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Shane

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Nazeem Richardson believes that Shane Mosley is a problem. “Shane will fight anybody,” he said, “and that’s not good business. I’m firmly convinced that you could convince Shane to fight one of them Klitschkos.” He’s “just a gladiator,” mused Richardson.

Gladiators didn’t pack heat. Shane does –and when it comes to shooting straight and fast, he’s mighty good. He’s a gunfighter.

Gunfighters had codes. The Old West needed order even in the absence of lawmen, and these codes were unwritten but understood. They were standards for living when living wasn’t for long. “Never wake another man by shaking or touching him,” said one of them, “as he might wake suddenly and shoot you dead.” “Always drink your whiskey with your gun hand, to show your friendly intentions,” went another. Chivalry was upheld; “Cuss all you want, but only around men, horses, and cows.” Shane has a few more additions, never written. The trajectory of his career suggests that “duck no one” is the first of them.

Eight years ago this gunfighter got a spur caught on a viper. The late Vernon Forrest fought like a reincarnation of “The Cincinnati Cobra” Ezzard Charles and as a result, ophidiophobia spread through the upper ranks of welterweights. Shane faced Forrest when Oscar De La Hoya, Tito Trinidad, and Ike Quartey wouldn’t. Forrest beat him during the 1992 Olympic Trials and he beat him again on a winter’s night in 2002, knocking him down twice as he did. Six months later, Shane lost the rematch. Vernon considered him an equal despite these victories. 

Six years ago, the gunfighter’s shots bounced off of Winky Wright’s arms and elbows like popcorn off a movie screen. Wright was, like Forrest, avoided for years. Shane fought him just to prove that he would. He lost. Eleven months later, he fought him again and lost again, by a hairsbreadth. “A lot of fighters ran from me,” an appreciative Wright told the press, “Shane was the only one who would fight me.” 

“This is what fights are about. This is what the boxing world needs,” Shane replied, “it isn’t the money.”

It is now. 

Floyd “Money” Mayweather is undefeated; but then, so were gunfighters who shot at cans on stumps in a yard. While his talent is undeniable, Floyd has been spending more time shaking his fist at his legions of critics than he has at any true challengers. That zero on his record is more jealously guarded than Sutter’s Mill. It sparkles gold in his eyes and he wants it to sparkle in yours, though to his critics the value of that zero is clear. Lest we forget, Shane himself was 38-0 before he accepted the challenge of Vernon Forrest; and he could have matched and surpassed Mayweather’s 40-0 years ago had he too taken the primrose path. But he didn’t. He has five losses on his record. In a clear head on a clear day, these losses look less like blemishes and more like rebukes of Mayweather’s choices.

It doesn’t end there. The contrast between Mayweather and other elites in the class over the past few years is stark. Mosley, Miguel Cotto, and Antonio Margarito have all faced each other. Mayweather has been the odd man out. Since his campaign at 147 began in 2005, Mayweather has had six fights. He knocked Sharmba Mitchell down twice en route to a sixth round stoppage, and hoped fans forgot the previous year when Kostya Tszyu knocked Mitchell down twice as much and stopped him twice as fast. Mayweather then faced Zab Judah who had lost to Carlos Baldomir only three months earlier. The plodding Baldomir, whose previous two fights were over two Mayweather conquests, was next. It was what everyone already knew it would be –a clinic. After deflating the ego of a rusty De La Hoya, he answered the challenge of junior welterweight Ricky Hatton, with the contractual condition that they meet at welterweight.

The last time Mayweather was in the ring, he faced a natural featherweight. The contract stipulated that they meet at 144. Floyd added insubordination to insult. He weighed in at 146 and paid a $600,000 fine to Juan Manuel Marquez for the advantage. Six months later another natural featherweight from the other side of the world was eating five times a day to keep weight on to fight a welterweight avoided by Mayweather.

On January 3rd, the expectation that Mayweather would meet Manny Pacquiao disappeared in the horizon as promoter Bob Arum declared the fight ‘dead’. The proxy fight between the two camps continued on a global scale. Shooting began –on the internet, in what’s left of the dailies, on sports programs, and both sides got personal. The disappointment crossed continents. UFC president Dana White had a shovel in his hand as boxing assumed its usual position of a dead horse.

And then Shane rode in, on a white horse.

