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Mosley gets satisfying win over Mayorga, but what's next?

I don't know, of course, what "Sugar" Shane Mosley is doing this Sunday afternoon. Maybe settling in to watch some football or getting a little work done around the yard. Or sneaking out for a round of golf. Or maybe he's counting the reported $1.5 million he was guaranteed for his bout last night against Ricardo Mayorga. Whatever he's up to, though, I hope the thought occurs to him that there are easier ways for a 37-year-old guy to make a living.

Mosley, a former world champion in three weight divisions and one of the most acclaimed fighters of his era, disposed of Mayorga in rather spectacular fashion, winning by TKO with exactly one second left in their 12-round junior middlweight bout at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif. But it was a long 12 rounds for Mosley. The 35-year-old Mayorga, himself a former welterweight world champ, is an almost cartoonishly tough customer, a deceptively savvy guy who comports himself with happy loutishness and fights with single-minded aggressiveness, heedless to any of the niceties of the sport -- and, for much of the evening, seemingly heedless to the emphatic punches Mosley was landing on him. Though both men weighed in under the 154-pound limit, by fight time Mayorga was up to a reported 170 ½ pounds (10 pounds more than Mosley) and he used the extra bulk not only to withstand Mosley's shots but also to wrestle and maul Mosley about the ring. Mayorga has a well deserved reputation as a puncher (coming into the bout with 22 KOs in a record of 28-6-1), but his offensive approach is limited; he relies largely on the winging right hand followed by the menacing glare followed by the bull-like rush. He landed a few more of those rights than might have been expected against Mosley, who looked at times a bit frustrated. To borrow from A.J. Leibling's description of the great Archie Moore against an inelegant, Mayorga-like opponent, Mosley had the aspect of an opera singer being "crowded off the stage by a guy who can only shout."

But Mosley (45-5, 38 KOs) has built up quite a repertoire over his 15-year career, and you could see him working out over the rounds just how to ring down the curtain on -- to belabor the opera metaphor -- the pagliaccio in front of him. Mayorga never really hurt him, but it was a bruising evening nonetheless for Mosley and by the last couple of rounds it seemed as though time was running out. But Mosley clearly relishes the combat and there would be no settling for a workmanlike win. A series of winging shots in the final 30 seconds (for all his speed and crispness, Mosley can be a free-swinger when called for) battered Mayorga to the canvas and a final, beautiful left hook ended it.

Mosley has every right to feel satisfied with his performance. And boxing fans certainly should applaud such a display of skill and commitment from a true hall of famer. The question, though, is what's next. Last fall, after his narrow loss to Miguel Cotto, Mosley was calling out Antonio Margarito. But since then Margarito has KO'd Cotto and established himself as the most formidable welterweight currently active. A Margarito-Cotto rematch looms for next year, and it's unlikely that Mosley wants to wait till that is resolved. Paul Williams (35-1, 26 KOs) is the division's other new star, but at 6-foot-1 and 27 years old, the power-punching but still relatively unknown Williams is way on the wrong side of the risk-reward scale for Mosley.

Inevitably, the most attractive and most appropriate opponents for Mosley now are two former foes, current Golden Boy Promotions partner Oscar De La Hoya (whom Mosley beat twice, in 2000 and in '03) and Vernon Forrest (who beat Mosley twice, in '02). Both matchups would draw very well (especially De La Hoya, assuming he continues to fight after his bout Dec. 6 against Manny Pacquiao) and neither poses the risk that a Margarito or Williams fight would entail. Then there's Floyd Mayweather Jr. Surely the expiration date on his retirement must be coming up, and a match between those two erstwhile claimants to boxing's pound-for-pound title would be a huge event (albeit one that might better have happened, say, six or seven years ago). Any one of those bouts would provide Mosley a final fitting showcase (and mega payday) for his talents as well as the prospect of settling some old scores -- all without too much wear and tear.

What Mosley (and the sport) doesn't need is an ongoing string of bouts against undistinguished opponents. Consider that when boxing's original Sugar -- Ray Robinson -- was 37 he had a record of 140-6-2, but would go on to fight for eight more years, with calamitous results for his longterm health. I hope that Mosley on this Sunday afternoon is enjoying a well-deserved rest and at least starting to consider that there are a whole lot of other things out there for a healthy young man to take on.

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