Mosley needs to find the Old Shane
He still says all the right things, all the things you expect from a true competitor and a fighter who has tasted life at the top. But this Saturday, talk will not get Shane Mosley his junior middleweight title back. It won't put him back in the pound-for-pound rankings.
For Mosley to win with the big boys at 154 pounds, he has to fight like a lightweight.
When the pride of Pomona, Calif., ruled the hearts and minds of fans and media alike, he was doing it at 135 pounds, where he reigned for two years to the tune of eight title defenses. Sure, he wasn't beating the likes of Roberto Duran, Tony Canzoneri, or Benny Leonard, but he beat solid contenders soundly, and when he was facing someone who just wasn't in his league -- like a 1998 KO victim Wilfredo Ruiz -- he dazzled and dispatched them with extreme prejudice.
It was the type of reign that won over hardcore fight junkies, grizzled veterans, and his peers. Even the ladies took a liking to "Sugar Shane," he of the dazzling smile and low-key demeanor.
The keys to his success in the ring were simple -- he had phenomenal speed, great footwork, he threw multiple punch combinations, and punched savagely to the body. It was the recipe for greatness, something most figured was a foregone conclusion. Even the bold adoption of the "Sugar" moniker was treated not with derision, but acceptance.
Yet once Mosley made the jump from 135 to 147 (a necessary leap since there were days at lightweight when Mosley was forced to suck on lemons for sustenance in order to make weight), a change started to take place. No, it wasn't the two losses to Vernon Forrest-- that would come later. The change was more subtle.
After announcing his arrival in the big time by decisioning Oscar De La Hoya in 2000, Mosley made three successful title defenses by stopping Antonio Diaz, Shannan Taylor, and Adrian Stone. Say what you want about that trio, but they had a combined record of 94-5-3, and "Sugar" Shane pulled out all his tricks to send them to spectacular defeats.
Needless to say, human nature kicked in, and Mosley's success with his punching power kind of led him to believe he was a knockout artist. The proof is in the fights, where he abandoned bodywork and combination punching for the one big finisher -- a finisher that didn't come in 24 rounds against Forrest, 15 rounds against Raul Marquez and De La Hoya (in their rematch), and in his 12-round loss this March to Winky Wright. In fact, he hasn't had an opponent on the floor in over three years, five fights, and 51 rounds.
There's no disputing those numbers.
Some will say Mosley isn't the same fighter due to a number of reasons wear and tear, outside distractions, his trainer, yada, yada, yada. And granted, Mosley has been through the public wringer with his name popping up in the recent BALCO investigations, a marriage that has met heavy media scrutiny, the dumping of virtually the entire team that was with him through his rise up the ranks, and most notably, the replacement of his father Jack with new trainer Joe Goossen.
But let's make it clear -- Mosley is a fighter, a competitor. He has been doing this since he was a child, and if a fighter of his caliber is affected that easily by what goes on outside the ropes, then he doesn't deserve to be at this level. When Mike Tyson was at his best, his personal and business affairs were swirling out of control. He went into the ring on June 27, 1988, and blasted out Michael Spinks in 91 seconds. Fighters fight. Sure it makes for good copy and interesting message board fodder, but I think it's safe to say that how a fighter performs can be directly correlated to how he has trained and with what gameplan he chooses to implement.
Joe Goossen is a helluva trainer, but can he possibly have any influence on a fighter who has been doing things one way his entire life? And in a best-case scenario, can he get Mosley to go back to the style that got him on the map in the first place, and which made him a California gym legend even before the world knew who "Sugar" Shane was?
It's very simple, really. If Shane Mosley wants to regain lost stature and win against Wright on Saturday, he has to be committed to doing things the old way. As he said in a recent media teleconference, "I'm coming in there with the old mentality, with the way 'Sugar' Shane came up as a fighter, and I'm going to bring those skills into the ring with me the night I fight Winky Wright."
He's said it all before. It's part of the media game, designed to sell a fight most believe will be a carbon copy of the first one. Wright is a natural junior middleweight, sharp defensively and offensively, and the owner of a steel chin. The only way for Mosley to win is obvious -- bang the body, use speed and angles, and use combination punching, thus piling up the points and outworking Wright.
No one else can do it for him. Shane Mosley has to turn back the clock, and he's the only one who can push the hands.
That's what the legendary "Sugars" did, and on Saturday we'll find out whether Mosley belongs as the third member of that hallowed group or if he's just a plain Shane. If the latter turns out to be true, it would be a shame, because for a while, Shane Mosley was a very, very special fighter.