For all the skill and style that Floyd Mayweather, Jr. and Shane Mosley will bring into the ring at the MGM Grand Garden Arena Saturday night in Las Vegas, the most important thing they will bring is their minds.
Although there will be moments of intensity and unfriendly fire, the best fight yet made this year will be decided more by the man who can think fastest than by the one whose feet move fastest.
At 38 years old, Mosley well understands this. Throughout his career, the defending WBA welterweight champion has been quick of foot and nimble of mind, often taking over late in fights because he was able to make the last adjustment to his opponent’s varied attempts to attack him and exploit his weaknesses.
Against an opponent as skilled and intelligent as Mayweather, all Mosley’s physical and mental powers will be tested and if they are found to be waning or aged then the mental aspect of things will be of less import because at that point the powers of the mind would become more survival skill than one source of a road to victory.
But if Mosley proves to be what many in boxing think he will be (which is to say the toughest test of Mayweather’s career), then the powers of analysis and lucid thinking while under duress will come into play as the fight’s determining factor.
Mayweather is a skilled boxer with unusual quickness and hand speed but he also comes to the ring armed with an uncanny understanding of defense. This is not simply the art of not being hit. It’s the art of hitting you and then not being hit in response.
A fighter is most vulnerable when he is most offensive. Mosley and Mayweather both understand this and Mosley knows how patient Mayweather can be in his efforts to avoid opening himself up to such vulnerabilities. That’s why Mosley’s trainer, Naazim Richardson, put it well when he said the key elements of this fight are not simply an analysis of who possesses faster hands or quicker feet.
“Floyd is an exceptional athlete but when we sit down to the chess board I don’t see your queen moving faster than my queen,’’ Richardson said. “Your rook can’t take extra moves that my rook can’t take. Bottom line, I feel we’re bringing athletes that both have great attributes to them into the ring and they’re both going to have to make adjustments throughout the fight.
“Timing is just one of your problems you’re going to face dealing with Floyd Mayweather but if you sit there and try to depict everything (before the fight) you’re going to have to face with him who’s going to spar like Floyd Mayweather?
“You’re lying to yourself if you say you’ve got somebody (in sparring) that fights like Shane Mosley. No you don’t or they’d be somewhere getting ready for their title fight. That fighter fights like Floyd Mayweather? No he doesn’t or that guy would be a legend already. He wouldn’t have time to be in your camp working with you.
“All you can do is train the athlete to be best of their ability and then bring him in and have him follow your game plan to the best of his ability. I feel as though Shane will be able to execute everything we’re working on and then Floyd will need to make adjustments as Shane will have to make adjustments throughout the fight.’’
Who makes them most successfully will prevail because while Mayweather has the advantages of youth and probably of superior quickness the latter is not likely to be so starkly different between the two of them that it turns this fight into Mayweather-Gatti II.
That night Mayweather was so vastly superior in technique and speed that the fight was not even an argument. Debating societies have more furious sparring sessions than Mayweather had to deal with in that fight. That is not likely to be the case this time so long as Mosley keeps his head and doesn’t allow his own penchant for aggressiveness to overwhelm him or blunt Richardson’s plan of attack.
“Patience is something that Shane has and the thing about it is not only patience but Shane has the professionalism that just sees through things,’’ Richardson said of dealing with Mayweather both inside the ring and at the press conference podium. “What you have to do with professionals at this level is whatever is necessary to be done to be successful in this endeavor. That’s the bottom line.
“If Floyd Mayweather turned into a dragon in the middle of the ring then Shane has to step on his tail and hit him with a body shot. Whatever comes to pass, he has to endure it, deal with it, make the adjustment and then execute.’’
Against someone as skilled and slick as Mayweather that’s a tall order. It’s why he’s 40-0 with 25 knockouts and the owner of world titles from 130 pounds to 154 pounds. Such a past makes him undefeated, however it does not make him unbeatable, a point Mosley has made throughout the lead up to this event.
But to do what no one else has done will require of Mosley more than the physical. It will demand a sense of mind control and constant mental readjustments, things he’s shown in the past and believes he still possesses in enough abundance to have his hand raised once again Saturday night.
“You have to beat Floyd with your mind as well as your power and speed,’’ Mosley (46-5, 39 KO) explained. “He knows I have the advantage in punching power. He’s not going to just walk in and trade with me so I have to use my mind to out think him.
“The jab will be important. Oscar used it again him well and his arms are almost as long as mine so that will be important. You’ll see a lot of speed and power but there are different ways to break through his defense. In this equation I have the long arms and the speed.’’
If he also has the mind and the focus Shane Mosley may remind Floyd Mayweather before Saturday night is over that including mandatory blood testing wasn’t the only smart thing he did while negotiating this fight. So was getting himself a mandatory rematch clause.
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