Smack-talk. The pre-fight propaganda of verbal sparring between boxers can be a diverting prelude to a bout and, in some cases, a good trash-talk can turn a mediocre matchup into a highly anticipated main event. Some fighters rarely, if ever, insult their opponent. They only parry their rivals' comments like a lazy jab, choosing the sticks-and-stones route and claiming they want to do their talking in the ring.
Then there are the pugilists who provide most of the verbal fireworks and generate the anticipation for the bout. Their words are meant to sting as much as a perfectly executed one-two.
But there's one man, one fighter -- "El Matador" they call him -- whose words are as piercing as a bullfighter's sword, loaded with as much intent to hurt his opponent as his powerfully wild hooks. He leaves no stone unturned, no subject untouched.
The first taste of Ricardo Mayorga's antics came in 2002 during his rematch with Andrew "Six Heads" Lewis. The Nicaraguan was relatively unknown in the U.S. prior to his first bout against Lewis, which ended in a no-contest. Leading up to their second fight, Mayorga declared that he would break Lewis' ribs, knock him out in three rounds and send him into retirement. He would munch on an apple at the weigh-in and then go on to put Lewis away with two hard rights in the fifth.
But it was his two fights against Vernon Forrest that cemented Mayorga's status as one of the top welterweights and one of boxing's most brash and outspoken fighters.
Before his first fight against "The Viper," Mayorga said, "Forrest is nothing to be scared of. He can't knock me out. I was thinking I would [knock him out] inside seven, but now I think it will be even earlier."
And he was right. Mayorga closed the night in three and celebrated winning his second world title by smoking a cigarette -- in the ring -- after the decision was announced.
In their rematch -- a win via decision for Mayorga -- the brash basher decided to prove that Forrest couldn't knock him out even when he dropped his hands and let Forrest hit him cleanly with three crisp two-punch combinations.
With Mayorga, it hasn't been his talent as much as his mouth that has kept him at the forefront of boxing. Lately, he has become the measuring stick for fighters at the tail end of their careers: if they beat him, they fight on; if they lose, they retire.
El Matador's trash-talking, limited boxing ability and kill-or-be-killed approach have led to lucrative fights against Felix Trinidad, Oscar De La Hoya and Fernando Vargas. In each one of those fights, we've seen vintage Mayorga. A brief rundown of what he has said and done since his rematch with Forrest goes something like this: eating chicken and pizza on the scales, predicting the round he'd knock out his rivals, smoking and drinking in the ring after a fight, and calling his opponents clowns, old ladies, fatties and sissies during press conferences. He's questioned their sexual orientation. He's insulted families and ethnicities. He's mentioned stopping hearts and detaching retinas and he's declared he would retire more than one of them.
Even after losing by knockout, Mayorga has come back with a full arsenal of insults. And in advance of his bout against Shane Mosley on Saturday, Mayorga has been as condescending as ever.
"It'll be a good knockout," said Mayorga in a conference call earlier this week. "If he stands and fights me, I'll knock him out in one round. If he runs, in two or three. I'm going to send him home to wash dishes."
Even in his insults toward Mosley, Mayorga managed to insult fighters he's faced before. He referred to Mosley as De La Hoya's daddy and Forrest's son, and then referred to Forrest as his own son.
In his last fight, Mayorga took on Vargas, one of three opponents he shares with Mosley (the other two being De La Hoya and Forrest, each with different results against them). With the two meeting at 164 pounds, the bout turned out to be an entertaining scrap in which Mayorga did something most fans never knew he could: jab and move. He mauled Vargas early on, sending the Mexican-American to the canvas in the second. Throughout the rest of the bout, he picked his spots to stand and wail those bricks he calls hands, or jabbed and ungracefully moved en route to majority decision.
Against the 37-year-old Mosley, Mayorga's strategy will most likely be the complete opposite. Both fighters will come in at the junior middleweight limit, which means Mayorga will look to pressure Mosley, the naturally smaller man, with his unorthodox bruising style and will undoubtedly attempt to club Mosley to sleep.
"I'm ready to fight," said the 34-year-old Nicaraguan. "I feel very strong. I'm very focused to knock him out."
This Saturday, when the two take the ring at the Home Depot Center in Los Angeles, Mayorga will have the chance to, as he puts it, prove to "Sugar" Shane who his daddy is. Win or lose, rest assured, El Matador will be back, with wild hooks and insults just as sharp and crass as ever.