This Saturday, the Pacquiao Express rolls into Las Vegas’ MGM Grand for a Showtime PPV extravaganza featuring Manny Pacquiao vs. Sugar Shane Mosley, fresh off a 2010 that saw him lose in one-sided fashion to Floyd Mayweather Jr. and draw with Sergio Mora in a terribly boring fight.
Soon after that fight, while Mosley was still aligned and partnered with Bob Arum’s Top Rank’s chief rival Golden Boy Promotions, Arum declared a Pacquiao-Mosley fight very hard to promote because Mosley had looked terrible in his last two fights. Mosley had looked slow and tired early. His once dangerous ability to land shots in combination is now relegated to one or two, then a clinch. Still, his solid chin, his overall toughness and will to win are there and…well, that’s about it.
So what changed? Why did the Mosley fight happen after all? For one, Mosley left Golden Boy Promotions. Two, some opine that Mosley, who had pursued a Pacquiao fight to no avail after his January 2009 win over Margarito, has looked just bad enough that he is ready to be stopped for the first time. Bob Arum claimed a different reason for making the fight.
“Because my matchmakers, who know a lot more about boxing than I do- that’s why I pay them the money that I pay them- told me that Shane Mosley was the one guy capable of giving Pacquiao a real battle,” Arum told Maxboxing.com at a recent media gathering for Pacquiao, “because they would stand in the ring and trade punches and do a shoot-out. And I was like a lot of people, judging Mosley on the fight with Mora and the fight with Mayweather but they were defensive fighters. And when you are an old fighter, those are the kinds of fighters that you can’t fight. The kinds of fighters you can fight are those fighters that stand in front of you and exchange punches and they convinced me that the Mosley fight is a good fight.”
All great fighters lose. Some drop a couple in a row and then come back to surprise us. Mosley himself looked ordinary in his fights with Luis Collazo (a win) and a last-second KO win over Ricardo Mayorga heading into his bout with Antonio Margarito. Most picked Margarito to destroy Shane; then he did the unthinkable and took Margarito apart in nine brutal rounds. So are we making too much of Shane’s recent foibles?
“The guy who makes the most of it and has elevated it to a phobia is Floyd Mayweather,” said Arum of boxing fans’ obsession with undefeated fighters and the way they throw fighters under the bus for losing. “Because Manny Pacquiao lost. So what? Sugar Ray Leonard lost. So What? Marvin Hagler lost. So what? Tommy Hearns, Roberto Duran, all the great fighters. Ray Robinson lost. Ali. Big deal. Very few fighters go through undefeated and those that do, when you really look at their record, you see how super careful they were.”
Arum agreed that losses are sometimes just the beginning for a fighter and, in many ways, tell us more about him than winning.
“Absolutely,” Arum agreed, “and when they are in a match and they have to suck it up and fight a guy who appears to be a lot better than them.”
What we learn, however, is not always positive. In losing to Mayweather and drawing with Mora, we learned Shane Mosley may simply not have it anymore. Sure, there is the idea that Mora and Mayweather are defensive fighters and Manny is aggressive so it will make for a more exciting fight but Manny is not exactly a come-forward brawler. As he has moved up, his defense has improved, including his head movement as well as his tighter guard and tucked chin. Make no mistake; Manny won’t be playing “Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots” in this fight. If there is one thing we have learned, power is the last thing to go in a fighter and Shane might still have that proverbial puncher’s chance and Manny will box more because of it. While a loss for a young fighter can be a learning experience, Mosley’s recent woes seem more indicative of decline rather than shortcomings that can be overcome in a camp or two.
So why fight Mosley? What does it prove?
“Probably nothing but this is what the promoter gave us,” said trainer Freddie Roach. “They offered us the fight so we said, ‘Why not?’ I definitely think [Mosley] is dangerous. Manny likes to exchange a little bit more, certainly more than Mayweather. We kind of ran out of opponents right now. We are just fighting whoever makes sense dollar-wise too.”
“He still can fight. He is not that slow compared to Margarito or somebody else. He is fast. He moves fast. This time, he trained hard for this fight. He has done a lot of things,” Pacquiao told me.
But wouldn’t fighting someone younger, closer to prime- in short, more dangerous- be what the fans really want? Does Pacquiao want that kind of fight for himself?
“For me, it depends on who my promoter give to me,” said Pacquiao. “What my concern is what fight can I give to the people, to the fans. My first concern as a boxer is to train hard and give a good show, a good fight to the people.”
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter. Or so it seems. Top Rank has moved the top active fighter in the sport over from HBO to Showtime in a deal with CBS to bring boxing back to the free-TV masses. In a way, what it really is bringing the same old song to a new market that has not been tired out by the parade of names put in front of Pacquiao. The move, according to Arum, has been a successful one thus far.”
