Sugar Shane Mosley’s Retirement Closes the Book on a Special Era

Pomona’s Sugar Shane Mosley announced he was retiring from the boxing game after 24 years as a professional. At one time he was considered the best pound for pound fighter in the game.

“I know this is the time to announce my retirement,” said Mosley during an event in Las Vegas.

Mosley, 45, last fought a year ago.

With a fighting style called “power boxing,” Mosley won world titles as a lightweight, welterweight and super welterweight. Among those he battled in the prize ring were Floyd Mayweather, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, Manny Pacquiao and Oscar De La Hoya.

All were million dollar mega fights.

The first time I ever encountered Mosley was in an open air boxing gym in an East L.A. gas station on Brooklyn Avenue. On that hot summer day Mosley was exchanging furious combinations with two others who would soon be world champions Zack Padilla and Genaro “Chicanito” Hernandez.

It was 1993 and they blistered each other with heavy-handed combinations to the body and head that made those watching wince. The small gathering of people were entranced by the violence that hot summer day. People walking in the sidewalk by the gas station would stop for a few seconds and look toward the loud pounding and grunts emanating from the mechanics garage.

At the time Azusa’s Padilla was preparing to fight for the world title against Carlos “Bolillo” Gonzalez. He enlisted his friends Mosley and Hernandez to help on his quest. The onlookers all whispered about the young African American kid. They all knew he was special.

Of course Padilla would defeat Gonzalez to win the WBO super lightweight world title. After sparring regularly with Mosley and Hernandez it was a step down to fight and vanquish Gonzalez. All three boxers sparring in that gas station would eventually win world titles. Sadly, Hernandez passed away from brain cancer in June 2011.

Golden Dreams

For years Mosley was that virtually unknown star that only real fight people in L.A. knew about. They loved to brag and predict he would one day win a world title. In those days Oscar De La Hoya had just won an Olympic gold medal in Barcelona and was getting most of the attention.

The two Southern California boxers De La Hoya and Mosley were headed in the same direction throughout their amateur and pro careers. During the Olympics in 1992 the Pomona fighter was an alternate while De La Hoya took gold. But as professionals Mosley was forced to take the more treacherous road and fought in front of small audiences.

While De La Hoya was racking up world titles in the super featherweight, lightweight and super lightweight divisions, Mosley was trying to just get that one chance. He was the guy nobody wanted to fight.

Finally, in 1997, Mosley got that first crack and made the most of it with a sizzling display of “power boxing” against lightweight world champion Phillip Holiday in front of a national televised audience.

His father Jack Mosley trained him for years and both always knew their road to fame would be a fight against East L.A.’s De La Hoya. From 1993 to 1999 their sole intent was to get into position to face the “Golden Boy” De La Hoya.

Despite winning the IBF lightweight title and winning the admiration of experts with his aggressive “power boxing” style, Mosley was not getting the big money fights that De La Hoya was acquiring. For years Team Mosley tried every move and ruse to get the attention of media and television.

An East L.A. magazine publisher suggested the Mosleys visit their offices located on Whittier Boulevard a mere two blocks from where De La Hoya grew up. One early Sunday morning before the sunrise the Pomona group arrived. Shane Mosley was asleep in the back seat and groggily woke up. All three walked up the flight of stairs to the offices to hear the plan for the photo shoot. Shane Mosley put on a “wife beater” undershirt and his sister Serena and father Jack would accompany him to the middle of Whittier Boulevard as a photographer shot poses of the Pomona trio invading De La Hoya’s turf.

During that time the magazine employed a member of De La Hoya’s body guard crew. He promised he would show a copy of the magazine to Oscar De La Hoya after it was published. One of the photos of Sugar Shane Mosley showed him in a challenging pose under the Whittier Boulevard East L.A. sign that hangs above the street.

We were told that De La Hoya saw the magazine and immediately wanted a fight with Mosley. I’m not sure if this ignited the idea but it may have been the clinching blow for the proud East L.A. fighter. He always liked a challenge.

That day finally happened on June 17, 2000 at Staples Center in downtown L.A.

It was the first time a boxing event was held at Staples Center and it was big. Movie stars, musicians, and even Muhammad Ali showed up for the clash between local fighters Mosley and De La Hoya. Although the East L.A. fighter had suffered a decision loss a year earlier to Felix Trinidad, it was viewed by most as a bad decision on the part of judges. This clash with Mosley would be the real test.

When the two fighters were announced to the crowd a deafening roar accompanied their entrance. And when the two began exchanging blows for 12 back and forth rounds it left the fans breathless. In the end Mosley was deemed the winner and the crowd cheered knowing that the fighter from Pomona had finally reached his goal.

Soon after the fight, the boxing media dubbed Mosley the best fighter “pound for pound” on the planet. He was the king of L.A. that night as parties were held on the Sunset Strip for the Pomona prizefighter. Mosley and De La Hoya would fight again in Las Vegas, but the repeat win would be tainted by allegations of performance enhancement drugs.

But nothing could take away from that first victory in L.A.

Mosley would win more epic battles against Fernando Vargas, Ricardo Mayorga and Antonio Margarito over the years. But that first victory against De La Hoya was the crowning moment for many who followed the Pomona fighter.

Throughout the years there have been many monstrous turf rivalries between Southern California fighters such as Mando Muniz and Carlos Palomino, or Danny “Little Red” Lopez and Bobby Chacon, but none were bigger than the Pomona versus East L.A. clash in June 2000.

De La Hoya and Mosley are tied together like Ali and Joe Frazier. It’s the end of a sweet era for Southern California boxing fans but it helped launch a new era.

Photo credit: Photo of Shane Mosley in East L.A. by Carlos Puma

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