Like the stray gunfighter of the same name in Jack Schaefer’s novel, “he came steadily on,” and “without slackening the pace” moved “steadily on our side.” On our side. “I don’t need the money,” Shane has said repeatedly, “I have money. I want to fight the biggest fights for the fans, the legacy fights.” 

Larger forces had a hand in shifting circumstances. A lesser bout against Andre Berto was cancelled in the aftermath of an earthquake, and Shane, though gracious, was left with the tumbleweeds. When Pacquiao signed to face Joshua Clottey, Floyd was left scanning the field. Shane’s in-the-ring challenge after the Marquez fight still echoed in his ears and he was under pressure to come to terms. It seemed that the ever-elusive Floyd was finally cornered. 

“He was forced into it,” claims Jack Mosley. 

The elder Mosley told this writer that Shane has been ready and willing to fight Floyd for at least ten years and that father and son have long since deconstructed the Mayweather style. In fact,  “he’s been beating Floyd up every week for years already,” Mosley claims, “so unless Floyd does something different, he’s going to get beat up again,” this time literally. What’s more, Mosley believes that Floyd has not improved but devolved. Due to injuries and perhaps even fear, he is not the fighter he was at junior lightweight or lightweight. How difficult will Floyd be for Shane? Jack scoffs at the question. “I don’t think it is going to be a hard fight for Shane,” he says –unless Floyd decides to “run like Bugs Bunny.” Forget about Shane’s loss to Cotto. Mosley insists that scar tissue in Shane’s nose blocked over 40% of his oxygen intake during that fight. It was surgically corrected before the Margarito fight and we all saw the difference. As a result, Shane’s conditioning is better now than it has been for years, and Mosley promises that his son is prepared to give Floyd “a whole lot to think about.” 

Years ago, Shane extended his glove to hungry, avoided fighters. Shane, now 38, is still hungry. He has also been avoided. The courtesy he gave others is now being returned, albeit from an unlikely perch. Shane has an opportunity to prove once and for all that he is the best, if not the faster gun in the wild welterweight division. His benefactor seeks the same and will stand opposite him in more ways than one. Floyd, who claims that Shane had once refused to fight him because of a “toothache”; Floyd, whom Shane called a lowdown “liar” for even questioning his willingness to fight anybody. 

Floyd has been knocking over carriages instead of trains but wants you to believe that he’s Jesse James. Criticism of his resume is valid though it doesn’t mean that he isn’t right –Floyd Mayweather Jr. is Jesse James. We’ve seen his brilliance. To Jack Mosley, Floyd has diminished from whatever he was ten years ago. Mosley may be wrong. All of his critics could be wrong. Perhaps the true height of Floyd’s brilliance is still unknown precisely because he has not been tested. Perhaps his best is yet to be seen.

We’ll see it soon because he’ll need it.

The mountain resort at Big Bear Lake in California has an elevation near nine thousand feet. The air is thin at that altitude and the scenery is breath-taking. In the solitude of a training camp, where a man’s mind narrows to a fine edge and his mission takes on the kaleidoscope colors of a defining moment, an aging gunfighter is polishing his guns.

May 1st at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas is high noon.
 
 
 

…..

Nazeem Richardson’s statements were derived from ‘Guard Your Grill Boxing, episode 131’ (http://www.youtube.com/user/guardyourgrilltv). Burt Bacharach and Hal David wrote the lyrics to “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance,” which is reproduced in part in the second paragraph. “The Code of the West” is found in the work of historian Ramon F. Adams, including his book The Cowman and His Code of Ethics (1969). 

Special thanks to Jack Mosley.

Springs Toledo can be contacted at scalinatella@hotmail.com.

Articles of 2010

Judah To Fight Mbuza March 5 In NJ

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Totowa, NJ – Kathy Duva, Main Events CEO, announced their promotional firm won the purse bid held at IBF headquarters in East Orange, NJ, Thursday. The bid was for the right to hold the IBF's junior welterweight title fight between Zab Judah of Brooklyn, NY and Las Vegas, and South Africa's Kaizer Mabuza.

IBF Championships Chairman, Lindsay Tucker explained, “It is a 50-50 split of the earnings between the two fighters. Kaizer is ranked No. 1 by the IBF, and Judah is No. 2. Where the fight will be held is up to the winning bidder.”

Judah (39-6, 26 KOs) is promoted by Main Events and his own firm Super Judah Promotions, and Branco Milenkovic, of South Africa, promotes Mabuza (23-6-3, 14 KOs).

