by Cliff Rold
On March 12, 2005, Manny Pacquiao experienced something for the first and only time since the calendar ventured into the 2000’s.
It wasn’t a bad loss. The victor that night, Erik Morales, was and remains a bona fide Hall of Famer who turned in an incredible performance. With titles in three weight classes, Pacquiao was already the first man in history to officially win the lineal Flyweight and Featherweight titles (it reads officially because it is a feat better scoring could have conveyed to Fighting Harada decades earlier). The Morales loss wasn’t going to keep Pacquiao from Hall of Fame accolades. He’d proven a great enough fighter already to likely secure such honors.
Pacquiao has moved well beyond ‘great enough’ since.
In thirteen fights since the Morales loss, Pacquiao has won every time, eight times by stoppage. He’s added title accolades in five more weight classes for a record eight. Two of those, at Jr. Lightweight and Jr. Welterweight, meant an even more impressive record four lineal crowns.
This isn’t a once in a lifetime run.
It is its own unique once in any time run.
There are those, perhaps prematurely, perhaps not, who already wonder if Pacquiao belongs in the company of the top ten to twenty pugilists in the history of boxing. A win this Saturday won’t move the needle in that regard.
A loss could decimate the case.
His opponent, former Lightweight, Welterweight, and Jr. Middleweight leader Shane Mosley is perceived as a spent bullet. Last May, he could muster only two competent rounds against Floyd Mayweather. He followed it up with a lethargic performance against Sergio Mora and the gravediggers grabbed their shovels. Still regarded as one of the top five Welterweights in the world, Mosley maintains his spot based on past accomplishment and a Welterweight division soft on depth as it reloads.
Mosley supposed to lose this weekend, picking up a healthy paycheck that serves as severance for years of service to this beautifully brutal game. It’s a game of comparison-shopping for Pacquiao; his performance sure to be measured against what rival Mayweather did last year. For Mosley, it’s a game of survival, of hanging on for one more night.
At 39, Sugar Ray Leonard was inching towards an ill-fated comeback that ended with his lone stoppage loss, that at the hands of an aged Hector Camacho. At around the same age, Sugar Ray Robinson had one last magical night in him, a draw in the third of four fights with Gene Fullmer that many saw as a Robinson win. Mosley isn’t regarded as on par with either of his sweet predecessors. He faces a steeper challenge than either did in those encounters.
The risk is all Pacquiao’s. It’s up to Mosley to prove it is a risk at all.
Let’s go the report card.
Current Titles: WBO Welterweight, 2009-Present, 1 Defense
Previous Titles: Lineal/WBC World Flyweight 1998-99, 1 Defense; IBF Jr. Featherweight 2001-03, 4 Defenses; Lineal/Ring World Featherweight 2003-05, 2 Defenses; Lineal/Ring/WBC World Jr. Lightweight 2008; WBC Lightweight 2008-09; Lineal/Ring World Jr. Welterweight 2009-10; WBC Jr. Middleweight 2010
Height: 5’6 ½
Weight: 145 lbs.
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 142.85 lbs.
Hails from: General Santos City, Cotabato del Sur, Philippines
Record: 52-3-2, 38 KO
BoxingScene Rank: #1 at Welterweight
Record in Major Title Fights: 14-1-2, 11 KO, 1 KOBY (including Lineal title Fights)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Defeated: 13 (Chatchai Sasakul, Lehlo Ledwaba, Jorge Eliecer Julio, Marco Antonio Barrera, Erik Morales, Oscar Larios, Juan Manuel Marquez, David Diaz, Oscar De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton, Miguel Cotto, Joshua Clottey, Antonio Margarito)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced in Defeat or Draw: 4 (Medgoen Singsurat, Agapito Sanchez, Juan Manuel Marquez, Erik Morales)
Previous Titles: IBF Lightweight 1997-99, 8 Defenses; Lineal World/WBC Welterweight 2000-02, 3 Defenses; Lineal World/Ring/WBC/WBA Jr. Middleweight 2003-04, 0 Defenses; WBA Welterweight 2009-10
Weight: 147 lbs.
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 149.55 lbs.
