Thursday September 16th, 2010

The boxing landscape is littered with fighters who have stayed too long at the fair. Evander Holyfield. Roy Jones. James Toney. Father Time has caught up with each of them, robbing them of their reflexes and making each absorbed punch more damaging than the last.

And yet, these fighters push forward. Holyfield, 47, last wore a legitimate heavyweight belt in 2001. Yet at every opportunity he continues to slur, er, say he intends to become the undisputed heavyweight champion.

Jones, 41, has lost three of his last five fights, most recently a first-round knockout to Danny Green (who?) and a one-sided decision defeat to Bernard Hopkins. Quit? Nah. He's got Danny Santiago flying down to Pensacola, Fla., to face him next month.

Toney, 42, is so hard up for a fight that he is willing to switch sports to get one. Last month, an unpleasantly plump Toney stepped into the UFC's Octagon against Randy Couture. He went down like a redwood when Couture grabbed his ankle and tapped out after being wrapped in a Couture chokehold three minutes later.

Shane Mosley does not share the air with those men. Not yet, anyway. Less than two years ago, Mosley was considered the top welterweight in boxing. His stunning, ninth-round knockout of Antonio Margarito -- who at the time was considered the 147-pound kingpin -- re-established Mosley's credentials as one of the elite fighters in the sport.

But the shine came off of Mosley last May, when Floyd Mayweather routed him in a one-sided decision. After rocking Mayweather with a right hand in the second round, Mosley was never competitive, getting routinely beaten to the punch by Mayweather and looking bewildered trying to keep up with Floyd's superior speed.

"It wasn't that I was tired," Mosley said. "It was just that my neck was a little tight and I couldn't throw any more punches like I wanted to. If I'm fighting the second round and I make it to the 12th round, then that says that I obviously wasn't that tired. I just got a little tight, and I couldn't throw the punches like I wanted to. I can assure you that that won't happen again."

Losing to Mayweather is no disgrace -- no one has come up with a way to beat him yet -- but when the defeated is inching toward 40 and been involved in some of boxing's best slugfests, the question of retirement is raised. Mosley, however, dismisses any notion that he considered calling it quits.

"I knew right away that I wanted to go back into the ring and fight again," he said. "I can go to 45 or 46, 47 if I want to. But it just depends on how I feel if I do it. I keep myself in great shape all the time regardless if I have a fight coming up or not. I think that's why I'm able to fight at this level of competition for so long."

Rebuilding a fighter to the public is the easy part: Just get him in great shape and lay on the excuses. For Mosley, it was the neck. Or the messy divorce he was going through with his ex-wife, Jin, whom he reportedly paid $1.2 million before the Mayweather bout, plus an agreement to pay another $2.7 million subsequently.

But eventually the fighter has to back up his rhetoric in the ring. On Saturday, Mosley will get his first chance to do just that when he takes on Sergio Mora (22-1) in a 154-pound fight (9 p.m. ET, HBO PPV). It wasn't Mosley's first choice (a long-anticipated matchup with welterweight champion Andre Berto never materialized), nor is it the easiest. Mora, 29, is a natural 160-pounder coming down for this fight. Despite pillowed hands, Mora is blessed with considerable size and speed that Mosley will have to adjust to in his first super welterweight fight in two years.

"Some fans take it for granted that this guy is a little bigger," Mosley said. "He's also fast. He works very hard. He's a competitor. He loves to win. He can fight. So I think people are mistaken thinking that it's just going to be a walk in the park when it's really not."

A win puts Mosley right back in the mix with the top contenders. Mosley's trainer, Nazim Richardson, talks about the need for a round robin-style tournament among Mosley, Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao. Mosley wants those fights, too, along with Berto and rematches with Margarito and Miguel Cotto.

"I think he was crushed [by the Mayweather loss]," Golden Boy president Oscar De La Hoya told "And Shane Mosley is a fighter who is very, very personal. He's very sensitive when it comes to his training, his boxing, his career. He doesn't want people talking, ''Well, Mayweather beat you easy,' and, 'Mayweather did this and that.' He doesn't want that. It crushes his ego."

A loss to Mora might do more than crush Mosley's ego; it could end his career, or at least the relevant portion of it. He could still get fights, sure, but instead of running with Mayweather and Pacquiao, Mosley will be trying to keep up with the (Roy) Joneses.

"I'll definitely know what it's time to hang up the gloves," Mosley said. "Right now, it's definitely not the time. I feel great and I'm in great shape. Sometimes you have bad nights and there's nothing you can do about it. Floyd did a great job, he won the fight. But there are other guys out there I still want to fight."

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