Kathy Duva confirmed the fight will take place at Prudential Center in Newark, NJ, late February or early March this year as part of Main Events' Brick City Boxing Series.  (Saturday Update: the fight is March 5th, in NJ at the Pru Center. The bout will be part of a PPV card.)

“We are very happy that Zab has the opportunity to fight for the IBF Junior Welterweight title right here in New Jersey.  Winning this fight will put Zab right in the mix with the winner of Bradley-Alexander and Amir Khan.” Duva elaborated, ” Zab will work very hard to win this fight so that he will be one step closer to his ultimate goal of unifying all of the Junior Welterweight titles by the end of 2011!”

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UFC 125 Preview: Frankie Edgar Vs. Gray Maynard

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Few predicted Frankie Edgar would grab the UFC lightweight championship last year but he did. Most felt he would eventually win it but Edgar not only took the title, he beat one of the best mixed martial artists in history to do it.

Edgar (13-1) has emerged from the milieu of nondescript MMA fighters to become one of the more brilliant performers for Ultimate Fighting Championship. Next comes a rematch with Gray “The Bully” Maynard (11-0) tomorrow at the MGM Grand Casino in Las Vegas. UFC 125 will be televised on pay-per-view.

All it took was not one, but two victories over BJ Penn.

If you’re not familiar with Penn, he’s one of the most versatile fighters in MMA history and had been nearly unbeatable in the 155-pound lightweight division. That is until he clashed with Edgar. Until he met New Jersey’s Edgar, the Hawaiian fighter chopped down lightweight opponents with ease. It was only the heavier welterweights he had problems against. Namely: Canada’s Georges St. Pierre.

Edgar showed poise, speed and grit in defeating Penn in back-to-back fights. The world took notice.

“You know, if I keep winning fights, the respect will come eventually,” said Edgar during a conference call.

Now Edgar will find out if he can avenge the only loss on his record.

“I just think I grew as a fighter. You know, mentally, you know, physically I, you know, possess differently skills, increased – you know, I think I boxed and got better, my Jiu-Jitsu got better and, you know, just have much more experience now,” Edgar says.

Maynard seeks to find out if Edgar has added any more fighting tools to his repertoire. Back in April 2008, the artillery shelled out was not enough to beat the Las Vegas fighter.

“It’s a perfect time. He had the chance and, you know, he took it and the time is now for me and I’m prepared,” said Maynard (11-0). “Any time you’re going up against the top in the world, you evolve and change and so I’m prepared for a new fight, so it will be good. I’m pumped for it.”

Though Maynard’s record indicates he is unbeaten that’s not entirely true. He did suffer a defeat to Nate Diaz during The Ultimate Fighter series and subsequently avenged that loss last January.

The UFC lightweight title is in Maynard’s bull’s eye.

“Looking to take the belt for sure,” said Maynard. “We’ll see on January 1.”

Edgar versus Maynard should be a good one.

Other bouts:

Nate Diaz (13-5) faces Dong Hyun Kim (13-0-1) in another welterweight tussle. Diaz is the only fighter with a win over Maynard. Anyone watching TUF remembers Maynard tapping out from a Diaz guillotine choke. The Modesto fighter has a tough fight against South Korea’s Kim.

Chris Leben (21-6) fights Brian Stann (9-3) in a middleweight fight. Leben is a veteran of MMA and if an opponent is not ready for a rough and tumble fight, well, that fighter is not going to win. Stann dropped down from light heavyweight and we’ll see if the cut in weight benefits the Marine.

Brandon Vera (11-5) meets Thiago Silva (14-2) in a light heavyweight match up. Vera is trying to rally back to the promising fighter he was tabbed several years back. Silva is a very tough customer and eager to crash the elite. A victory by either fighter could mean a ticket to the big time.

Clay Guida (27-8) versus Takanori Gomi (32-6) in a lightweight bout. Guida has become one of the most feared fighters without a title. No one has an easy time with the long-haired fighter. Gomi lost to Kenny Florian but knocked out Tyson Griffin. Can he survive Guida?

Marcus “The Irish Hand Grenade” Davis (22-8) clashes with Jeremy Stephens (18-6) in another lightweight fight. Davis is a go-for-broke kind of fighter and is looking to get back in the win column after a tumultuous battle with Nate Diaz last August. Stephens needs a win too. In his last bout he lost to Melvin Guillard.