“I think, thanks to CBS, we have been able to reach an audience that we could never reach before,” said Arum. “Terrestrial television has 150 million homes. The feedback we getting is enormous. I think as we go forward in the next two-and-a-half weeks, with the program CBS has, the entertainment tonight is just going to be unbelievable. I believe just as we had the quickest sellout ever for the gate, we have closed-circuit sales are off the chart that the PPV is going to be enormous. It is hard to tell but based on the gate and the closed-circuit and the campaign that is being waged, I would not be surprised if we broke two million homes. Anything under a million [would not be a success]. And really, Manny did 1.2 in his last fight with Margarito and we think that with this campaign, we can go over two million.”
The last time Manny fought, the storyline was that he was distracted due to his work as a congressman. Everywhere he was talked about or reported on, that was the word. “This camp has gone badly.” “Manny wants to just be in congress and not fight,” etc., ad nauseam. This time out?
“No distractions. Maybe we should create some,” laughed Roach. “I had to go away for a week so that was a little bit…I left the schedule from [where] it normally is. [Manny] didn’t miss me much. He worked on the bags a lot more because we couldn’t work mitts.”
“I’m good,” said Pacquiao. “I am ready for the fight.”
If there is a storyline or lines, they’re based simply on the questions: What does Mosley have left? And can Pacquiao be the first to stop him?”
“That would be a statement for us if he were the first to stop Shane Mosley,” said Roach. “It would prove just how much better we are than everyone else in the world.”
“In every fight, I never think of the knockout,” said Pacquiao. “I just focus on doing my best. The knockout, if it comes, it will come.”
Just a guess but if you hear that storyline mentioned more than three times on the broadcast, odds are the KO will come. If there is anything to be taken from this fight as leverage in the ongoing war of words and deeds with the best non-active boxer in the world, Floyd Mayweather Jr., stopping Mosley in brutal fashion the way Mayweather was unable to would at least be something. However, the way things look, Pacquiao could set Shane Mosley ablaze with his fists and punch him into another dimension and it does not seem that Mayweather would care. That fight, the one we all really want, seems light years away, even if it still on the mind of Roach.
“I hope [it happens], like everyone in the world,” Freddie said. “I have studied this guy and his habits. [Mayweather] has a lot of bad habits. I want to take advantage of them. Will we get that chance? Sometimes I think it is more important for him to have that zero on his record so he can say he is better than Sugar Ray Robinson because Robinson has losses and he doesn’t. But losses make you a better fighter, in my opinion. It is part of life.”
Pacquiao himself seems happy with his accomplishments thus far. He is making headway as a congressman, can boast a ton of titles in a bunch of weight classes, and is becoming a larger crossover star seemingly every day. So does he still want that Mayweather fight and if he doesn’t get it, does it matter to his legacy?
“I don’t know,” Pacquiao smiled. “For me, there is a chance. It is up to him. For me, I am ready anytime. He is trying to maybe see if I am getting older.”
While the outcomes to his fights seem preordained through the choosing of his opposition, how long Pacquiao will fight on waiting for that Mayweather fight remains to be seen.
“You never know with Manny,” said Roach. “That changes from day to day. The way he is training, he hasn’t lost a step. He is right there. He can do this for a long time if he wants to.”
“Bob says he wants three fights after this. Then I will focus on my other career. First my family, they want me to stop boxing, stop fighting,” said Pacquiao, “but I told them I am still strong and I can still fight. You know, in our minds, we are young but as our body responds, we are getting older.”
For now, enjoy Manny Pacquiao while you have him. Yes, he fights underdogs and names just a bit or more past their peaks. Some are even catchweight fights but when the bell rings, the fights are generally action-packed and the stadiums are filled. It is hard to call that bad thing. In a sport dominated by the bigger names, this is par for the course. Is this a mismatch or a match made in boxing heaven? I tend to think the former but it is always hard to count out a great fighter like Shane Mosley.
To use the most overused cliché in sports, it is what it is. Carpe Diem.
You can email Gabriel at email@example.com, follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/gabriel_montoya and catch him on each Monday’s episode of “The Next Round” with Steve Kim. You can also tune in to hear him and co-host David Duenez live on the BlogTalk radio show Leave-It-In-The-Ring.com, Thursdays at 5-8 PM PST. Gabriel is a full member of the Boxing Writers Association of America.
Exclusively available to Maxboxing members is an excellent bird’s-eye/point-of-view peek into Manny Pacquiao’s training and preparation for this Saturday night’s bout against Shane Mosley, courtesy of cameraman Brian Harty and Steve Kim. You can only catch it right here on MaxTV at http://www.maxboxing.com/maxtv/maxboxing-tv/manny-pacquiao-pov-training-and-interview.