By Thomas Gerbasi
Shane Mosley never made it to 39-0 like his Saturday opponent, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, who also has a draw on that otherwise spotless record. But when he entered the ring at Madison Square Garden’s Theater to face Vernon Forrest in January of 2002, 38-0 was enough to make the then-welterweight and former lightweight champion feel like that “0” would last forever.
“It was a good time in my career,” Mosley told BoxingScene. “I felt that I was unstoppable and felt nobody could beat me. I felt that I was gonna go on to be undefeated.”
The great ones always do. It’s why you hear this weekend’s main eventer, Floyd Mayweather, go on incessantly about his unbeaten record, almost considering his fight with Miguel Cotto to be a done deal before the opening bell even sounds. Mosley lost that night to the late Forrest via unanimous decision, and six more defeats have followed.
There are no slouches among the men who beat Pomona’s Sugar Shane. There’s Forrest twice, Winky Wright twice, Mayweather, Cotto, and most recently, Manny Pacquiao. Considering this, his three divisional championships, and his wins over the likes of Oscar De La Hoya (twice), Antonio Margarito, Fernando Vargas, Luis Collazo, Ricardo Mayorga, and Jesse James Leija, a spot in Canastota’s Boxing Hall of Fame is virtually guaranteed.
In other words, there’s nothing left to prove at the age of 40, especially after a dismal effort against Pacquiao almost a year ago to the day that even had longtime Mosley loyalists running for the exits. But just like the great ones think that they’ll be great forever, they also think that they’ve still got one big fight left. Mosley is no different, so just when it looked like he might decide to call it a day, the idea of a career-resurrecting fight against rising Mexican star Alvarez presented itself, it was almost like Al Pacino’s Michael Corleone in The Godfather Part III.
“Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.”
“I brought myself back in,” he said. “I really want this. I’m looking forward to this match.”
No one gives Mosley much of a chance. In the boxing equivalent of a gold watch for retirement, he is expected to step through the ropes to give the young gun the first major notch on his belt. Sure, wins over Carlos Baldomir, Matthew Hatton, and Kermit Cintron are nice, but to beat or even stop a superstar like Mosley holds even more clout for Alvarez, who considered his opponent as one of his heroes growing up.
Mosley has been complimentary toward the 21-year old in the lead-up to the fight, saying “he’s a young, talented fighter coming up. He’s never fought a guy like me before, but he’s young and talented, he’s strong, and hopefully we’re gonna do some good work.” But Mosley’s never one to do his fighting at press conferences or an interviews. His fan following was built on blood, sweat, and punches over the course of 54 professional fights, a tour of duty of over 19 years.
And even when he defused the attack of another Mexican wrecking ball, Antonio Margarito, in his last win back in 2009, there was always the impression that despite his age, he still had a good fight or two left. But he hasn’t shown that in the last three years. After cracking and hurting Mayweather early in their 2010 bout, he received a boxing lesson the rest of the way. Four months later he battled to a dismal 12 round draw with Sergio Mora. It was the near shutout loss to Pacquiao last May that really sealed the deal though, as he finally looked old.
“Before I fought Pacquiao, I popped my Achilles,” he said. “I wasn’t actually supposed to be walking when I fought Pacquiao, but I actually fought him and went 12 rounds.”
If the injury was legitimately not healed by the time he stepped into the ring with one of boxing’s best, it could certainly explain Mosley’s lethargic performance, and given the importance of speed and footwork to his attack, he’s probably lucky that he wasn’t knocked out for the first time in his career.
“It’s a scary feeling not being able to move like you want to or punch like you want to,” he admits. “When I fought Pacquiao, I felt that I was the bigger, stronger guy and if he walked to me, maybe I could catch him with something. But when he hit me and knocked me down (in the third round), I was like ‘oh s**t,’ maybe I’m not the bigger guy. I felt like maybe I could take a few of his punches, and even though I’m real messed up I could crack him and turn it in my favor, but it just didn’t happen. I needed to be a hundred percent to fight Pacquiao.”
As Saturday night approaches, Mosley says things are different. He’s healthy, he’s ready to go, and he’s eager to shock the world. He understands that there are more skeptics than believers at this point thanks to his recent performances, but he accepts it. He doesn’t even hold any grudges when it comes to the barbs he received after the Pacquiao fight.
“A little surprised, but I guess it comes with the game,” he said of the criticism. “I’m looking to make them jump right on the bandwagon after this fight.”
And they will. We all will. Everyone loves a redemption story, and if it’s attached to someone like a Shane Mosley, all the better. He’s even classy enough to say that he won’t declare “I told you so” until he goes past Alvarez and into even more rarefied territory – a win over the winner of the Mayweather-Cotto bout.
“‘I told you so’ comes along with it, but it’s really winning the world title and going to fight Cotto or Mayweather and beating them and saying I told you so,” he said, and whatever we may think of his intentions, you don’t get to the top of what British writer Hugh McIlvanney called “The Hardest Game” without having the ability to make yourself believe the impossible.
It’s not natural to take punches to the head and body and keep moving forward, or to push yourself past normal thresholds of pain in order to win what many simply see as a sporting event. Shane Mosley has been doing that for more years than he hasn’t. This is his life, and if someone gives him the chance to fight the big fight one more time on the brightest stage the sport has to offer, he’s not going to refuse it. The way he sees it, he’s got at least 12 rounds of fight left in him, and after that, he’s got it all planned out. The only one who can stop him is Saul Alvarez. And Mosley doesn’t think that this 21-year old kid is going to be the one to prove to him that life in boxing at 40 is a death sentence.
“It feels like it’s beginning at 40,” he said.