By Lyle Fitzsimmons
Funny… but this all seems kinda familiar.
It wasn’t all that long ago – following a couple desultory performances in title fights – that people started calling for the career head of a certain former multi-division world champion and contender for pound-for-pound supremacy.
His best days are behind him, the scribes wrote.
He’s going to get himself hurt, the experts opined.
Money is his only remaining motivation, the geniuses expressed.
Then at precisely the point where it seemed he’d been overmatched to the point of a legacy-encroaching championship-level beatdown, the tables were turned.
Instead of riding off into a lumpy-faced sunset, the very same former star summoned past greatness, ratcheted back time and took down a foe thought ready himself to be pronounced elite.
Then it was Antonio Margarito.
Now it’s Saul Alvarez.
And the song remains the same for a 40-year-old Shane Mosley.
“People are always going to say things like ‘I wish you'd retire,’ but it's when you start listening to them that you might really need to consider it," said Mosley, who turned pro in 1993 and won his first world title – the IBF lightweight belt – four years later.
“My father has always stressed the importance of eating the proper foods, even when I was in high school playing football and later when I was on the Olympic team, so that's always been my secret. I've stayed disciplined and done the right things with my body.”
Those comments were from an interview I had with Shane nearly four years ago in March 2008, while he prepared for a fight with fellow ex-champ Zab Judah that was ultimately scrubbed by injury.
But in spite of its age, the conversation’s themes remain fresh… at least to a stubborn old pro.
Mosley jumped in six months after our chat to stop veteran loudmouth Ricardo Mayorga and later parlayed that success into a Staples Center skewering of Margarito on the night that sent the then-WBA kingpin’s career into a suspension-marred tailspin from which it’s not recovered.
Mosley’s been no world-beater himself since that January 2009 night – dropping all but three minutes against Floyd Mayweather Jr., struggling to a split 12-round draw with Contender alumnus Sergio Mora and throwing little more than docile glove taps in a Manny Pacquiao shutout loss.
But in spite of going 0-2-1 since ’09, just 2-3-1 since ’07 and only 7-5-1 since ’04, he soldiers on.
And it’s hardly a new approach for the affable Californian, who was already touting his long-range street cred back in the old days – when gas was $3.29 a gallon, Aaron Rodgers was a Brett Favre backup and Jeremiah Wright was just beginning his 15 minutes of fame.
“I'm going to be around for a little bit,” Mosley said back then. “I'm 36, yes, but based on the way I'm feeling at 36, there's really no reason I can't keep going until I'm 45. I know I'm still the best out there. It's inside me and it's what I believe. It's what I love to do, and I'm not ready to stop yet.”
A first-time champion after toppling Philip Holiday at 135, Mosley defended eight times before jumping to 147 and winning the WBC belt by split decision in a 12-round classic with Oscar De La Hoya.
That run was ended with a pair of surprise losses to Vernon Forrest, which prompted a brief move to 154 – where Mosley again defeated De La Hoya for the WBC and WBA crowns but was subsequently beaten twice by Winky Wright in 2004.
Many observers considered Mosley finished at that point, but he regrouped and ran off five straight wins – including three back at welterweight against increasingly more viable competition – before a competitive unanimous loss to Miguel Cotto 10 months before Mayorga.
“I believed (moving to 154) was the right move at the time, and I never questioned it. There have been no regrets,” Mosley said. “I was able to win another title there and all the fighters I was in the ring with – whether I beat them or they beat me – have gone on to be successful and win more titles.”
Alvarez, whom he’ll fight on the Mayweather-Cotto undercard in May, was 2 years old when Mosley debuted and had just turned 7 when his foe copped his first belt.
“He's a fighter that I've never stopped watching, because I like his style in the ring. Now I'm going to face him, which is like a dream for me,” Alvarez said. “I am not going in there with the mindset of knocking him out, because sometimes when you go in there with that mindset – you do not get the kind of the fight that you want.
“What I have to do, is prepare myself very well and if the knockout presents itself, then that would be (the) best (way to end it). He's experienced, strong, fast, and that makes him dangerous. It will be a difficult fight but we will prevail.”
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This week’s title-fight schedule:
IBF light heavyweight title, Corpus Christi, Texas
Tavoris Cloud (champion) vs. Gabriel Campillo (No. 3 contender)
Cloud (23-0, 19 KO): Fourth title defense; First fight in Texas
Campillo (21-3-1, 8 KO): Fourth title fight; Former WBA champion (one defense)
Fitzbitz says: “Ex-champ is hardly Michael Spinks, but he’ll provide a big push.” Cloud by decision
WBC heavyweight title – Munich, Germany
Vitali Klitschko (champion) vs. Dereck Chisora (No. 14 contender)
Klitschko (43-2, 40 KO): Eighth title defense; Former WBO/WBC champion (three defenses)
Chisora (15-2, 9 KO): First title fight; Two decision losses in three fights after 14-0 start
Fitzbitz says: “Forget trap fight or imminent retirement, champion wins big here.” Klitschko in 9
NOTE: Fights previewed are only those involving a sanctioning body's full-fledged title-holder – no interim, diamond, silver, etc. Fights for WBA “world championships” are only included if no “super champion” exists in the weight class.
Last week's picks: 0-1
Overall picks record: 281-96 (74.5 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.