Saturday night, May 1st will be one of the rare instances when the attention of the sports world turns to boxing. That’s when unbeaten superstar Floyd Mayweather (40-0 with 25 knockouts) and future hall-of-famer Sugar Shane Mosley (46-5 with 39 knockouts) will meet at the top of a great boxing card assembled by Oscar De La Hoya’s promotional outfit, Golden Boy Promotions.
Introducing the Combatants:
Every sporting event benefits from a compelling angle to draw in the fans, and this one has a doozy: the relentlessly self-promoting Mayweather, who has long claimed to be the world’s best active boxer, has recently begun to compare himself favorably to the all-timers. Mosley, meanwhile, is enjoying a resurgence at the sunset of his career (he’s 38 years old) following a dominating performance against Antonio Margarito in his last fight, in which he claimed the WBA world welterweight title while becoming the first man ever to kayo the shady Tijuanan. Dig deeper and the story of Floyd and Shane becomes even more interesting.
Psychology and history provide subtext
Inflated egos are common enough in professional sports, but even in the sport of Ali, Leonard, and Tyson, such an enormous ego has rarely been known. It’s fair enough to grant that Mayweather is a great star and a larger-than-life personality. His family name is well known (his dad was a world champion boxer and two uncles were also fighters of some note) and he’s a smooth talker with a pretty face. Mayweather’s technical proficiency as a boxer is underniable, and as a lightweight he had no equal.
From the beginning Mayweather was groomed by his father to be a great amateur champion, an Olympic medalist, and a professional superstar. Denied an opportunity to compete for an Olympic gold medal by some sketchy scoring in the semifinal round, Mayweather secured the win in the consolation round and brought home a bronze. Early in his professional career Mayweather was treated to a brief locker-room encounter with good-guy Mosley, in which he revealed his awe and admitted with unusual candor that he would be thrilled to produce a carbon copy of Mosley’s career.
Over time Mayweather has put a lot of effort into developing a persona – he dropped his original moniker (Pretty Boy) a few years ago in favor of the somewhat more original “Money Mayweather.” It’s no accident that Floyd is a big star now; that’s how he planned it. But the common criticism of Mayweather is that his carefully planned star-building campaign has included surprisingly little risk over the last five years, at least compared to other great champions. Mayweather’s record is littered with washed-up former contenders and former champs with glittering records, who posed little danger to the defensive-minded sharpshooter.
Mosley, not to be outdone in any aspect of his boxing career, has an equally compelling story to tell.
Like Mayweather, Mosley was trained up as a fighter from an early age by his dad, Jack Mosley. Also like Mayweather, Mosley’s professional relationship with his dad soured when he was at the peak of his career. And like Mayweather, Mosley carried the proud burden of an unbeaten record deep into the meat of his career. In his own words, “I think there is too big a deal being made about the fact that Floyd is undefeated. Before my first loss, I was 38-0 with 35 kayos. That’s a hell of a record, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t be beat, and it doesn’t mean Floyd can’t, either.” Unlike Mayweather, though, Mosley has fought the very best competition in the world over a period of many years. The career strategy hasn’t always panned out – Sugar Shane did drop two fights to the late great Vernon Forrest and two more to chronically underrated technician Winky Wright, but he also took two wins against Oscar De la Hoya in Oscar’s prime, as well as single victories against Philip Holiday, John John Molina, Wilfredo Ruiz, Jesse James Leija, Golden Johnson, Antonio Diaz, Shannan Taylor, Ricardo Mayorga, and just last year, an astonishingly complete domination of the seemingly invincible Antonio Margarito.
The Part with the Analysis:
It may be true – in fact it’s fair to say that it’s probably so – that it was the win against Margarito that set Mosley up for this match with Mayweather. The Mosley-Margarito result may be a bit deceptive, however. To quote Graham Houston’s apt turn of phrase, “Mosley, coming up for 38 [years old], has been in many wars and might have been flattered by the Margarito performance.” In other words, Mosley may have had his last great hurrah in that Margarito fight – Margarito certainly didn’t look like his usual self that night, and it couldn’t have helped that his handwraps were found to be illegal before the fight began. As a result the fight itself was contested under a dark cloud of suspicion.
