The time has come for Sugar Shane Mosley to make a full account of himself if he is to be a player in the big fight landscape of 2005. Will the Pomona quicksilver silence naysayers who believe his best days were twenty pounds south? Or will he once again fall into the abyss of the ill-timed return bout? When Mosley faces unified junior welterweight champ Winky Wright on Saturday he will be going in for the first time without the emotional support of father/trainer Jack Mosley. The Sugar Man will also be facing a technician who despite winning the first bout still craves entry into the lucrative world of pay-per-view main events. With Trinidad back in the picture, the long avoided Wright makes no secret of his plan to end Mosley’s run as an elite fighter in decisive fashion. The intrigue of this revenge match is further heightened with the casting of Joe Goossen as Mosley's new trainer. Goossen, like Phil Jackson, has the market cornered in knowing what buttons to push in previously established athletes. After a thorough three month preparation Mosley and Goossen promise a surprise for boxing fans and if well-executed, revenge will certainly be sweet for the Pomona native.
2004: The Graveyard for the gifted
If this past year can teach us anything it is that fighters who depended a great deal on superior reflexes don’t age well. Although it was Kostya Tszyu who was shelved for nearly two years he returned to find Sharmba Mitchell front and center for practically everything the Australian had to offer. A rugged technician, Tszyu was always a grinder with power and accuracy to go with a great chin, a disastrous recipe for a 35-year-old 'slickster'. Roy Jones, the poster child for gifted fighters gone awry, left his vaunted reflexes at 200 pounds when he unwisely chose to play ping-pong with 25 pounds of lean muscle. Even Oscar De La Hoya - who many (including me) believed looked faster than Mosley in their second go round - could not muster similar athleticism at middleweight. This truth will make victory all the more daunting for the Sugar Man, as it seems that fast hands and feet are always the first thing to go. When it comes to what I look for in a 'great' fighter I would have to say that I’ve always been partial to speed. The prime Ray Leonard and a 1967 Cassius Clay always come to mind when I think of a 'special' pugilist. For Shane Mosley to exact revenge on Winky Wright he need not be 'special', just crafty enough to simulate a modified version of that fighter who by the late 90’s had many old timers evoking the sacred name of Ray Robinson.
If you squint long enough…
Hopefully Joe Goossen and Shane Mosley are wise enough to know that you cannot 'actually' turn back the clock. Due to the added weight and age Mosley should want to be busy but not lightweight busy. At lightweight Mosley was a blur, a fighter possessing gifts that qualified him for mythic matchups with Whitaker and Duran. After making the 'old school' jump to 147 pounds, Sugar Shane started punching 'up' for a living, literally and competitively. Mosley will never again have the legs he had at lightweight, yet he is athletic enough to show Wright angles. If Mosley can get off first and in combination making sure to invest in a body attack, he can produce a sorely needed vintage performance. None of this is unattainable, yet it will rely on Shane’s confidence level and belief that he can employ the superior boxing IQ. When great athletes excel past their primes they are in essence providing the illusion of prolonged youth. What these rare athletes are doing is combining maniacal work ethic (which Shane does possess) and a reinvested dependence on experience and guile. These factors along with remnants of once great athletic prowess can present the powerful illusion that, as a specimen, the athlete hasn’t changed. During Michael Jordan’s two year run there were certain nights (with rest) that his level of class was too overwhelming for young defenders - while half asleep (and squinting) I didn’t realize he wasn’t jumping very high.
All in all I believe if Shane can stay busy and somewhat mobile he can present problems for Wright this Saturday night. I also hope Mosley can eliminate that little shuffle he does with his gloves before he commits with a punch - it’s a huge 'tip off' to a natural counter puncher like Winky Wright. For Mosley to pull off the upset he must summon the cerebral mastery that lifted his forbearers to legendary status. Joe Goossen will be fascinating to watch as he attempts to jockey the future Hall of Farmer into career resuscitation. As fascinating as he will be I can’t help but to ponder the Yogi Berra-like banter of the legendary Angelo Dundee. Angelo has a way of articulating and making everything simple, and in this case he’d say: “Shane? Good kid, great gifts, fell in love with his power, he should lighten up on the mustard and add more sugar”.
The Boxing Junkie rants
OK Don King! You didn’t hold a gun to my head; I take responsibility for my own addictive behavior but damn! Since I spent my money I feel like I have the right to tell you what you’ve got brewing… nuthin! (Not nothing) but nuthin' that remotely resembles another pay-per-view heavyweight card. Don’t get me wrong; Byrd vs. Rahman would be a respectable Boxing After Dark main event, but nothing more. You should also grant us the fans the much needed gift of unification in the division and stop haggling over options on Klitschko. Why? For one a unified heavyweight champ will only enhance the image of the sweet science, and two: none of these guys are 'special' including Klitschko (sorry HBO) so don’t sweat it; besides, parity is 'in' so bite the bullet. Kudos to the New York State Athletic commission for indefinitely suspending the license of the 'Surreal Deal' Holyfield. Big ups to crazy Vander for pointing out to Larry Merchant that it wasn’t the “right time” to ask the “retirement question”. Even I could see (through bleary eyes) that it’s kind of annoying for a true warrior to have to deal with the same damn question. Obviously it’s on his mind, but after getting your ass handed to you for twelve rounds who would want to have some prickly irritant stick a mic in his face and say, “So, do you give?” I believe his affirmative response was more in rebellion to the repetitive nature of the question than anything else; nobody (especially me and you) likes to be told what to do.
Until the Next “Jones”
The “Boxing Junkie”
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