Despite a storied career that saw him win the first season of “The Contender” on NBC, win a world title and take some of the biggest stages, Mora is fighting the perception - some would argue the reality - that he is a boring, safety-first fighter.
“Ah, yeah, absolutely. I think the last three years I’ve been fighting the ghost of a boring fighter that I’m not. I’m not a blood-and-guts warrior where I’m going to go to war with everybody but I’m also not a straight boxer. I fight on the inside; I do a lot of things that people just mistake for my fight with [Shane] Mosley,” said Mora. “My [Bryan] Vera fights were interesting because I stood in there with a bigger stronger guy and I got with Proksa, I got more aggressive and this Saturday, you’re going to see a lot different strategy as well.”
Mora says he is evolving into a boxer who is now more willing to sit in the pocket and mix it up.
“People want to blame it on fighters getting older and they don’t want to use their legs as much and they’re more experienced. That might be true,” he concedes, “but for me, it’s more that I’m fighting a past Sergio Mora and I need to change my style to get those big fights.”
But there is that Mosley fight that took place over three years ago, Mora’s scarlet letter. It seems he will never be rid of the stigma of the utterly forgettable affair that ended up in a draw (which was appropriate given that nobody deserved to win that night at the Staples Center).
Mora laments, “Man, honestly, I think the commentating had a lot to do with it because the European feed, I got a lot of people from Europe, that they didn’t hear [HBO’s commentary team of] Jim Lampley and Larry Merchant and they thought it was a pretty good fight. They thought it was an interesting fight, a close fight and no one in Europe said it was a horrible fight. Yet in the States, everyone just crucified me for that fight. You say it takes two to Tango and Mosley, he was proven to have had uneventful nights for four fights in a row. So I took all the blame for that but I can’t do nothing about it.
“I’m fighting a legend - I can’t blame it on a legend. So I’ll take that blame and I gotta dig myself outta that hole - which I’m doing.”
So when did the “Latin Snake,” who prided himself on slithering away from contact, decide to alter his style? “Literally a month after the Mosley fight,” he states. “2011 was the worst year of my life - not only in my boxing career, my life. A lot of things changed in the way people saw me, the way people saw me as a fighter, as a man, maturing, hitting 30. All that stuff, it was a big transition but boxing’s my passion, so it really hit me hard when people thought I was a boring fighter. All I did was get a draw with a guy that’s never been KO’ed, a damn legend, a Hall-of-Famer and people want to bury me because of what Jim Lampley and Larry Merchant said on air.”
Yeah, it could be argued that the hardest shots landed that night were from the HBO broadcasters.
“I think they were a bit unprofessional and I think the media feed off that also because I got some decent feedback and I got some horrible feedback and then I just got some damn unprofessional criticism. So I think I’m digging myself out of the hole. This fight Saturday is going to be my final stroke into the dirt to finally get back to where I need to be.”
On the night Mora defeated Proksa, Lou DiBella, who was at the Foxwoods Resort in Connecticut (where Matthew Macklin was challenging WBA middleweight beltholder Gennady Golovkin the following day), watched with curiosity while at an Italian restaurant. What he saw intrigued him so much he ended up inking Mora to a promotional pact soon afterward.
The promoter explained, “I’ve always believed Mora was one of the more talented guys in the middleweight division. But a young Mora was so slick that there were people that found his style not pleasing and in the Proksa fight, I saw a guy who was much more committed to punching, more committed to his all-around game and, look, Sergio’s got a lot of personality. He’s a bright guy. He’s got a lot of name recognition because of ‘The Contender’ and right now, you’re in a middleweight division where I honestly believe he’s one of the most talented guys in it. What I saw in the Proksa fight was a much more aggressive offensive orientated, TV-friendly Sergio Mora.”
There was some talk of Mora facing Brandon Gonzales (also part of the undercard) but that was summarily rejected by HBO. It seems Mora is still being penalized for past transgressions.
"Yeah, you are running into it but it’s not fair,” huffed DiBella, whose job now is to pitch Mora to the networks. “A, it’s not fair and B, you have a guy like a Golovkin that Sergio’s begging to fight. You have guys running in the other direction and frankly, Sergio’s style is one that would actually make Golovkin fight a different kind of fight and actually present pretty good television and a pretty good challenge. I really believe that.” In the past, Mora didn’t always have the most entertaining, telegenic style. But then the question has to be asked: What’s the difference between what he does and say, what Terence Crawford does?
DiBella adds, “I can name about a half-a-dozen guys that make a million dollars to stink the joint out and I’ve watched a majority of Sergio’s fights over recent years and I don’t think he’s a stinker at all.”
Looking at the 160-pound class, it’s not all that deep. By sheer attrition, Mora could get another shot at a major title in due time. But you wonder, why didn’t Mora decide to make this philosophical switch long ago? Yeah, winning is what matters but boxing is also the entertainment business.
“I wasn’t ready to do it years ago,” he says, explaining that with his relative late start to boxing (age 16) and the fact his trainer, Dean Campos, himself had never trained another pro, they were both essentially learning on the job. But he says now, “My new style of fighting is going to be more where I focus in on single shots instead of blinding combinations and speed like I used to do, where I used to throw, five, six, seven punches but the guy wouldn’t get hurt. Now, I’m thinking more of throwing three or four solid shots and placing them well with technique and those are hurting my sparring partners and that’s changing the way I’m hurting my opponents because I know I hurt Proksa two or three times.
“Why didn’t he get aggressive like he normally does? I know I hurt him a couple of times and if he didn’t back up so much and if he wasn’t a southpaw, I think I could’ve even stopped him with aggression.”
So can a “Latin Snake” change his colors?
“I think if people give me a chance, snakes are known to shed their skin.”
TNR ON ITUNES
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