Because of the media frenzy surrounding the on again – off again Pacquiao v Mayweather fight, this one has largely gone under the radar, which is a gross injustice to two very different but outstanding opponents pitted together in a battle of the ages.
Haitian-American Berto (25-0, 19 ko´s) who although born in Florida chose to represent Haiti in the Sydney Olympics of 2000, will be making the third defense of the crown he won on a decision over Steve Forbes in 2008. Berto was highly touted as a future superstar of the division on his ascendancy to a title shot, scoring 19 ko´s in his first 22 outings, but with three consecutive twelve round decisions, he has since lost a little of his sparkle.
Since beating Forbes for the title, Berto has defended his crown against two of Ricky Hatton´s former opponents; Luis Collazo and Juan Urango. Berto had a tough time against New Yorker Collazo in January of this year, winning by just one point on two of the judges scorecards. He had a much easier time four months later, outpointing Colombian Urango by a wide margin. He may have failed to stop or even floor his last three opponents, but in Berto´s defense, between them Forbes, Collazo and Urango have suffered just one stoppage defeat in a combined total of 101 fights, and are three of the toughest cookies around. If nothing else, the wins showed off Berto´s stamina and growing ring generalship.
Where do we start when we discuss the modern great that is Sugar Shane Mosley? Like Bernard Hopkins, his contemporary in the ring and his co-partner in Golden Boy Promotions who are the promoters of this fight, Mosley is a throwback fighter, a warrior well schooled in both defense and offense, a fighter who never knows he´s beaten. Mosley would have been a threat in any era. Time and time again he surprises critics when, appearing finished, he bounces back to deliver a spectacular result.
Because of his high profile achievements since making the jump up to welterweight in 2000, people tend to forget that Mosley built his reputation as a highly accomplished lightweight, making eight defenses of the IBF World lightweight title, all ending inside the distance. Most impressive were wins over former champions John John Molina (TKO-8) and Jesse James Leija (TKO-9).
After two tune-up fights at welterweight, he caused a major upset by defeating Oscar De La Hoya on split decision to take the WBC welterweight title. In that fight, Mosley looked anything but a lightweight, appearing big and muscular, and finishing the stronger of the two.
After three easy title defenses, Mosley lost his crown and his unbeaten record in a huge upset to the late Vernon Forrest. When Forrest repeated the trick in a rematch six months later, it looked like Mosley, at 31, might have seen his best days.
Oscar De La Hoya had carefully rebuilt his career after close defeats to Felix Trinidad and Mosley; first winning the WBC super-welterweight title from Spain’s Javier Castillejo, and then adding the WBA belt in an eleven round war with Fernando Vargas. De La Hoya wanted revenge over Mosley. Oscar looked a natural at 154 lbs. Surely this would be one weight class too many for the former lightweight?
In a stunning turn of events, Mosley again delivered an ego shattering points defeat to De La Hoya, this time by unanimous decision. Once again, Mosley looked big and strong at the weight, and again he finished the bout the stronger fighter. This was the fight that aroused suspicion that Mosley may have been using something other than vitamins and protein powder in his preparation for De La Hoya. Years later, when the Balco Labs drugs scandal hit the headlines, Mosley was indeed one of the athletes cited in the case. He admitted he did use supplements supplied by Victor Conte, but he claimed he didn’t know they were performance enhancing drugs.
Mosley failed to capitalize on reclaiming his place amongst the boxing elite, suffering back to back losses against an admittedly red hot Ronald ´´Winky“ Wright. Mosley had no answer to Wright´s cagey southpaw style. It seemed the De La Hoya win might have been Mosley s last hurrah. He stayed busy with five straight victories including a pair of TKO´s over a badly faded Fernando Vargas and a decision over the very capable Luis Collazo, but he came up short for a fifth time in his career when he lost a close decision in a challenge for Miguel Cotto´s WBA welterweight title. Ten months later in September 2008, Mosley looked finished against Nicaraguan nut-job Ricardo Mayorga. In a bout between two ´´shot“ fighters, Mosley looked slow and confused, his reflexes gone. By the twelfth he looked a mile behind on points, but with typical Mosley brilliance, he found the punches to knock out Mayorga with just one second left on the clock. After the bout it was revealed that Mosley was in fact ahead on two of the biased (or just optically challenged) judges scorecards. Watching the way Mosley tore desperately into Mayorga in the twelfth it is obvious he didn’t think he was ahead.
Despite the win, Mosley looked finished, and when it was announced soon after that Mosley had signed to fight new WBA welterweight champion Antonio Margarito, it looked like a complete mismatch. Margarito was fresh of a stunning win over Miguel Cotto where the Mexican had walked through the Puerto Rican´s best punches and delivered a merciless beating, stopping Cotto in the 11th.
At 5´11´´, Margarito was a huge welterweight, his chin looked bullet-proof, and he had knockout power in either hand. At 30 he was right at his peak and seven years younger than 37 year old Mosley.
The fight took place at the Staples Center, Los Angeles in January 2009.
For the third time in his career, Mosley achieved the unthinkable, this time with his most sensational win of all, battering the 4-1 favorite Margarito from pillar to post on the way to a stunning 9th round TKO. It emerged after the bout that Mosley´s trainer had spotted what appeared to be Plaster of Paris inserts being added to Margarito´s bandages in his dressing room prior to the fight, and had insisted Margarito´s hands be re-wrapped. His trainer reported his findings to the LA boxing commissioner, and the fight went ahead.
It is not inconceivable to imagine that as the enormity of Margarito´s mis-deeds and the ensuing and unavoidable scandal unfolded in his mind, the will to will drained from Margarito´s body.
Margarito and his trainer are currently suspended from boxing pending a full investigation, and are likely to face criminal prosecution and jail time.
Shane Mosley is 38 years old, and takes a 46-5 (39 ko´s) record into the ring against the 26 year old Berto. He looked finished against Mayorga, and world class against Margarito. Berto has been solid and workmanlike in his last three fights. This is his biggest name opponent by far; the chance to put himself in line for a multi-million dollar payday against Pacquiao or Mayweather. Mosley already has the marquee name, Berto wants it. This could either be a drawn out chess match, or an all out war. I believe it will be the latter, with both men giving and taking a battering, and with the younger, stronger Andre Berto ultimately emerging with a tough but unanimous decision. But wouldn’t we all just love to see the amazing Shane Mosley turn it on one more time?
Big Fight odds; Mosley 8/15, Berto 6/4 bet365