Thursday November 8th, 2007

NEW YORK -- Shane Mosley is a well-credentialed man. The former lightweight, welterweight and super welterweight champion has a resume most fighters only dream of. He is arguably the most dominant lightweight in history, having run up a 32-0 record (with 30 knockouts) before leaving the division behind. He has beaten Oscar de la Hoya twice, and after a brief stint at super welterweight, Mosley returned to the welterweight division in 2005 and has put together five consecutive victories.

So why, at age 36 and with nothing left to prove, is he risking tarnishing that legacy by stepping in the ring with 27-year-old powerhouse Miguel Cotto on Saturday night?

"To cement my legacy," said Mosley from behind a table at Manhattan's famed Carnegie Deli. "Fighting for the WBA title is cool, but I want to be the best fighters out there. I want to finish my career as the best welterweight of this era."

Mosley (44-4) is one of the rare fighters who has actively sought top-tier opponents throughout his career. Besides his two fights with de la Hoya, Mosley has squared off against Vernon Forrest (in his prime), Winky Wright and Fernando Vargas. Even so-called lesser fighters like David Estrada and Jose Luis Cruz were undefeated when they stepped in the ring with Mosley, though both stepped out otherwise. While a staggering number of fighters have inflated their records by gorging on weaker opponents (see Valuev, Nicolay; Salita, Dmitriy), Mosley has consistently challenged the elite of his weight class, with the undefeated Cotto the latest example.

"I want to give the fans a show," said Mosley. "This fight is going to be legendary."

It could be. Few welterweights possess the power of Cotto (30-0), who has KO'd 25 of his opponents, some in spectacular fashion and most as direct result of wicked body shots. While Mosley will rely on his superior speed ("That's the way to counter power," he says), he is quick to point out that he has some pop of his own. As a lightweight, Mosley set a record for the highest knockout percentage in any division. "My speed is my best weapon," said Mosley. "But I can knock people out."

Moreover, Cotto's perfect record is not without blemish. In '05 Cotto, fighting in his native Puerto Rico, was rocked by DeMarcus Corley before becoming the first man to knock him out. Later that year Cotto was knocked to the canvas by Ricardo Torres, a late substitute for Gianluca Branco, before finishing Torres in the seventh round. After offering the appropriate platitudes for Cotto ("He's a determined warrior," says Mosley), Mosley calls Cotto's chin "suspect" while noting that in his career he has faced some pretty good power punchers in Forrest, Vargas and de la Hoya. "I can't imagine [Cotto] hitting any harder than Oscar," he said.

There is another factor in this fight that makes it important to Mosley: it could be his last.

"It's a must-win if I'm going to continue to box," said Mosley. "If I don't win, that's it. I'm too old to climb back up the ranks."

For the winner comes a probable date with Floyd Mayweather Jr., the type of fight Mosley is looking for -- and the fight he would like to end his career with.

"I could walk away after that," said Mosley. "I definitely could. I want to help train the next generation of fighters.

And what if de la Hoya, Mosley's fellow executive at Golden Boy, wants another shot at Mayweather first?

"I don't know," said Mosley with a laugh. "Oscar and I would have to talk about that."

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