Maxboxing.com: Is Wright wrong for Mosley?

Updated: March 10, 2004, 10:52 AM ET
By Steve Kim | Maxboxing.com

The first time Shane Mosley beat Oscar De La Hoya in 2000, he followed up with easy wins over Antonio Diaz, Shannon Taylor and Adrian Stone. The Diaz fight was understandable, most champions take 'come down' fights after big victories. The Taylor fight was another in a long line of questionable mandatories put up by the sanctioning bodies, this time by the WBC. But by the time he had blown out Adrian Stone in spectacular fashion a year later, all Larry Merchant would say to him that night on the telecast was 'So what?'

And while Mosley had registered three easy wins and pocketed millions, he had squandered away any real chance at really cashing in on his momentous achievement of knocking off 'the Golden Boy' a fight later, with super-agency IMG on hand, ready to take the place of Cedric Kushner, Mosley would get beat handily by Vernon Forrest in January of 2002.

Fast-forward to his second win over De La Hoya this past September, Mosley is taking anything but the path of least resistance. What happened after his first win over De La Hoya will not be repeated.

"Absolutely, that was through my mind all the time," said Mosley's new promoter Gary Shaw. "Not to go back to the Shannon Taylors of the world."

They had first mapped out a plan to fight Ricardo Mayorga until those plans were 'jinxed' by Cory Spinks in December. Now, plan B, calls for Mosley to become the first undisputed jr. middleweight champion in 29 years, when he puts up his WBA and WBC belt, against IBF belt-holder Winky Wright.

"When we were discussing opponents and whatever, we were taking fights that I believe were really good fights and didn't diminish the work he did after the second De La Hoya fight," Shaw explained. "That's why I didn't mind taking the Mayorga fight because everybody saw Mayorga as the next coming I didn't. I thought it was an easy fight for Shane but the fact that everyone was 'Mayorga, Mayorga' that was the fight we were willing to do."

But why fight Wright, who has been one of the most avoided fighters the past few years? Wright, outside of his title belt, really doesn't bring that much to the table from a promotional standpoint. He's a crafty southpaw, who's not well known to the general public and he's a difficult fight to boot. The question is, does the rewards of beating him, justify the risk in taking it?

But Shaw said that convincing his fighter to take this bout was easy.

"I didn't have to convince him at all, not at all," he told MaxBoxing. "It was just a discussion, what do we think is the best for the career and I said 'Do you really want fights that are really meaningful?' and he said 'Yes, absolutely'. I said 'Do you want to make history?' and he said he did. I said 'Let's do two things: let's fight Winky Wright, the guy nobody wants to fight, let's win his belt and then you're making history. Then you're doing something for the sport of boxing."

It seems Mosley can't win for losing. He gets lambasted for sitting on his first win over Oscar and now some, are questioning him for taking such a tough fight now. But Merchant, who will be ringside this Saturday night at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, believes that perhaps this time around, Mosley has no choice but to take this fight.

"I don't think it was quite as big a deal for Shane Mosley or for boxing, the second time he beat De La Hoya as the first," Merchant told MaxBoxing. "The first was a shock to people beyond boxing because Mosley had been considered a lightweight who was taking a big chance by moving up 12 pounds, had a couple of fights before he fought De La Hoya at that weight, who was not really taken seriously, was unknown beyond the boxing community, basically.

"So it came as a shock to see him fight as well as he did. And it confirmed him at the time as we said as one of the three great 'Sugars' with Robinson and Leonard. And that was the apex of his career, really."

Since that time, Mosley has lost twice to Forrest, had a no-contest with Raul Marquez and even his second win over De La Hoya was disputed. But Merchant, who was critical back then of Mosley's career path, seems to think that perhaps the fighter did the right thing in milking it as long as he could.

"It seemed at the time, he did squander it (the momentum after first win over De La Hoya) and when you're dealing with the public, what seems wrong, is wrong," Merchant said. "Nevertheless, had he fought Forrest earlier as most of the boxing community had wanted him to, Forrest having beaten him as a amateur and being undefeated as a pro, [Mosley] may have lost in that time frame, earlier than he had. But there was a sense after the De La Hoya fight that he was coasting a little bit and perhaps squandering an opportunity to become a bigger star."

So just how important is a Wright win for Mosley at this point in time?

