Shane Mosley was really gunning for a rematch with Miguel Cotto sometime this year. Cotto, cognizant of the fact that he faded down the stretch against Mosley at Madison Square Garden last November, did not entertain the prospect of a rematch with SSM with any eagerness. Down goes Plan A!

So Mosley went to Plan B, which was a showdown with the still marketable Zab Judah. But Judah messed up that plan when he went to toe to toe with a glass door, injuring himself and blowing up the planned  May 31 match.

Now, Mosley (44-5, 37 KOs) is knee deep into Plan C, which is a faceoff off with the combustible Nicaraguan, Ricardo Mayorga, boxing’s Marlboro Man. The two vets meet at the Staples Center on Sept. 27, and the event will mark the first fight in California since Mosley took on Oscar in June 2000. Mosley, who turned 37 on Sept. 7, got the split decision nod in that tiff, and has been on a solid run since he lost two straight to Winky Wright in 2004. TSS is pretty certain he’ll be able to outquick and outbox Mayorga, who made himself sellable with a majority decision win over favored Fernando Vargas last November. SSM checked in with TSS on Tuesday, and we chatted about the colorful Mayorga (29-6, 23 KOs), the likelihood that Mosley might meet Margarito, whether or not he considers his defamation suit against BALCO founder Victor Conte a distraction, along with a few other miscellaneous topics.

First, TSS asked, is Mosley as pumped to meet Mayorga as he was to take down Judah? After all, Mayorga is older than Judah (Ricardo turns 35 on Oct. 3, Judah is 31 on Oct. 27) and many think (or thought, until Josh Clottey made Judah toss in the towel on Aug. 2nd) that the East Coast vs. West Coast contrast would’ve made for some stirring fireworks.

“I’m a little more psyched for Mayorga,” Mosley said. “He’s a better fighter than Judah. Against him, you can’t mess around. He’s bigger and stronger than Judah, he does have punching power. It will be a pretty good fight, but I believe I will knock him out.”

It was refreshing, after listening to politicians and their surrogates spinning so furiously in the last few weeks (“Oh, I didn’t realize you singlehandedly put the kibosh on the bridge to nowhere, Mrs. Palin. I just watched video of you chortling with excitement at the imminent federal funding for the project”) to then hear Mosley give a clear-eyed assessment of where he stands as a fighter.

“I’ve reached the end of my peak,” he said. “I’m climbing down the hill a little.” That said, the boxer said he can see himself fighting for another three or four years.

Anyone who saw Mosley forcing Cotto to back up down the stretch of their November scrap cannot disagree that Mosley is still a formidable hitter who can give anybody he gloves up against a severe test. Mosley feels that Magarito digested what he did against Cotto, refined it, and used it to smack down the Puerto Rican on July 26. The Californian says that he isn’t afraid of the Mexican, the Real Life Terminator, and would be more than happy to face off with him should a rematch with Joshua Clottey fall apart. “I know I can beat him,” Mosley said. “Cotto had the right idea, but there wasn’t enough body work. You don’t fight a Mexican that way. Cotto was trying to hurt him. I know how to get out of the way of some of those punches, too.”
Mosley watched that bout with great interest. He gave TSS a deeper analysis of what went down. “Cotto did a great job, but then he blew his load,” he said. “Margarito made sure he watched my fight, and he took what I did, and kept going. I thought Cotto would be the type to go out on his shield. When Cotto was being dominant, and stronger than you, he’s one way. But when he feels you are stronger, he started to run away, looking for a way out. The fight with me gave Margarito confidence and courage.”

So, does Mosley think he has a good shot at landing Margarito?

“Not really,” he said, laughing. “If I can’t do Margarito, then maybe I fight the Forrest/Mora winner. I talked to Mora, he said, ‘Let’s do it.’

Forrest could beat Mora in that rematch on Saturday, Mosley said. He doesn’t think Forrest is shot but mentioned that some vets are prone to taking too much time off, and then cramming for fights, rather than acting like the young lions, who are training 24-7 for their first shot at the big money and fame.

Fighting in his home state will be a kick for Mosley, he said. He sees Mayorga wearing himself out after about three or four rounds, and if he can keep the tempo high, he’ll look to take out the Nicaraguan, who has been stopped three times since turning pro in 1993.

He told TSS that his defamation suit against Balco steroid salesman Victor Conte will not distract him going into his match with Mayorga. “I’m not worried about that,” Mosley said. “I’m not lying. If I was lying, I’d be in jail.”

Conte, who alleges he supplied illegal performance enhancers to Barry Bonds, also said that he gave Mosley designer drugs to help him perform. Mosley has defended himself vigorously, and has lodged a case against the convicted felon Conte for defaming him. On, Mosley said he has taken and passed a lie detector test, in which he was asked if he knowingly took steroids. In an LA Times piece, he explained that former conditioning coach Derryl Hudson led him astray, and turned him on to substances Mosley was assured were legal. The boxer assured TSS 100% that he did not knowingly take steroids, and one could argue that his case against Conte bolsters his case. Many athletes accused of doping have promised to fight back, and clean their reputation when accused. We’re still waiting for Roger Clemens to bring his accuser, his former trainer, down to size.  But Mosley is actually putting his money, and his lawyers, where his mouth is. Were he guilty, one might surmise, would it be wise for him to lodge a case against Conte, and thus elongate the scandal? “Conte has a book coming out, and he has no one to use to bring up conflict,” the boxer said. “Everybody else (Bonds, Marion Jones, etc.) is already done. But it’s not hanging over my head. It happened so long ago. Conte is just trying to get publicity.”

Mosley is also looking ahead to the boxing career of his own son, Shane Mosley Jr, who is almost 18. So, is the kid better than his pop? “When he’s better than me, I quit,” he said, laughing. “But he’s 6-2,  152 now, and will be a light heavy or super middleweight. I think he can be better. The difference is the fire. We got to build the fire in him.”

Post Mayorga, Mosley was asked, is there a chance that we might see De La Hoya, who has backed off his finale talk, take on Mosley one more time?

“I don’t think so,” he said. “We worked out together in Puerto Rico, that was enough maybe.  My wife is a New Yorker though, she’s trying for it, a retirement fight. But I’m not ready to retire. Oscar is probably closer to that than me.”

Lastly, does Pacquiao have a chance against De La Hoya on Dec. 6, SSM was asked. “Manny has a little chance,” he said. “Oscar is bigger. I’ve been in with bigger guys, and it weighs on you. I mean, Manny’s going from 106 pounds to welterweight.” Yes, but isn’t it possible that making 147 will sap Oscar? “Yes,” Mosley allowed, “but if I know him he’s trying now to get down. He’s probably at about 156 pounds now. He doesn’t have a real muscular build, so he doesn’t have to lose muscle.”

Happily for those whose budgets are stretched, the Mosley/Mayorga bout will be shown on regular HBO, not pay-per-view. Andre Berto’s first WBC welterweight title defense, against Steve Forbes, is underneath.