By Jake Donovan
Make no mistake about it- this weekend’s superfight between Shane Mosley and Floyd Mayweather is one that warrants attention, regardless of how it was made.
In that same vein, there was nothing wrong on paper with a fight between Manny Pacquiao and Joshua Clottey.
Both fights offer matchups between legitimate Top Five welterweights. There exists a valid argument that this weekend’s battle should be for the division’s vacant lineal championship.
So what’s the problem?
Neither fight was first choice for the one event we truly coveted.
Sure, on the surface, everyone insists that they’ve moved on from the fact that Pacquiao-Mayweather was not happening. But all it takes is for one thing to go wrong before those old feelings once again surface.
It happened in March, when things went smoothly up until the opening bell rang and the fight began. Prior to that point, most of the discussion centered around the first major boxing event to take place at the revamped state-of-the-art Cowboys Stadium.
That people kept buying tickets (more than 51,000 in attendance), and that pay-per-view sales (700,000 buys) exceeded expectations suggested a success all the way around.
Unfortunately, none of the millions of dollars generated could draw attention away from the fact that what was offered in the ring was an absolute bust. The undercard was doomed from the start and managed to live down to expectations.
Most unforgivable of the evening was that the main event was largely unforgettable, save for unintentional comedic commentary from HBO lead blow-by-blow man Jim Lampley. That Clottey all but refused to put up a fight only served as a harsh reminder that – in a perfect world – he never belonged on the stage in the first place.
One has to wonder if the bad taste from that night continues to linger as Fight Week is now upon us for this weekend’s event at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada (Saturday, HBO PPV, 9PM ET/6PM PT).
Sure, the event is the centerpiece for conversation throughout the boxing world and rightfully so. It’s not often these days for two top American fighters to get together for a major fight that both figures to draw well and boast major implications within a division as well as for the sport itself.
That Mosley – even at age 39 and having not fought in more than 15 months – represents the toughest challenge Mayweather has faced in years, if not in his entire Hall-of-Fame career, makes this weekend Must See TV.
That Mayweather –despite having begun his now legendary career at the super featherweight limit – represents the most difficult challenge Mosley will have ever faced in his own Hall-of-Fame career really says a lot about the skill level that the undefeated pound-for pound entrant brings to the table.
All of the elements are there for this event to genuinely revive the American boxing scene and threaten all of the box office records.
Yet for the moment, the insistence that it’s the must-see event of the year feels more like a hard push than a worthy tagline.
As the bout draws closer, the buzz will continue to grow. It will begin with the final presser and then build from there, at the weigh-in – which will be attended by thousands – and then all the way up until the main event sometime around 8:30PM local time on Saturday evening.
All that said, there is still no mistaking the fact that the fight wasn’t what we truly wanted, but rather what we’re once again being forced to accept.
Part of the concern over what to expect stems from the belief that Mayweather (40-0, 25KO) will do whatever it takes to preserve his perfect record as a professional.
That’s not to say he will break or even bend the rules in order to get there – on the contrary, the Grand Rapids (MI) product now living in Las Vegas is as clean in the ring as random drug testing has proven him to be beyond the ropes.
What he has no problem doing, however, is stinking out the joint if it means securing a win, rather than thrilling the crowd if it means flirting with defeat.
The win over Oscar de la Hoya around this time three years ago is the most obvious example, as well as his lineal welterweight title winning efforts over Carlos Baldomir one fight prior. His past two bouts have been far more entertaining, albeit against smaller competition moving up in weight for their respective fights against one of the sport’s very best.
Conversely, you can count on one hand the number of truly bad fights in which Mosley (46-5, 39KO) has been involved over the course of a career 17 years and running.
Sometimes, it worked – for instance, his first win over Oscar de la Hoya in 2000, which earned him the welterweight crown as well as the unbridled support of cable giant HBO. There was also his career-resurrecting upset slaughter of Antonio Margarito last January, which was as thrilling as can be the case for a one-sided ass whipping.
