ADAM BERLIN SPECIAL TO TSS: In Defense of Passion

BY TSS Press ON April 29, 2010
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Floyd Mayweather against Manny Pacquiao may have been a dream fight, generating the kind of hype-filled revenue promoters fantasize about, but for my money, and the money of most fight fans, Mayweather/Mosley is the more interesting match. Before the Money Man and PacMan split over irreconcilable drug-testing differences, I got the feeling their squabbles were all show. Manny’s smile may belie his violent core, but when I watch his ring entrances, I always get the feeling that the singing Filipino simply loves to fight. It’s not about animosity. It’s not about wanting to destroy the man in front of him and see him fall. It’s about pride and glory and country, the higher callings of war. Floyd latched onto the one issue that could, perhaps, get under Manny’s tattooed skin, but for a fighter who refers to himself as Money, all those accusations were all about cash. Pretty Boy Floyd simply wanted the safe to be full before he attempted to rob the bank.

Watching HBO’s 24/7, remembering Shane Mosley’s uninvited ring entrance to interrupt Floyd’s victory interview, listening to press conferences and reading articles, the Mosley/Mayweather fight seems, at least from Mosley’s end, less about money, more about passion. Mayweather may criticize Mosley’s moneyless motivations as stupid—“He say he dont fight for money. Hes 40 years old but he dont fight for money—but I see Mosley’s desire to seal his legacy, to prove he’s a young 38, to shut the punk up, as anything but. I hope Mosley’s passion is genuine because I want to believe that our best fighters are not just crass professionals, concerned solely about the bottom line, but soulful professionals who want to be great. Boxing, like all arts, is a tough way to make a living, but when it’s done well, it’s beautiful, moving, right. We want our artists passion hot, not cash cold.

The odds are almost 4 to 1 on Mayweather, but odds makers crunch numbers. For this fight, I feel, I believe, I hope, more has to be taken into consideration than pure numbers—the number of victories against losses, the number of years fighting, the number, which varies, that determines when a fighter suddenly turns old. And I’m not interested in the number of millions this fight will generate. Shane Mosley is an elite fighter. A decade ago, when he was the darling of HBO, his speed and skill and desire to mix it up made him special. Then he met a long-armed Vernon Forrest and he lost. Ali had his Norton. Mosley had his Forrest. And he had his Winky Wright too. But Winky Wright, who walks around as a light-heavy, was thicker and taller than Shane, and he threw punches in bunches. Mosley lost to each of these men twice. His only other loss was to Miguel Cotto, a fairly close affair where, frankly, Mosley looked rusty. Mayweather has no losses, not officially. Some argue Castillo beat him in their first fight, but Mayweather’s 0, a non-number, has yet to go.

Shane Mosley will be Floyd Mayweather’s stiffest test. Pacquiao would have brought blazing hand speed, a high punch count and tree-trunk legs that would have forced Floyd to worry about ring geography, but Floyd is fleet of foot and a defensive tactician— he would have parried much of Pacquaio’s onslaught. Equally important, Mayweather would have been the bigger man in that fight, a comforting thought for this boxer who carefully picks and chooses his opponents. Against Mosley, Mayweather will be fighting the bigger man. Yes, Mayweather has fought other big men—an old DeLaHoya, a slow and steady Baldomir. But Mosley is bigger still—if you’ve ever seen Mosley at a weigh-in, he has the torso of a middleweight even when stripped down for the scale—and better than anyone Floyd has faced. Mosley can punch. Mosley can take a punch. And Mosley is a veteran with a string of two impressive and relatively recent victories. He knocked out Ricardo Mayorga in the 12th. He knocked out Antonio Margarito in the 9th.

I don’t see Mayweather hurting Mosley in this fight. Floyd’s key to victory is always the same—he moves, he moves, he sticks, he moves. He’s a great defensive fighter and while he only throws one shot at a time, the shot is always fast, always accurate. Sometimes the shot does damage. But Mosley is also fast and he knows how to get in the pocket. When he gets there, he’ll unleash combinations and that’s when we’ll see Mayweather tested for the first time in a long time. Zab Judah tested Mayweather for a while. Castillo tested him for twelve rounds in their first fight, but Castillo was a small man. Mosley will test Mayweather consistently and he’ll test him with powerful punches and then we’ll see if Mosley retreats, if his head betrays him, or if, as Mosley’s trainer Nazeem Richardson predicts, Mayweather will step up and fight back hard. If and when he does fight back, if and when he decides to throw more than a single punch, Mayweather will leave himself open, if only for a moment, and that’s when Mosley will strike. And then? Well, that’s why people will shell out pay-per-view bucks on a Saturday night—to see how Floyd Mayweather, the man with all the answers, will answer this pugilistic question.

Shane has one definite advantage over Floyd and that’s his corner. Whenever Floyd Mayweather fights I almost feel sorry for how alone he is when he sits on his stool between rounds. This pugilist at rest is a study in solitude. Floyd knows, even as he nods his head, that he’s smarter than Roger, that he sees the fight more clearly than Roger. I liked Roger Mayweather as a fighter. He was tough. He took no shit. When Pernell Whitaker pulled down his trunks, Roger knocked Sweet Pea on his ass. But Roger has not aged well. He and his brother Floyd Sr. are poster boys for why boxing should be abolished. Slow of speech, glazed-eyed, these two men may love their charge, but they cannot help their charge. At the opposite end of the ring, Mosley will have a trainer who knows the fights and can articulate what he knows. Nazeem Richardson guided Bernard Hopkins to some impressive victories. He busted Margarito on his loaded gloves. Nazeem Richardson will have readied Mosley for his big fight and on fight night, as he watches the rounds unfold, Richardson will see flaws in Mayweather, small spaces to exploit, and he’ll guide his charge how to fill these spaces with leather. Between rounds, Mosley will not be alone.

Shane Mosley against Floyd Mayweather. It’s a fight that seems fated. Mayweather against Pacquaio fell apart when both men refused to budge. Mosley against Berto fell apart when the earthquake hit Haiti. Pacquaio challenged Clottey, forcing Mayweather to step up. The Mosley/Mayweather bout was signed.

My money is on Shane Mosley. My money is on the fighter who once owned the spotlight and wishes to own it again. My money is on the man who beat the loud-mouthed Mayorga, the cheater Margarito and a whole slew of name fighters with impressive records. My money is on a man whose blue eyes don’t blink when he talks about hurting the man he will face. Who earned the name Sugar. Who fights like the muse inspires him. Who trains under an intelligent man with a vision and not a couple of brain-dead hustlers who are, let’s be honest, not great trainers and not great cornermen. And more than my money, my heart is on Shane. Shane is fighting for more than money and that’s how it should be. It’s heart, it’s will, it’s the Greek ideal of a sound mind in a sound body that makes boxing boxing.

Should Shane Mosley thrash Floyd Mayweather, perhaps Floyd, who is no doubt great, will become greater in defeat. Perhaps then Floyd Mayweather will realize that to work himself back to the top, to claim once again that he’s the pound-for-pound best, he’ll have to strive for more than money. Perhaps then he’ll remember the passion he felt when he first hit the speed bag, the heavy bag, flesh. A punch well-landed sounds more beautiful than the riff of bills, even if they’re Benjamins. But first things first. May the best man, the most passionate man, the man named Shane Mosley, win.

Adam Berlin is the author of the novels Belmondo Style (St. Martin’s Press, 2004) and Headlock (Algonquin Books, 2000). He is working on a boxing novel.

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