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Articles of 2010

Borges Looks Back, And Forward With Hope

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As the end of another year approaches, there’s no need to invoke Charles Dickens to describe what went on in boxing. It was neither the best of times nor the worst of times. It was just too much time spent on The Fight That Never Took Place.

For the second straight year the sport could not deliver The Fight, the only one fans universally wanted and even casual fans craved – the mix between Floyd Mayweather, Jr. vs. Manny Pacquiao.  No one has to be singled out for blame for that failure because this time there’s plenty to go around on both sides. The larger issue is what does it say about a sport when it cannot deliver its top event?

What would the NFL be without the Super Bowl? Where would major league baseball be without the World Series? Golf without the Masters? College basketball without March Madness?

They would all be less than they could be and so it was with boxing this year. Having said that, the sport was not without its signature moments. It was not bereft of nights that left those of us with an abiding (and often unrequited) love for prize fighting with good reason to hope for the future.

Three times promoter Bob Arum took the sport into massive stadium venues just like the good (very) old days and each time boxing drew a far larger crowd than its many critics expected. Twice those fights involved the sport’s leading ambassador, Pacquiao, who brought in crowds of 40,000 to 50,000 fans into Cowboys Stadium against inferior opponents Joshua Clottey and Antonio Margarito. Imagine what he might have done had Mayweather been in the opposite corner?

While both fights were, as expected, lopsided affairs, they showcased the one boxer who has transcended his sport’s confining walls to become a cultural icon and world celebrity. Pacquiao alone put boxing (or at least one boxer) on the cover of TIME and into the pages of such varied publications as Esquire, GQ, The Wall Street Journal, the American Airlines in-flight magazine and even Atlantic Monthly.

As history has proven time and again, that is what happens when boxing has a compelling personality to sell it and Pacquiao is that. Mayweather is such a person as well,  but for different reasons.

The one night he appeared in a boxing ring, he set the year’s pay-per-view standard against Shane Mosley while also leaving a first hint of dark mystery when he was staggered by two stinging right hands in the second round.

Mayweather was momentarily in trouble for the first time in his career but the moment passed quickly and Mosley never had another. By the end he had been made to look old and futile, a faded athlete who’d had his chance and was unable to do anything with it. So it goes in this harsh sport when the sands are running out of the hour glass.

As always there were some surprising upsets, most notably Jason Litzau’s domination of an uninterested and out of shape Celestino Caballero and Sergio Martinez’s one-punch demolishment of Paul Williams. The latter was not so much an upset as it was a stunning reminder that when someone makes a mistake against a highly skilled opponent in this sport they don’t end up embarrassed. They end up unconscious.

SHOWTIME did all it could to further the future of the sport, offering up a continuation of its interminably long but still bold Super Six super middleweight tournament as well as the launching of a short form bantamweight tournament which already gave fans to two stirring and surprising finishes with Joseph Agbeko decisioning Jhonny Perez and Abner Mares upsetting Victor Darchinyan in a battle of contusions.

While the Super Six has had its problems – including several of the original six pulling out – it also lifted the profile of former Olympic gold medalist Andre Ward from nearly unknown to the cusp of universal recognized as the best super middleweight in the world this side of Lucian Bute. If Ward continues winning he’ll get to Bute soon enough because that’s why SHOWTIME signed a TV deal with the Canadian and America may get its next boxing star if Ward proves to be what I think he is – which is still underrated and underappreciated.

HBO and HBO pay-per-view put on 23 shows, few of them compelling and many of them paying big money to the wrong people while doing little or nothing to grow the sport that has helped make their network rich. But they did have the knockout of the year – Martinez’s second round destruction of Williams – and some fights in the lower weight classes that were left you wanting more.

Two new names popped up who are causing the kind of fan reaction that also gives us hope for 2011 – American Brandon Rios and Mexican Saul Alvarez. They are two of the sport’s brightest young prospects because each comes to the arena the old-fashioned way – carrying nothing but bad intentions.
Aggression and knockouts still sell boxing faster than anything else and each exhibited plenty of both this year and left fans wanting to see more. Alvarez is already a star in Mexico without having yet won a world title and Rios is the definition of “promise.’’ Whether the star will continue to shine and promise will be fulfilled may be answered next year and so we wait anxiously to find out.

Backed by Golden Boy Promotions, there is no reason 2011 shouldn’t be Alvarez’s year and if it is people will notice and remember him because he has a crowd-pleasing style that is all about what sells most.

