By Lyle Fitzsimmons, photo by Hoganphotos
When most say delusional, he says determined.
When most say excuses, he says evidence.
And when most say wannabe, he says warrior.
Clearly when it comes to making a case for yet another place on yet another pay-per-view show from Las Vegas this weekend, Shane Mosley is swimming against the current of public opinion.
But just as it’s been for nearly every lingering ex-champion still clamoring for a last shot at the big time, the now 19-year pro remains quick to plead a case why for why he still belongs – in spite of a winless stretch that will have reached 1,097 days by the time he taps gloves with Saul Alvarez.
“Because I’m 100 percent this time. Because I didn’t go to training camp hurt,” he said, explaining away the 0-2-1 skid since a ninth-round TKO of Antonio Margarito – on the night the Mexican was caught in the locker room with illegal hand wraps. “There’s a big difference in the way you prepare if you go to camp and you’re trying to heal yourself, rather than getting ready for the fight.
“This time, I was ready. I was able to go all-out and it’s made me more sharp.”
The sub-par training camps were his reason for equally sub-par performances in recent big fights against Floyd Mayweather Jr. (2010) and Manny Pacquiao (2011), each of which ended in wide decisions with Mosley deep on the losing end – winning only five rounds across six official scorecards.
To hear him tell it, the 11-1 (two cards) and 10-2 (one card) defeat by Mayweather was the direct result of a pre-fight snowboarding tumble that left him with an injured groin.
And the 12-0 (two cards) and 11-1 (one card) Pacquiao loss came after an ill-timed basketball mishap that left him with a damaged Achilles tendon.
Both fights went on as scheduled because Mosley, in his words, was a “warrior” and still believed he could handle the world’s consensus best fighters at 85 or so percent of himself.
“I was thinking Pacquiao was a smaller guy and that if I cracked him, he’d go down. I had a puncher’s chance, but I underestimated him,” he said. “For Mayweather, it had been a couple months since the injury and I figured when I began training that by the time the fight arrived I’d be OK.
“I hit him with the shot in the second round and when he grabbed me and held on, my whole body stiffened up. I wasn’t able to follow up and finish him off, and after that I’ve got to give him kudos, he survived like champions are supposed to do.
“But if I’m in the ring at 100 percent with either one of them, God only knows.”
His Saturday challenge is far less accomplished, but seems every bit as daunting in terms of statistics.
Unbeaten WBC champion Alvarez is 19 years younger, appears naturally bigger and stronger than his 40-year-old challenger and has stopped three consecutive opponents since winning his title 14 months ago.
He’s also fueled by the lure of big-money matches – perhaps with Mayweather if he wins the card’s 154-pound main event – that seemed destined to come courtesy of an alliance with Golden Boy Promotions.
Meanwhile Mosley, like so many of the holdovers before him, plucks motivation from memories of what he was and insists he can get it done again in spite of betting odds that support a contrary outcome.
According to World Sports Exchange, it’ll take a $900 wager to win $100 for an Alvarez victory, while a $100 outlay on the former three-division kingpin will net $600 in the event of an upset.
“I’m a warrior, so regardless of the circumstances I figure I can do it,” Mosley said. “I don’t look at myself as an ordinary fighter. I’m an extraordinary fighter and an extraordinary puncher, and regardless of the situation, I’m gonna try you. Whatever I have, you’re gonna get 100 percent of it.”
