Commentary

Mosley still brushing off BALCO talk

With his Jan. 24 welterweight bout against Antonio Margarito at hand, Shane Mosley is drawing as much attention for another title fight: a 2003 victory over Oscar De La Hoya that may have been tainted by Mosley's use of performance enhancers.

Updated: January 21, 2009, 6:19 PM ET
By Robert Morales | Special to ESPN.com

SHane MosleyAP Photo/Mark J. TerrillMosley dispatched De La Hoya in 2003, but some believe the title was tainted.
BIG BEAR LAKE, Calif. -- It had already been more than a week since a storm dropped several feet of snow in this mountain community. But the grounds of "Sugar" Shane Mosley's training camp still were covered with about 18 inches of the white stuff.

"That's nothing," said sparring partner Eddie Sanchez, who is helping Mosley prepare for his Jan. 24 challenge to Antonio Margarito's welterweight world title at Staples Center in Los Angeles. "It was higher than our cars."

Inside, Mosley is insulated from the elements. He's watching a Lakers-Rockets game from five years ago. As he begins to field questions from a reporter, he continues to peek at the game out of the corner of his eye. But it doesn't take him long to turn his focus to inquiries regarding the twists and turns of his career.

Mosley recently gave father/trainer Jack his walking papers for the second time, and has since hired Nazim Richardson to train him. But that is nothing compared to the turmoil that has come from the renewed interest in Mosley's use of steroids and EPO prior to his September 2003 fight against Oscar De La Hoya in Las Vegas.

Mosley has always denied knowing that what he was being given by BALCO founder Victor Conte were illegal performance-enhancing drugs. And the story seemed to be a dead issue until early last month, when the New York Daily News revealed that Mosley testified to a grand jury in December 2003 that he injected himself with EPO and used the steroids "the cream" and "the clear" prior to winning a unanimous decision over De La Hoya. Mosley said he believed the steroids were flaxseed oil.

He has filed a defamation suit against Conte because of Conte's claims that Mosley knew exactly what was happening. Mosley has been reluctant to talk about this because of that ongoing litigation.

But he was surprisingly candid when the subject was broached -- especially as it pertains to some perceptions of him. Numerous postings on popular Web sites refer to Mosley as a cheater and say that his 2003 victory over De La Hoya should be repealed to a no-contest decision because he was jacked on juice.

Mosley is known within boxing circles as a personable guy. But Sugar Shane's demeanor -- while respectful -- wasn't quite as sweet as usual on this day.

"Distractions like the BALCO thing, I don't even think about it," he said. "That was 2003, and I know it's all bull. That's for them to talk about on the Web sites or on the news, or if they want to try and bring it up as a distraction. They know the truth. Everybody knows the truth. They can keep on doing that if they want to. I don't care."

Mosley was just getting started. The longer he spoke, the more animated he became.

"It's not concerning me anymore," he said. "It used to back in the day, but I don't really get on the Web sites and look at that type of stuff. My wife [Jin] would do that, and she would tell me different things about this and that.

"But to me, they're just talking. They're not in there. They never fought. They're just running their mouth. I couldn't care less. … I'm not a cheater. I don't try to do anything outside the rules of boxing. That's just not me."

[+] EnlargeVictor Conte
Scott Wintrow/Getty ImagesBALCO founder Victor Conte claims Mosley knowingly used performance enhancers, a charge the fighter -- and even his opponent -- deny.
De La Hoya himself has said he believes Mosley when he says he didn't knowingly cheat.

Richard Schaefer, CEO of Golden Boy Promotions (of which Mosley is a partner), concurs. "We believe what Shane has said throughout," Schaefer said a week after the Daily News story broke. He reiterated his stance Thursday.

"Shane wouldn't knowingly take a product where the implications are such that he could hurt and endanger his opponent," Schaefer said. "Shane is just not that kind of guy. And I think all of those who know him would agree."

Bob Arum, who was De La Hoya's promoter at the time of the fight in question and now is Margarito's promoter, would seem to back up Schaefer's claim. "I know Shane, and he is a nice kid," said Arum. "I truly believe he did it unintentionally."

In De La Hoya's 2008 autobiography "American Son," the fighter referenced the situation: "I couldn't believe it when the BALCO story broke, because it was Shane. The Shane that I know, the Shane that I grew up with, is honest, the nicest person in boxing. To this day, I maintain he didn't take anything. He's not a cheater."

That's the kind of talk that matters to Mosley.

"It gives me a lot of satisfaction," Mosley said. "They know my character. Bob Arum, I think he was an attorney once back in the day, so I think he's a pretty good judge of character. He can look at a person and read his eyes and say, 'Yeah, I think he'll do something,' or 'No, I don't think he would do something like that.'

"When Bob Arum comes out and he says something -- and a lot of times Bob Arum can be controversial on purpose, just because he wants to be controversial -- that makes me feel good to know that he actually spoke those words."

No one's support, however, is as important to Mosley as De La Hoya's.

"That's what really counts, what Oscar says," Mosley said. "From a fighter to a fighter, that really means a lot to me -- that he believes that and knows that I wouldn't do anything to try to better myself, because that can harm him if I'm trying to do something outlandish."

As for Mosley's 2003 victory over De La Hoya for the super welterweight championship, Mosley won't have to worry about that being changed to a no-contest by the Nevada State Athletic Commission.

"Unfortunately, and you can say 'unfortunately,' we don't have the authority to consider that," said Keith Kizer, executive director of the commission. He said the commission did not have the right to overturn decisions because of use of performance-enhancing drugs until 2005, meaning the commission's hands are tied on any earlier fight.

Amid all the hoopla, Mosley (45-5, 38 KOs) said he is focused on the task at hand. All the 37-year-old three-division champion has to do is find a way to beat a 30-year-old Margarito (37-5, 27 KOs), who is coming off an 11th-round technical knockout of Miguel Cotto in July at MGM Grand.

When the topic is switched from BALCO to the Margarito fight, Mosley's familiar smile returns. Speaking with confidence, Mosley said he has the goods to upset the man who beat the man who beat Mosley.

"I believe I have the style to beat Margarito," said Mosley, who lost a close decision to Cotto in November 2007. "The speed, power … I mean, everything, the total package. Margarito is very tough and he throws a lot of punches, but I've seen that before. So that doesn't scare me or frighten me."

Mosley uttered those words with the same conviction with which he denied being a cheater. Didn't sound like a snow job.

Robert Morales covers boxing for the Long Beach (Calif.) Press-Telegram.