Shane Mosley’s famous grin was as evident as the letters on his waistband – the ones that spelled “Sugar” – when he entered the ring to face Winky Wright last March 13 in a junior middleweight unification showdown..
Soon enough, though, the letters fell off. And so did the smile, as Wright dominated Mosley, adding the Pomona fighter’s WBC 154-pound title to his IBF belt. In the end, Mosley – outthought, outboxed and outfoxed - was the picture of frustration.
Mosley, 33, will try it again Saturday, in a rematch that most boxing insiders consider ill-advised in light of the 32-year-old Wright’s domination eight months ago and the lack of a Mosley tuneup in the interim. Besides that, Mosley’s track record in gaining quick revenge isn’t good. After Vernon Forrest handed him his first loss in January 2002, Mosley opted for an immediate rematch six months later – and lost another decision. It killed Mosley's career momentum just months after being called the best fighter, pound-for-pound, on the planet.
This time, the three-division champion promises it will be different.
“It wasn’t anything Winky was doing; my body was feeling bad after the second round,” Mosley said last week from his training camp in Van Nuys, Calif., which started on Sept. 7. “I didn’t have it, and I knew it, and I was going through the motions. There is nothing you can do when you don’t have any energy. There’s not a defense or offense or a punch you can throw. You just have to chalk it up as a bad night.
“It was something I wasn’t eating or a culmination of things, mental stuff.”
“I’m happy it was Winky Wright instead of anybody else or else I would’ve been knocked out.”
Those who are giving Mosley, 38-3 (35 knockouts), the benefit of the doubt are pointing to the tough decision he made earlier this year in dismissing his father, Jack Mosley, as trainer in favor of California staple Joe Goossen. Not only did it show Mosley’s acknowledgment that a change was necessary - it showed good judgment: Goossen is on a roll after helping lightweight Diego Corrales reach his potential in victories over Joel Casamayor and Acelino Freitas earlier this year.
“I think Joe has helped bring in the Sugar Shane that everybody is used to seeing,” Mosley said. “He slowed it down a little bit and went back to the basics and improved those things. Things right now, they’re great. I feel great.
“I can’t remember the last time I felt this confident about a fight. I’d have to go back to when I was in the lightweight days, even before I was champion.”
Meanwhile, Mosley says his relationship with his father is as good as ever. He was on his way to Jack Mosley’s 60th birthday party Saturday.
“Everything is great,” he said.
But Mosley will have an uphill battle against Wright, 47-3 (25 knockouts), of St. Petersburg, Fla. Last time out, Mosley hardly landed a significant punch as he seemed baffled by Wright’s southpaw style. When Wright’s gloves weren’t snapping Mosley’s head back, they were easily deflecting inaccurate punches.
Mosley, a natural 135-pounder, seemed physically outmatched against Wright – though both stand 5-foot-9. Wright, however, has been a 154-pounder most of his career.
Mosley denies that size had anything to do with the loss.
“No way is he too big for me,” Mosley said. “Winky’s not that hard a hitter, or that strong.”
As for opting for an immediate rematch, Mosley doesn’t think it’s a mistake. He doesn’t consider his decision to fight Forrest back-to-back in 2002 a mistake, either.
“I thought I beat him the second fight, and I gained respect from him,” Mosley said.
Most experts considered the second Forrest-Mosley fight close, but neither fighter improved their stock in a fight that featured more clinching than punching.
It is also that fight in which some insiders began to wonder aloud whether Mosley had lost a step.
Since then, he has had a no-contest against shopworn Raul Marquez, defeated Oscar De La Hoya in a rematch most ringsiders thought he lost, and lost to Wright.
Is it possible that Mosley simply is not the same fighter that upset De La Hoya in spectacular fashion in 2000?
“That’s all opinion,” he said. “If I went by what people thought, I could never be the best I could be. And then I would start believing what they’re thinking. I’ll know when it’s time to hang ‘em up. I’m in the best shape of my life. Everything is working well. I got away from things. Now I’m putting them back together and I’m brand new.”