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This week’s title-fight schedule (May 1-7):
WBO middleweight title – Moscow, Russia
Dmitry Pirog (champion) vs. Nobuhiro Ishida (No. 11 contender)
Pirog (19-0, 15 KO): Third title defense; Two stoppage wins in three title fights (27 total rounds)
Ishida (24-7-2, 9 KO): First title fight; No 12-round wins since 2009 (2-2, 2 KO – both in first round)
Fitzbitz says: “Pirog is one of those fighters who’s getting better as a champion, while Ishida is coming off a loss and getting a title shot based on one stunning upset.” Pirog by decision
WBC light flyweight title – Buriram, Thailand
Kompayak Porpramook (champion) vs. Jonathan Taconing (No. 6 contender)
Porpramook (44-3, 30 KO): First title defense; Unbeaten in Thailand since 2002 (33-0)
Taconing (13-1-1, 10 KO): First title fight; Unbeaten against fighters with winning records (5-0)
Fitzbitz says: “Twelve-year veteran should have far too much for relative youngster thin on experience against world-level competition.” Porpramook in 10
Vacant IBO featherweight title – Singapore City, Singapore
Daud Yordan (No. 23 contender) vs. Lorenzo Villanueva (No. 35 contender)
Yordan (28-2, 22 KO): Second title fight; Scored two-round stoppages in both fights in Singapore
Villanueva (22-0, 21 KO): First title fight; Six wins against fighters with winning records
Fitzbitz says: “Yordan has been a game second fiddle against the best fighters he’s met, but young Filipino slugger may be ready to pass him on featherweight ladder.” Villanueva in 9
WBA featherweight title – Singapore City, Singapore
Chris John (champion) vs. Shoji Kimura (No. 14 contender)
John (46-0-2, 22 KO): Sixteenth title defense; Eighth fight outside Indonesia (6-0-1)
Kimura (24-4-2, 9 KO): Second title fight; Second fight outside Japan (0-1)
Fitzbitz says: “Like middleweight Felix Sturm, John has made a living beating fighters few fans have heard of and that trend won’t end in this one.” John by decision
WBA super welterweight title – Las Vegas, Nev.
Miguel Cotto (champion) vs. Floyd Mayweather Jr. (not ranked)
Cotto (37-2, 30 KO): Third title defense; Held titles at 140 and 147 pounds
Mayweather (42-0, 26 KO): Twentieth title fight; Held titles at 130, 135, 140, 147 and 154 pounds
Fitzbitz says: “While some see Cotto as past his prime, it says here that he’ll be ‘Money’s’ toughest obstacle – especially at 154. But not enough to take the 0.” Mayweather by decision
WBC super welterweight title – Las Vegas, Nev.
Saul Alvarez (champion) vs. Shane Mosley (No. 4 contender)
Alvarez (39-0-1, 29 KO): Fourth title defense; Won by stoppage in all previous defenses (23 total rounds)
Mosley (46-7-1, 39 KO): Twenty-second title fight; Held WBA/WBC belts in 2003-04 (zero defenses)
Fitzbitz says: “Logic says that the younger, stronger incumbent will end a 19-year career, but sentiment gives the old man one more spotlight nod before he exits.” Mosley by decision
WBO junior heavyweight title – Erfurt, Germany
Marco Huck (champion) vs. Ola Afolabi (interim champion)
Huck (34-2, 25 KO): Ninth title defense; Defeated Afolabi in first title defense (UD 12, 2009)
Afolabi (19-2-3, 9 KO): Second title fight; Four fights beyond eight rounds (3-1)
Fitzbitz says: “Huck was a narrow winner three years ago and has probably improved more in the interim, which means a wider victory this time.” Huck by decision
WBO super middleweight title – Erfurt, Germany
Robert Stieglitz (champion) vs. Nader Hamdan (No. 15 contender)
Stieglitz (41-2, 23 KO): Sixth title defense; Unbeaten in Germany since 2007 (9-0)
Hamdan (43-9-1, 18 KO): Second title fight; Third fight in Germany (0-2)
Fitzbitz says: “Though he’s hardly worthy of mention among the division’s top names, Stieglitz ought to maintain his share of the championship here.” Stieglitz by decision
NOTE: Fights previewed are only those involving a sanctioning body's full-fledged title-holder – no interim, diamond, silver, etc. For example, fights for WBA “world championships” are only included if no “super champion” exists in the weight class.
Last week's picks: 3-2
Overall picks record: 302-101 (74.9 percent)
Lyle Fitzsimmons has covered professional boxing since 1995 and written a weekly column for Boxing Scene since 2008. He is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter – @fitzbitz.