What happened to ‘Sugar’ Shane Mosley?

16.11.05 - By Geoffrey Ciani: Once upon a time, Shane Mosley was widely regarded as one of the best boxers in all of boxing. In fact, some people even viewed him as the best boxer in the world, including this author. With his decisive victory over De La Hoya in June of 2000, Mosley became an instant star. In that bout, Mosley put on a masterful performance with an impeccable display of speed, agility, and cat-like reflexes.. It was a tremendous victory! After all, Mosley wasn’t fighting some two-bit pug; he was in the ring with the biggest name in boxing – ‘The Golden Boy’! And this was back when De La Hoya was still in the midst of his prime. In fact, it was arguably the first time ‘The Golden Boy’ had ever been bested in the ring (his loss to Felix Trinidad a year earlier was extremely controversial; I had De La Hoya beating Trinidad by a score of 116-112, but that’s neither here nor there).

More impressive was the fact that Mosley had spent the majority of his career as a lightweight, where he became the IBF champion after winning a lop-sided decision against the reigning champ, Philip Holiday. Mosley would go on to defend this title eight times before abandoning the division in order to pursue other career opportunities – primarily, a big money bout against ‘The Golden Boy’. In fact, Mosley was so determined to make the De La Hoya bout happen, that he simply skipped over the junior welterweight division and headed straight for the big money (the welterweight division), where a bout with De La Hoya could become a reality. After having only two fights in his new division, Mosley secured his mega-bout against De La Hoya.

With his impressive victory over the biggest name in boxing, Mosley’s future in the sport appeared to have unlimited potential. In Mosley, boxing had what appeared to be a perfect fighting package. He was a fighter capable of throwing lightning-fast combos, and he had decent power, with a good chin, and stellar overall athleticism. He was indeed worthy of the ‘Sugar’ moniker much like Robinson and Leonard before him.

After his bout with De La Hoya, Mosley’s stock rose even further as a result of three consecutive knockout victories in which ‘Sugar’ Shane looked most impressive. Mosley was distancing himself from the pack, and had a legitimate claim as the number one pound-for-pound boxer. Unlike Trinidad (another P4P contender at that time), Mosley didn’t have any questionable victories, and unlike Roy Jones, Jr. (another top P4P candidate), Mosley was knocking his opponents out in impressive fashion. By the time Mosley disposed of Adrian Stone in an absolutely incredible display of raw talent, people began wondering: “Is there anyone out there who can beat ‘Sugar’ Shane Mosley?” It certainly didn’t appear as if there was anyone who could!

However, this is boxing, and styles make fights. Unfortunately for Mosley, it turned out his very next bout would be against someone who posed a stylistic nightmare for Mosley – Vernon Forrest!

Following his knockout victory over Stone, ‘Sugar’ Shane became interested in moving up to the junior middleweight division. It appeared that there was no competition left for him at 147, so he intended to follow De La Hoya up to 154, no doubt in search of a return bout with ‘The Golden Boy’. However, after negotiations broke down with Ronald ‘Winky’ Wright, Mosley decided to remain at 147 and fight his old nemesis, Vernon Forrest.

Forrest and Mosley had already met as amateurs in 1992, and Forrest defeated Mosley for the right to fight on the 1992 US Olympics team. Despite this fact, few people thought this significant. After all, Mosley had become one of the best professional boxing had to offer, and Forrest was still a relatively unknown in the professional ranks.

"A loss in the amateurs doesn't mean anything at the professional level." These were the words spoken by Mosley leading up to his bout with Forrest – and most people assumed Mosley would win the bout, as evidenced by the fact that Mosley was a seven-to-one favorite going into the fight. However, despite all of this, Forrest entered the bout determined to win, even guaranteeing victory – he did not disappoint his fans.

Forrest shocked Mosley and the boxing world en route to winning a twelve round unanimous decision. Speaking frankly, Forrest schooled Mosley, and did so with relative ease, having twice knocked Mosley down in the second round following an accidental clash of heads. Mosley was able to regain his legs in the 3rd round, and he somehow managed to make it all the way to the final bell. It was a brave performance, despite the fact that Mosley was in survival mode for a good portion of the bout. Mosley actually started coming on strong in the middle rounds, but a series of vicious body shots landed by Forrest in the 10th caused Mosley to literally scream in agony which brought an end to any would-be rallies. This sealed the deal, and Forrest coasted in the championship rounds.

Forrest had literally knocked the ‘Sugar’ out of Shane Mosley!

Mosley would never again be the same fighter. Forrest not only erased Mosley’s aura of invincibility, but he ruined Mosley as a fighter. To be sure, ‘Sugar’ Shane was still one of the better boxers in the sport, but he would never again display the skills and athleticism that had once defined him as an elite fighter. It was as if Mosley lost his killer instinct after fighting Forrest. He no longer threw combinations the way he used to; it was as if he was reluctant to do so out of fear of being hit with a counter punch while in the midst of a wild frenzy of combination punching.

Sure, Mosley would go on to do better in his rematch with Forrest, but it didn’t matter much. That bout proved, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that the things that once made Mosley great were now gone. Forrest had ruined his psyche. Mosley had attempted to squeak out a decision, but to no avail, as Forrest decisively won the rematch, despite the fact it was a much closer fight (I scored it 115-113 in favor of Forrest). Mosley was incapable of overcoming the style difficulties presented by Forrest.

He eventually did move up to 154 for that rematch with ‘The Golden Boy’, but by that time, both men were mere shells of their former selves. Incidentally, Mosley won his rematch with De La Hoya in an extremely controversial bout that many felt ‘The Golden Boy’ should have been awarded the decision. Personally, I scored the bout 115-113 in favor of Mosley, but it didn’t matter much – it was clear that Mosley would never again be the fighter he once was.

So once again, Mosley held a victory over De La Hoya, and it appeared he may have gotten his career back on track. That is, until he made the unwise decision of choosing to fight a unification bout with ‘Winky’ Wright (instead of a third bout with De La Hoya). ‘Winky’ was a fighter who had been stuck on the outside looking in for many years. The elite fighters, such as Trinidad & De La Hoya, had never given him an opportunity to showcase his talents in a mega-bout. Unfortunately for Mosley, he afforded ‘Winky’ that opportunity and Wright took full advantage of the situation he had been longing for.

Wright defeated Mosley in back-to-back matches, the first time more impressively than the next. Mosley just couldn’t seem to figure Wright out, which is no surprise, considering the defensive wizard often had a seemingly impenetrable defense along with an awkward southpaw style. Since his bouts with Wright, ‘Sugar’ Shane moved back down to 147 where he would win a couple of unspectacular victories, putting himself back on the winning track.

So where does Mosley go from here? Well, he’s slated to fight Fernando Vargas early next year (ironically, in a bout which is being promoted by ‘Golden Boy Promotions’).

But does Mosley have enough left to offer? Can he possibly make one last run at greatness? Or has Vernon Forrest forever ruined Shane Mosley? Can Mosley return to form that made him worthy of the ‘Sugar’ moniker, or is he on a hopeless descent into mediocrity?

To read more articles by this author, visit ‘The Mushroom Mag’.

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Article posted on 16.11.2005

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