By Cliff Rold
We can say this much for Saturday’s welterweight main event on CBS Sports (10:30 PM EST/7:30 PM PST): it’s not the most ridiculous ‘title’ fight the WBA has ever sanctioned.
It’s not even close.
In 1998, Williams Joppy made the second defense of his second title reign at middleweight against one of the greatest fighters of all time and a former middleweight titlist. That sounds okay in a vacuum, right?
The problem was that the man on the other side of the ring was a 47-year old Roberto Duran. Ironically, Duran hadn’t won a fight inside the middleweight limit since his 1989 middleweight belt win against Iran Barkley. Long part of the old timers circuit, the Duran-Joppy fight was somehow allowed a sanction.
It was a sad abomination. Duran was stopped in three.
That might not have been the worst fight the WBA ever allowed for one of their titles but it comes to mind on the eve of another head scratcher (and not just because of the publicity stunt of having Duran in the corner).
For no reason one can point to in actual fight results, 44-year old former three-division titlist and two-time welterweight champion Shane Mosley (49-9-1, 41 KO) is rated third by the WBA at 147 lbs.
Since defeating Antonio Margarito for the WBA title in January 2009, Mosley hasn’t looked like a fighter who found the fountain of youth. He hasn’t posted results to suggest so either. He’s 3-4-1 since the Margarito fight and was stopped in 2013 by Anthony Mundine. Two of those three wins came inside the welterweight limit (he’s got that on Duran at least) but so what?
Mosley is matched this weekend for the interim WBA belt against David Avanesyan (21-1-1, 11 KO). The WBA has already ordered that the winner will face the winner of June’s Keith Thurman-Shawn Porter fight. Avanesyan should probably be considered the favorite here. Unbeaten since a decision in his second pro fight, the Russian is only 27. He’s not a talent that jumps off the screen but he does a lot of things well. He works the body, has good fundamentals, and he’s not a seemingly shot 44-year old that used to be “Sugar” in the ring.
That doesn’t mean it’s a given. Anything can happen in boxing and Avanesyan isn’t proven. His rating appears based on the game of paying interim title fees to get a place in line. There is no quality win evidence nor will there be after Saturday. Let’s say the unlikely occurs though. The old veteran could always outfox him. Mosley can still punch a little. And then what?
Think about the implications.
Who in their right mind would put Mosley anywhere near striking distance of a mandated crack at a young tiger like Thurman or Porter? It’s bad enough when young fighters go looking for ancient names to build bona fides. It’s an ugly part of boxing but also one of its most tried elements.
This isn’t one of those screeds declaring a fighter of ‘x’ age should hang them up. Mosley is a grown man. If he wants, or financially needs, to keep fighting he can make his own choices. Facilitating those choices, as the WBA is here, is another matter.
Ranking Mosley third because he slipped by Pablo Cano in 2013 and an irrelevant Patrick Lopez last year is tough to stomach. Welterweight isn’t a division void of talent. It’s the opposite of that. Even in a world where sanctioning bodies typically don’t rate each other’s champions (Gennady Golovkin excluded), this is farce.
Let’s say Mosley wins? So we get Joppy-Duran redux maybe even with Duran in the corner? In a sport that struggles for legitimacy so often, it’s still hard to fathom the self inflicted wounds by those who purport to govern it.
Shane Mosley was a hell of a fighter in his day, even if the evidence tells us he saved his career in the Oscar De La Hoya rematch in part by cheating (see: BALCO). His day passed a long time ago. If he wants to throw leather on the old timer’s circuit, so be it. That he’s being put in the line of fire, by mandate, of younger fighters he has no business fighting is boxing at its worst.
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene and a member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]