Other times, the results don’t quite work in his favor. The veteran gets a lot of credit for carrying the action down the stretch in his November ’07 clash with Miguel Cotto, but it was the latter’s desire to play it safe late in the fight that ultimately preserved victory.
It is widely assumed that Mosley will be the one forcing the issue come Saturday evening, but that it may not be enough to upend Mayweather. It might be enough to force the 33-year old welterweight to actually fight back for a change, but whether or not it results in the upset certainly remains to be seen.
And seen by millions, it will be. The fight also figures to be well-attended, though perhaps not the true sellout that was predicted by Richard Schaefer, CEO of Golden Boy Promotions. Some tickets still remain on Ticketmaster, and there is little to no demand for a secondary market for this event, unlike Mayweather’s bouts with de la Hoya and Ricky Hatton a few years ago.
Mayweather also failed to fill up all of the seats for his comeback fight last year, when he pummeled a fleshy Juan Manuel Marquez for 12 rounds in his first fight back in nearly two years. The intrigue factor was enough to pull in an eye-popping 1 million pay-per-view buys, but all that was asked of him at the end was when he would step up and face a real challenge.
That questioned was answered once Mayweahter eventually signed on to fight the very man who bum-rushed his post-fight interview, giving boxing its second truly big event of 2010.
Yet somehow, boxing still waits for its first big event of the year that it truly wanted.
WHAT WE’RE DEFINITELY NOT BEING GIVEN
The only way the televised undercard can be deemed a success if they turn out to be more entertaining and competitive than is expected to be the case.
As far as intrigue goes, the only bout among the three that catches the eye of the sport’s hardcore base is the evening’s co-feature bout between Saul Alvarez and Jose Miguel Cotto.
The fight perfectly fits the formula that most promoters prefer when first presenting their product to a wider audience – their hopeful future star matched against an opponent whose notoriety (or in this case, familiar bloodlines) far exceed his chances of winning.
Those who refer to this bout as a legitimate test for the undefeated Alvarez should either bow their heads in shame, or collect a check from Golden Boy for basically writing an extended press release.
There is nothing remotely suggesting that a bout between a highly touted welterweight prospect and fattened former fringe lightweight contender will be anything other than a bloodletting. Anything short of that will be a detraction from the massive amount of hype surrounding Alvarez, not a testament to what the less-established member of the Cotto family brings to the table.
The other two matchups – Daniel Ponce de Leon verus Cornelius Lock and Hector Salvida versus Said Ouali – suggest stiffer two-way competition, but figure to be fought in front of a largely empty arena and have little to no attention paid by those who order the fight at home or watch somewhere in an available movie theatre.
WHAT WE SHOULD BE GIVEN
Count me in the camp of those who believe the winner of this fight should be recognized as the lineal welterweight champion.
The title was vacated by Mayweather upon his announced break from the sport in 2008. He left the sport as the best welterweight – and best pound-for-pound – fighter in the world.
While he deserves to have to prove himself to once again be the best in a pound-for-pound sense, he honestly can’t prove himself to be any greater of a welterweight than against the man he’ll be facing this weekend.
Ironically, most would’ve accepted a decisive outcome in a Pacquiao-Mayweather fight to serve as the recognized welterweight king. Yet such a verdict would’ve been a grave disrespect to Mosley, who is rightly recognized by most as the best fighter in the division.
Whether or not Pacquiao-Mayweather ever happens remains to be seen. It’s suggested that there is just far too much money to be made for it to not become a reality. But then, that’s also what was being said in everyone’s greatest efforts to ignore the fact that it was falling apart from the moment those closest to the deal claimed “99% done.”
Until it happens, Pacquiao deserves to hold on to the claim as the best fighter in the world, pound-for-pound, although plenty will argue that this weekend’s winner poses a terrific argument to the contrary.
What shouldn’t be disputed is that two of the best three welterweights in the world are fighting this weekend, with the best one not on the sidelines but in the main event, and against the last man to have won the lineal welterweight crown in the ring.
That formula should be good enough to produce a new king by night’s end.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com and an award-winning member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Contact Jake at [email protected]