shane.
The fans may clamor for a mega fight between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao, but Mosley has something to say about that, and after Mosley beats Floyd and does so impressively, fans will soon be craving a fight between Mosley and Pacquiao—and that one will represent a dream fight for boxing fans.
Prediction: Mosley by mid to late round stoppage