Boxing careers die.
As Steve Jobs, the late Apple inventor who could appreciate the seduction of a hot new product that usurps the technology of present day, once said of death…
“No one wants to die… No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because death is very likely the single best invention of life. It clears out the old to make way for the new.”
Shane Mosley may be at that moment where his career comes to an end, just as the man he is set to face, Saul Canelo Alvarez, ascends to the heights that his foe once knew.
It’s time for that classic crossroads match-up. The over-the-hill legend versus the up-and-coming superstar.
These fights are practically ritualistic at this point. Time’s inexorable march towards renewal and replenishment. Fans expect to see the young star beat the old star, and like winter into spring, on to the next thing.
Mosely has had a string of poor matches in recent years after his eye-opening domination of Antonio Margarito three years ago. He tailed that triumph with a dismal fight against Floyd Mayweather, then a follow-up draw with former Contender champ and 154-pound belt holder Sergio Mora, and finally a drubbing by the Filipino phenom Manny Pacquiao.
That last bout seemed even to break Mosley’s legendary will during the fight. In the corner, as round after round had slipped by with wilting battery from Pacquiao’s gloves, Mosley seemed to be asking his trainer to stop the fight. It was a plea from the former pound-for pounder-that seemed impossible to fathom based on the man we’d come to know in the ring over the course of his nearly two decades long career.
It just goes to show you that every man, whether in boxing or in life, has a limit.
The trouble with gauging Mosley’s gas tank has been the contradictory evidence of his late career path. Some would claim the bloom has been off of Mosley since 2004 when he lost a pair of one sided decisions to Ronald Winky Wright, getting cleanly outboxed and losing the belts he’d won from Oscar De La Hoya just six months prior to become the man at 154 pounds.
Seemingly left for dead, Mosley would come back two years later to win a pair of entertaining bouts with an even more diminished Fernando Vargas. The man with the mega-watt smile gained a modicum of his respectability back and managed a feat in rebranding himself as a compromised but action-loving star who could be a tentpole attraction, if not a top-flight fighter.
Not happy with that designation, however, Mosley moved down in weight to prove otherwise, with a win over scrappy Luis Collazo and a razor close loss to Miguel Cotto the following year, all of which seemed to indicate that Mosley still was among the cream of the welterweight division.
That last dominating victory over welterweight bogeyman Margarito in 2009 seemed to bestow upon Mosley a Bernard Hopkins-like youthfulness that put him back on the pound-for-pound lists and got the Mayweather matchup on the marquee.
But now that things have played out as they have, Mosley is stepping in against Canelo with a 0-2-1 record in his back pocket over the stretch of two and a half years.
The flipside of that coin finds Canelo Alvarez riding high and on the upswing. His recent ledger reads like a who’s who of B-sides, ex-champs, also-rans, reality stars and brothers of superstars. Jose Cotto, Former welterweight champion Carlos Baldomir, Lovemore Ndou, Mathew Hatton, Ryan Rhodes, Alfonso Gomez, Kermit Cintron…
Not an A-lister among them, but no one completely worthless either and a steady and admirable ratcheting up of the difficulty level. For Canelo, this Mosley fight is the logical progression in his career. Finally, a truly memorable name to put in the books.
The twist in this tale, is that the rising star… has already risen. Alvarez is arguably the biggest star in Mexican boxing today. This would be another step towards bolstering his opposition list, but there should be no illusions: Team Canelo must see this as a moderate risk, but a great experience builder for their boy, and a shot at making some boxing history at Mosley’s expense.
It will be the chief support for what should be the money and eye-grabbing bonanza that is Miguel Cotto vs. Floyd Mayweather… and even more tantalizing for the kid called “Cinnamon” dubbed so because of his shock of red hair; he has the opportunity to try and knockout a legend who has never been put out of a contest.
Sure, a win would do, but ending the career of Mosley must undeniably be on the minds of Canelo and the men around him. How likely is that to happen? Who knows… but the iro- willed warrior of yesteryear showed he may now not have the steel to make it through a tough stretch as he intimated in the throes of Pacquiao punishment.
If you remain unimpressed with Canelo or this choice of opponent, it’ll be up to him to try and push the issue to make something special happen against Mosley. Maybe he can turn an ordinary changing of the guard sleeper into a desperate last stand for the venerable Mosley.
In what some will see as just fodder for the Canelo hype machine, this bout could lead to Alvarez landing a date with the winner of the main event and graduating to the big stage of American boxing. Lucrative and legacy-building, it’s the last step in the evolution of his career.
Mosley’s current career evolution, however, boils down to this: with an unlikely upset win he is renewed one more time. If he has a respectable, but unsuccessful showing he remains in the unenviable, but unavoidable, gatekeeper-to-stardom role. And should he lose in embarrassing fashion, it would seem his time in the spotlight would come finally to a close.
It would be a particularly bitter ending for Mosley if the curtains were to close on him as fodder for a fighter in the hands of Golden Boy Promotions. According to Mosley he felt his former promotional partner, Golden Boy, turned their back on him around the time he landed the Pacquiao fight. In his eyes, Golden Boy was pushing him aside in favor of Juan Manuel Marquez as their entrant into the Manny Pacquiao sweepstakes.
Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer expressed surprise at the time of Mosley’s leaving and tried to make it clear that from his perspective Mosley was the driving force behind the breakup, but whatever the true path to the split, one thing remains clear.
Mosley still harbors resentment towards Golden Boy Promotions as evidenced by his recent comment to The Ring Magazine about this next bout.
“I think that Golden Boy and his (Alvarez’s) entire team are disillusioned with what they believe is going to happen with this fight.”
Mosley is saying that while Golden Boy might see him as merely a stepping stone for their new cash cow, he is determined to uproot those plans and reap his own benefits.
Whatever happens in his match-up with the Mexican idol and the potential continuation of his Hall of Fame career, the more pressing issue for Mosley may be his continued health. It is here where the real illusion may be occurring and it sits squarely with Mosley.
In recent years his speech has, to even casual listeners, become notably different from the patterns established in interviews earlier in his career.
While the gleaming smile that made Mosley a poster boy for the sport remains, the easy-flowing chatter that fans have grown accustomed to from him has become strained and thick sounding. His words now seem to come awash in a mushy sinew that creates an uneasy foreboding of future health difficulties for the aging former champ.
Mosley may be edging dangerously close to the territory that Muhammed Ali sadly pioneered at the end of his illustrious career — a damaged man doing the only thing he’s ever known how to do, consequences be damned.
But for all that, Mosley has shown a warrior spirit seldom matched for the vast majority of his career. And Alvarez has certainly proven to be a fallible fighter, capable of getting tagged, as the unheralded Jose Cotto did to him — or even outboxed, as Gomez managed before getting blasted out and stopped with aid from a overzealous referee in Mexico.
This is what Mosley must be looking at and believes he can exploit to reclaim some of his past reputation and glories.
If it becomes a firefight and a determined Mosley is in the ring, then one never knows what could ensue or what punch could change the fortune of either man.
For Saul Canelo Alvarez the sport is opening up and offering tantalizing prizefights that will make him a wealthy athlete without rival in his home country and potentially a burgeoning superstar prizefighter in America.
For Shane Mosley the sport is starting to close its doors. The trickle of opportunities will dry up entirely with a loss.
When they meet in the center of the ring and the bell sounds urging them to clash, they will be just another in a long line of fighters at the crossroads.
Who will rise and who will fall?
Whose career will fly? And whose career will die?