That is what boxing needs more of – fresh faces and new stars… so as fans we should root for guys like Alvarez, Ward, Rios and young Brit Amir Khan, who is a star in England but still a question mark with a questionable chin but a fighter’s heart here in the U.S.

Those guys and others not yet as well known are the future of boxing, a sport that for too long has been recycling the likes of Mosley (as it will again in May for one last beating against Pacquiao in a fight that's a joke), Bernard Hopkins (who can still fight although it is unclear why he bothers or where it’s all headed), Roy Jones and, sadly, even 48-year-old Evander Holyfield, who continues to delude himself but not many other people into believing he will soon unify the heavyweight title again.
If fighters like Ward, Alvarez, Rios, Khan, WBC welterweight champion Andre Berto and middleweight king Sergio Martinez continue their rise they could be the antidote for the art of the retread that Arum and Golden Boy have been forcing fans to buy the past few years at the expense of what boxing needs most – fresh faces.

The heavyweight division, which many believe determines the relevancy of boxing to the larger world, remains a vast desert of disinterest here in the US. The Klitschko brothers, Vitali and Wladimir, hold 75 per cent of the title belts but few peoples’ imaginations in the US, although to be fair they are European superstars and don’t really need U.S. cable TV money to thrive economically.

Each defended their titles twice this year, Vitali against lame competition (Albert Sosnowski and Shannon Briggs) and Wladimir against better fighters (Sam Peter and Eddie Chambers) but not competitive ones. Sadly, there is no American on the horizon to challenge them, a comment on the division and on our country, where the athletes who used to be Joe Louis or Muhammad Ali now opt for the easier and frankly safer road of the NFL or the NBA. Who can blame them considering all the nonsense a fighter has to go through to just make a living these days?

The one heavyweight match that would be compelling and might lift the sport up for at least a night would be either of the Klitschkos facing lippy WBA champion David Haye. The fast-talking Brit claims to not be ducking them but he’s had more maladies befall him after shouting from the rooftops how much he wants to challenge them that you have to wonder if Haye is simply a case of big hat no cattle syndrome.

For the sake of the sport, we should all be lighting candles each night in hopes our prayers will be answered and Haye will finally agree to meet one of them. It may not prove to be much of a fight but at least it will give us something to talk about for a few months.

Whatever Haye and the Klitschkos decide the fighter with the most upside at the moment however seems to be Sergio Martinez.  He has matinee idol looks, a big enough punch to put Paul Williams to sleep with one shot and a work ethic second to none. The Argentine fighter had a year for himself, starting with a drubbing of Kelly Pavlik followed by his demolishment of Williams. Those kinds of victories, coupled with his Oscar De La Hoya-like looks, are the type of things that if HBO or SHOWTIME would get behind him could allow Martinez to capture the attention of both fight fans and more casual ones.

In general, Hispanics fighters continued to dominate much of the sport’s front pages with Juan Manuel Marquez’s two victories in lightweight title fights leading that storyline. His war with Michael Katsidis is a strong candidate for Fight of the Year and his technical skill and calm demeanor make him the uncrowned challenger to Pacquiao. The two have unfinished business that should be settled this year if Arum stops standing in the way.

Two other fighters who gave us moments to remember in 2010 were Juan Manuel Lopez, who knocked out three solid opponents including highly respected Mexican warrior Rafael Marquez, and Giovani Segura, who won four times (that’s three years work for Mayweather) in 2010, all by knockout. Along the way, Segura defeated one of the great minimum weight fighters in history, slick Ivan Calderon, to win the belt on Aug. 28.

Lastly, boxing gave us another magical cinematic moment as well with the release of “The Fighter,’’ a film based on the life and hard times of junior welterweight scrapper Micky Ward. The film has won rave reviews and many awards and seems likely to have several of its actors nominated for Academy Awards, most notable Christian Bale for his sadly humorous portrayal of Ward’s troubled half brother, former fighter Dickie Ecklund.

Boxing has a long history of providing the framework for memorable movies and it did it again with “The Fighter,’’ a film that did more for boxing than any promoter did all year.

All in all, it wasn’t the best of years for boxing but it was a good year that picked up speed in the final months and, like that great golf shot you finally hit out of the rough on the 18th, left us with reasons to hope for a better year in 2011. If somehow it gives us Mayweather-Pacquiao, the emergence of Alvarez and Rios, the ascension of Martinez and Haye vs. the best available Klitschko in addition to the kind of solid performances that always come along, it could be a year to remember.

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