By Chris Robinson
When I rang up well-respected trainer Naazim Richardson earlier this week, I wanted to get his thoughts on Kelly Pavlik’s recent struggles as well as the October 15th Bernard Hopkins-Chad Dawson clash, but figured we would cover some other topics. Richardson is one of the sport’s great minds and has a knack for getting deep in conversation, so a quick phone call can often turn into a lengthy monologue.
Later this year the sport’s two biggest stars, Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao, will return in separate bouts against dangerous opponents. Mayweather faces off with WBC welterweight champion Victor Ortiz on September 17th at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada and on November 12th Pacquiao will defend his WBO welterweight title against rival Juan Manuel Marquez in the same building.
It just so happens that Richardson happened to be in the corner facing off against Mayweather and Pacquiao for their most recent conquests, as he helmed the ship of future Hall-of-Famer ‘Sugar’ Shane Mosley. Richardson was unsuccessful in guiding Mosley, seeing the Pomona fighter drop a unanimous decision to Mayweather in May of last year and again dropping a points loss to Pacquiao a few months back.
Richardson and I have talked in-depth about Floyd and Manny in the past, with him giving the nod to Pacquiao over Mayweather as this generations’ best fighter, and I was curious as to his thoughts on their recent challenges. In Ortiz, Mayweather will be facing a man coming in on a career-high based off of his thrilling upset over Andre Berto in April, a fight that saw each man taste the canvas twice in the first six rounds while they both absorbed hellish bombs throughout.
“His performance with Berto was exceptional,” Richardson noted. “There was nothing that surprised me; I was proud of him but there was nothing that surprised me. I’ve known Ortiz for years and I’ve known Berto for years from the amateurs. When asked my opinion I didn’t want to pick because I like Berto, but when the guy forced my hand I picked Ortiz to beat Berto. Berto’s a phenomenal fighter but he’s always had a problem with southpaws.”
I then asked Richardson to close his eyes and tell me how he envisioned Mayweather-Ortiz playing out.
“Mayweather’s experience at fights at this level is far more advanced that Ortiz. Ortiz is basically coming on with the strength of being a southpaw, plus his youth and desire. But Mayweather’s experience far outweighs Ortiz at this level of the sport. And I could see his IQ being a little too high in this situation and I could see Mayweather walking away with a twelve-round decision,” Richardson stated.
The discussion then quickly turned to the third go-round between Pacquiao and Marquez, a trilogy that comes with the promise of excitement and intrigue based off of the frantic nature of their first two encounters. True enough, Pacquiao has dominated his opponents with such command sine his rise above 130 pounds but it is Marquez who has given him fits in the past, fighting him to a draw in May of 2004 and losing a debatable split-decision to him in March of 2008.
Marquez’s success against Pacquiao has come from his great technique, impeccable timing, talent, and grit, all qualities that have endeared him to Richardson.
“Juan Manuel Marquez is one of the best fighters of our era,” Naazim said resoundingly. “I’m not sure if he will ever get his proper respect. He’s a phenom; no disrespect to Pacquiao because Pacquiao’s just a special specimen, but Marquez might actually be a better fighter. Pacquiao’s just a freak of nature but Marquez might actually be the better fighter. This might be the one fight that Marquez might be in trouble because he might not be big enough, but fighting-wise, craftwork, and strategy-wise, I never count Marquez out.”
Short but sweet witticisms from Richardson but I couldn’t let him off the phone without asking him about the future of Mosley. Shane has had a grand career but also has failed to win a fight dating back to his January 2009 thrashing of Antonio Margarito, with his following performances against Mayweather, Sergio Mora, and Pacquiao showing us just how far the 39-year old has appeared to slip.
Many have called for Mosley’s retirement but for Richardson, he will ride with his charge through thick and thin.
“The last time I talked to Shane he was taking some time off, doing some traveling. And hopefully spending some time with his family and his kids. He’s had a long career but we don’t know if it’s at the end or not. I will support any decision he makes and help him in any way he could if he asks me to.”