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MargaritoMosley Hogan 15The last time Mosley looked world class, Jan. 24, 2009, against Antonio Margarito. (Hogan)

Time moves slowly for a young fighter on the rise. He’s anxious to climb to the next level, become a world champion, reach elite-fighter status.

But when a fighter gets old, time moves quickly on his downward slide.

“Old masters of boxing don’t paint epic scenes,” Patrick Kehoe notes. “They become part of the canvas. Time wins.”

I thought of that recently when word came that Shane Mosley is likely to be Canelo Alvarez’s next opponent. And my mind drifted back to the night of November 14, 1998, at Foxwoods Resort Casino.

Roy Jones Jr. and Shane Mosley were on the same HBO card. No one in boxing had more physical talent than they did at the time.

Mosley (the IBF 135-pound champion) entered ring at 29-and-0 and demolished Jesse James Leija in nine rounds.

Jones followed. The sole blemish on his 38-fight ledger was a questionable disqualification against Montel Griffin (avenged four months later on a first-round knockout). Roy was defending multiple 175-pound belts against Otis Grant.

Jones was “pound-for-pound” at the time. Everyone, including Grant, knew it.

“It’s rare that an athlete gets the opportunity to compete against the best in his sport,” Otis said before the fight. “It’s the opportunity of a lifetime, and I can’t afford to let it pass me by. If I can stay in there and fight well for twelve rounds, that’s a victory in itself. I can’t do much worse than the other thirty-eight guys he fought.”

Jones stopped Grant in round ten. Like Mosley, he won every round.

After the bouts, I wrote, “Watching Roy Jones, Jr. and Shane Mosley on the same fight card was the equivalent going to a concert where the Rolling Stones opened for the Beatles.”

Shane is now forty years old. He hasn’t won since January 2009 and is winless in his last three outings. In his next fight, he’ll be a measuring stick for a young fighter who the powers that be hope is good enough to beat him.

Roy is 43. His record since August 2009 is 1-and-3 with two of those losses coming by knockout. The party ended for Roy years ago, and everybody but Roy knows it.

It's better to be a has-been in boxing than to be a never was. Still, I can’t help but remember the words of Budd Schulberg, who wrote, “It's heart-breaking to see a great fighter just stand there, unable to get away from the punches. Old fighters don't fade away. They die slowly in front of our eyes.”

We all know a lot of fighters who fought too long. I’ve never had a fighter tell me after his ring days were over, “Tom, I quit too soon.”

*     *     *

Obsessed with Manny Pacquiao (and by extension, Pacquiao’s Asian heritage), Floyd Mayweather Jr tweeted on Monday, “Jeremy Lin is a good player but all the hype is because he's Asian. Black players do what he does every night and don't get the same praise.”

Hey, Floyd; listen up. 

The hype is also because Lin (1) was undrafted and cut by two teams before the Knicks picked him up (the quintessential underdog story); (2) plays in New York (still the media capital of the world); (3) led a moribund franchise to five consecutive victories (with teammates Amare Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony out of action); and (4) went to Harvard (think education, Floyd). 

Maybe Floyd could reframe his tweet to read, “Jeremy Lin is a good player, but all the hype is because he went to Harvard. Guys like Kobe and LeBron who never went to college do what he does every night and don't get the same praise.”

Thomas Hauser can be reached by email at thauser@rcn.com. His most recent book (Winks and Daggers: An Inside Look at Another Year in Boxing) was published by the University of Arkansas Press.

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