"I think at the end of the day, in the boxing world, it's a significant challenge," Merchant said. "It'll prove that he is a legitimate, small middleweight. But beyond the boxing world, I'm afraid he's not going to get all that much credit because not that many people know how tough of an old pro Winky Wright is.

"But the practical matter of it is, the victory will put him into a fight at middleweight with Trinidad and that would be a big deal, indeed."

In essence, Wright is playing the same role as a human hurdle that Spinks did against Mayorga. What did Yogi Berra once say 'It's deja vu, all over again.'

"I recognize how tough this is," admitted Shaw, who knows Wright well. "I have the greatest respect for Winky Wright and everybody in the industry knows of my respect for him. And there's a reason Oscar De La Hoya did not fight Winky, it's not because [Wright] is an African-American and [De La Hoya] didn't fight him because they couldn't fill seats or anything else. Because let me tell you something, if Winky Wright would have fought with Oscar De La Hoya, at the MGM Grand, there would be 17,000 asses in those seats. And they'd make the same amount of money they're making with Felix Sturm or Richard Sturm (an MGM Grand executive), it doesn't' make a difference. They didn't fight [Winky] because he's that tough.

"But I have supreme confidence in Shane. I think it's important that Shane has supreme confidence in Shane and I know how hard and tough Winky is, whether he be a southpaw or anything else. That guy is a helluva, God-damn boxer."

The one effect of fighters like Mosley and Trinidad agreeing to square off against each other and eschew more lucrative bouts against De La Hoya is that it may have forced Oscar to do something he really didn't want to do so soon in facing Bernard Hopkins.

"I think everybody was afraid to tell Oscar to go pound salt," says Shaw, "because they really wanted his money, that he was out there handing it out like paychecks. But with Shane and Trinidad and myself as a promoter and Nicolas Medina [Trinidad's negotiator], it didn't happen that way. Both camps said 'Hey, you know what? We don't need your money, we don't want your money, we're comfortable without you. That fight [Mosley-De La Hoya III or De La Hoya-Trinidad II] is not happening. We sat together and said 'You know what? If that fight's not happening, if we both have the same respect for each other, why don't we fight one another?'"

And when they came to an agreement to face each other in November should Mosley slip past Wright it may have boxed in Oscar for an execution.

"Yeah," agreed Shaw. "I believe without sounding pompous and self-fulfilling and making myself the greatest promoter of all time, I believe I single-handedly did that. Because I was the one that got in touch with Nicolas Medina and he and I basically agreed to a Felix Trinidad fight. Not without Shane knowing or anything like that, so once we had that, once I already had Winky done, there was no place for him to go in order for them not to look real jerky. Because I made a statement that said 'Last time I checked, both Felix Trinidad and Shane Mosley were not employed by Golden Boy'.

"So all that did at that point was then force them to do something I don't think they wanted to do. I believe they wanted to fight Hopkins, but as a career-ending fight."

Well, it just might be that when it's all said and done. And then the problem is, if there's no De La Hoya beyond 2004, who is there? The stark reality is that De La Hoya still represents the biggest payday for anyone out there.

"He may have been forced into the best choice because Fernando Vargas had a back injury, Mosley was not going to take the short, short end again. But it may turn out if he beats Hopkins or he fights a great fight, that he'll be back on top in the public's eye," Merchant said of De La Hoya's decision to fight the undisputed middleweight champion of the world. "I mean, he may have fought Mosley again and lost again. What would that have done for him?"

In the past, other blue-chip fighters were hesitant to face one another, content to wait in line for the riches De La Hoya could bring. But now in 2004, we could be seeing a round robin of fights that includes, Mosley, Wright, Trinidad, Hopkins and Wright. All because Mosley and Trinidad refused to give in to De La Hoya.

"I think you can not dismiss the idea of the pride and ego of champions," said Merchant. "And while Oscar is the 800-pound gorilla in negotiations he does generate the big, big bucks and they can make more money fighting him than anybody else they feel that they have to be treated with some respect and Mosley twice took the short end, was promised an equal division of the spoils for a rematch and De La Hoya passed on that. And now it turns out that they have some options to make some big monies with Trinidad coming back, Vargas in the mix, maybe Mayorga coming back, there are options and they feel that eventually De La Hoya will have to come back to them but De La Hoya trumped the people who trumped him by moving up to take Hopkins."

Perhaps both Oscar and Shane are taking the wrong fights. We'll see.