Just the same, Mosley must be given credit for the rebirth of his career following a 1-4 stretch that lasted from 2002 to 2004. Since the second of twin losses to Winky Wright to close out 2004, Mosley has piled up a record of 7-1 with 4 kayos, against opponents whose aggregate record came to 225-18-3 at the time of the bouts. The Margarito win was icing on a fabulous cake.
The sad fact about Mayweather is that he has a history of choosing the less dangerous of two possible opponents at almost every juncture. Given a choice of two possible opponents, Mayweather consistently chooses the one with less chance of beating him. Even Mayweather’s biggest win, a 10th round TKO against 43-0 light welterweight world champ Ricky Hatton, pales in comparison to Hatton’s subsequent 2nd-round flapjacking at the hands of Manny Pacquiao.
This fight is no exception: Mayweather had a very public (and very ugly) dispute with world pound-for-pound choice Pacquiao and finally backed out of a planned fight with Pacquiao. When the much older Mosley became available, Mayweather jumped at the chance to match him. Accordingly, a win against Mosley will garner Mayweather a gargantuan payday but little credit among boxing types, considering that although Mosley is a great old champ, he has lost some of the speed and some of the reflexes that helped to make him a great star in the 1990s and early 2000s. Invariably, a Mayweather win against Mosley would be played down by knowledgeable fans as a win against a faded champ of advanced age.
The Part with the Bullet Points:
- One of the great fascinations of this fight is the psychology of Mayweather. Money has spent so much time and energy (and money) building up his image, and he has made so many claims of greatness, that one wonders what it would do to his psyche if he were to drop a decision to Mosley. Would he go to pieces? Would he tone down the rhetoric and behave more like a grown-up? Or would he dishonor his conqueror and his sport by making make excuses? If a loss to Mosley exposes once-and-for-all the rickety foundation that Mayweather’s image and career have been built on, will we find that his psyche is equally unsound?
- Conversely, if Mayweather wins, will he get full credit for the win or will he be accused of tallying another victory at the expense of another creaky, past-it old timer?
- What happens to Mosley if he shocks the world again and takes the win? He’s never achieved the stardom that he has always seemed to deserve. Would a victory against the generally acknowledged #2 pound-for-pound fighter in the world finally make Mosley an international star, or would he continue to be a non-factor in popular culture?
The Fight Card:
“Sugar” Shane Mosley (46-5 with 39 kayos) -vs- Floyd Mayweather Jr (40-0 with 25 kayos), welterweights, scheduled for 12 rounds
Daniel Ponce de Leon (38-2 with 32 kayos) -vs- Cornelius Lock (19-4 with 12 kayos), featherweights, scheduled for 10 rounds
Hector David Saldivia (33-1 with 26 kayos) -vs- Said Ouali (26-3 with 18 kayos), welterweights, scheduled for 10 rounds
Saul Alvarez (31-0-1 with 23 kayos) -vs- Jose Miguel Coto (31-1-1 with 23 kayos), welterweights, scheduled for 10 rounds
Eloy Perez (16-0-2 with 4 kayos) -vs- Gilberto Sanchez Leon (21-6-2 with 7 kayos), super featherweights, scheduled for 10 rounds
Jesse Vargas (9-0 with 4 kayos) -vs- Arturo Morua (25-13-1 with 14 kayos), light welterweights, scheduled for 8 rounds
Luis Ramos Jr (14-0 with 7 kayos) -vs- Allen Litzau (13-4 with 7 kayos), lightweights, scheduled for 8 rounds
Dion Savage (7-0 with 5 kayos) -vs- Tommie Speller (5-3 with 3 kayos), middleweights, scheduled for 6 rounds
Daniel Reece (debut) -vs- Nichoulas Briannes (1-4 with no kayos), light welterweights, scheduled for 4 rounds
The Fistic Mystic says: Pay attention, Minnesota boxing fans. There are at least two Minnesota connections on this bout sheet: Allen Litzau of St Paul is the older and less successful brother of Jason Litzau, a contender in the lightweight division. And trainer Dion Savage of Michigan, a project or protege of trainer Roger Mayweather, fought in Minnesota twice during the winter of 2009.