Hails from: Pomona, California
Record: 46-6-1, 39 KO
BoxingScene Rank: #3 at Welterweight
Record in Title Fights: 15-6, 12 KO
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Defeated/No Contested: 9 (Phillip Holiday, John John Molina, Jesse James Leija, Oscar De La Hoya, Raul Marquez (NC), Fernando Vargas, Luis Collazo, Ricardo Mayorga, Antonio Margarito)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced in Defeat or Draw: 5 (Vernon Forrest, Winky Wright, Miguel Cotto, Floyd Mayweather, Sergio Mora)
Pre-Fight: Speed – Pacquiao A+; Mosley B
Pre-Fight: Power – Pacquiao A-; Mosley A
Pre-Fight: Defense – Pacquiao B; Mosley C+
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Pacquiao A; Mosley B
There was a time where Mosley would have entered the ring not only the naturally larger man but also faster. His speed, at Welterweight, in the year 2000 was even more mind blowing than Pacquiao’s is now. That was a long time ago. However, Mosley’s speed should still be superior to what Pacquiao has seen at Welterweight to date, at least early.
Pacquiao may be harder to hit now than he used to be, but he is still hittable. The slow pressure of Margarito added lumps to the Filipino icon. Joshua Clottey, when he let his hands go, couldn’t miss with his jab. If Mosley can time Pacquiao while he’s still fresh, he can catch Pacquiao with harder stuff than anyone has in years. If he can stun Pacquiao the way he did Mayweather, there could be high drama.
For a spell.
Unfortunately for Mosley, Pacquiao has proven to have a solid beard, grown sturdier with less drying out for the scales. Due to day before weigh-ins, Pacquiao has been entering the ring as a Welterweight for most of the last six years. His official weights have caught up to unofficial since 2009 and it’s meant greater stamina and sustained attacks. If he’s hurt, the evidence suggests recovery. Then it becomes a battle of the man with better legs.
That is advantage Pacquiao.
Mosley can mitigate the advantage by focusing on one of the things that made him special at his best. Laying lumber to the body of Pacquiao carries the risk of response in combination, but Margarito showed Pacquiao can be hurt downstairs. A Mosley who hooks low and then slings the right over the top increases the chance of slowing Pacquiao down to a manageable challenge.
Will it matter if he can’t fight three minutes at a time? Recent vintage suggests Mosley falls short there and Pacquiao punching when Mosley doesn’t, or can’t, will mean missed chances. Pacquiao enters the ring this Saturday with the aura of invincibility only rare prime greats achieve and the confidence to believe in it every bit as much as his opponents. All indications are that Pacquiao has taken Mosley serious in training, preparing for the Mosley of 2000 moreso than the Mosley of 2010.
Mosley 2000 would have had hell with this Pacquiao and the reality is that Pacquiao 2011 is facing Mosley 2011. Preparing for more than that can only make him more lethal.
There’s just no reason more than a puncher’s miracle to believe Mosley can win here. It’s fair to argue that even at his best, Mosley wasn’t as good as Pacquiao is right now. There are fighters growing into their primes right now who will seriously challenge Pacquiao in the next year or two if they get the chance. Mayweather is capable of beating Pacquiao if he decides he seriously wants the chance.
Mosley appears mostly capable of being beaten up on Saturday night.
Pacquiao might get clipped a time or two in the first four rounds, but it’s just as likely he seizes the spotlight and runs amok. Mosley’s chin is proven, still only dropped by the late Vernon Forrest. Any stoppage possible here would probably have to come on a corner stoppage. That leaves the safe bet a lopsided Pacquiao decision win.
Make it win number fourteen in a row as the fistic world crosses its fingers that the fight it really wants, Pacquiao-Mayweather, develops before it doesn’t matter anymore.
Report Card Picks 2011: 12-4
But wait, there’s more…
Week of the Little Men: http://www.boxingscene.com/go-small-go-home-weekend-review-ratings-update--38745
Divisional Ratings Update: http://www.boxingscene.com/forums/view.php?pg=boxing-ratings
Picks of the Week: http://www.boxingscene.com/boxingscenecoms-television-picks-week--38704
Cliff’s Notes… When the new pound for pound ratings for BoxingScene come out next week, they will mirror developments at Ring Magazine, ESPN, and Yahoo. Floyd Mayweather, inactive for over a year with no return date imminent, will be gone. However, unlike Ring and ESPN, Mayweather will continue to be listed as the World Welterweight Champion in the divisional ratings. He retired in 2007 as the champion and returned to defeat a Shane Mosley who, with a win over Antonio Margarito, had a powerful claim to the top slot at Welterweight. CyberBoxingZone listed Mosley as the lineal champion because of that win. While BoxingScene’s ratings did not, Mayweather easily defeating Mosley gave him the right to resume his reign. Pacquiao may one day claim a record fifth lineal World Championship at Welterweight. He will, and should, have to defeat Mayweather to do so unless Mayweather retires again. At that point, as the ratings currently stand, Pacquiao-Victor Ortiz would fill the slot. If Mosley wins this weekend…we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.
Cliff Rold is a member of the Ring Magazine Ratings Advisory Panel, the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel, and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]