Sergio Mora has experienced plenty of highs in boxing. There was his stint on The Contender, the NBC reality show that launched Mora into the mainstream (and made him $1 million) in 2005 when he defeated Peter Manfredo on national television. Three years later, Mora won a world title by stunning junior middleweight champion Vernon Forrest.
Lately, though, Mora's career has been a series of lows. Three months after winning the title, he lost it in a rematch with Forrest. An 18-month period of inactivity followed, highlighted by failed attempts to make mega-money fights with Oscar De La Hoya and Kelly Pavlik and a promotional dispute that combined to cost the 30-year-old Mora two prime years of his career.
It got worse last September. After years of fighting mainly fringe contenders, Mora got a shot at Shane Mosley. There's no way to sugarcoat Mosley-Mora. It was ugly, pure and simple. For 12 rounds, Mora and Mosley "fought" -- a charitable word considering the man who put in the most work was referee Pat Russell, who spent the majority of the evening disentangling the two fighters -- to an uninspired draw in a junior middleweight bout. It was a huge letdown for the Los Angeles crowd, which was still buzzing from top prospect Saul Alvarez's emphatic knockout of Carlos Baldomir on the undercard.
Mora absorbed the lion's share of the blame. A defensive-minded fighter with little power, Mora was criticized for fighting backward. He was able to score points with the occasional flurries but couldn't capitalize on his three-inch height advantage.
"I know the crowd was disappointed," Mora said in a telephone interview. "I was with them. That fight was a stalemate. Everyone ended up getting nothing out of that fight."
"I think he gave Mosley way too much respect," said Mora's promoter, Richard Schaefer. "He has told me, 'I wish I could turn back the clock.' He knows it was a boring fight, but he also knows he is much better than that."
Mora was eager to get back in the ring after his draw with Mosley, but the pool of opponents was shallow. He wanted to get on the undercard of the Bernard Hopkins-Jean Pascal fight in December, but the spot was given to Paulie Malignaggi. He thought he had a fight lined up for January, but it was scrubbed at the last minute. On Friday, Mora will finally get his chance at redemption when he faces middleweight brawler Brian Vera (ESPN2, 8 p.m. ET).
Mora says going from HBO pay-per-view to ESPN isn't humbling -- "It's not TV Azteca," the fighter said -- but he knows this could be his last shot at winning back the public.
"I'm going to be more offensive," Mora said. "I'm going to think about winning every round, instead of just being in the fight. I'm used to facing adversity. People never seem to embrace me. I'm used to that. I'm not bitter; I don't care. I go in there and do my job and most of the time, I win."
• Free agency isn't a big part of boxing, but there could be one very big one on the market later this year: Timothy Bradley. The junior welterweight champion, who unified the 140-pound titles in a win over Devon Alexander last week, has one fight left on his contract with Gary Shaw. The two promotional heavyweights, Golden Boy and Top Rank, are expected to throw big money at Bradley when the time comes.
"It's boxing," Shaw said. "It's expected. [Co-promoter] Thompson Boxing and I have had Timmy for a long time. We have built him, we brought him all the way to the top. Time will tell."
While Top Rank can offer the potential of a big-money fight with Manny Pacquiao, Golden Boy has a stranglehold on the junior welterweight division, with Amir Khan, Marcos Maidana, Victor Ortiz and Lucas Matthyess under contract. It also has a strong relationship with Bradley's manager, Cameron Dunkin, who is an influential voice in the fighter's camp.
• While Schaefer and Shaw are in discussions for a Khan-Bradley fight in July, Khan has yet to secure an opponent for his April 16 date in England. Khan made a $300,000 offer to Lamont Peterson, which Schaefer said Peterson's camp has countered.
"[The offer] is with Khan's team now," Schaefer said.
Schaefer called inaccurate the perception that Khan has had trouble finalizing the April fight in part because of low-ball offers to opponents.
"I think what has happened is opponents feel Amir has a huge pot of money in England and doesn't want to share it," Schaefer said. "Like he is offering opponents a few hundred thousand and keeping millions for himself. He is a star in England, but being a star there isn't the same as being a star in the U.S."
Schaefer cites the low cost of pay-per-view as the factor most misunderstood. While most U.S. pay-per-views are $50, in England they are about $22. After taxes and the split with the Sky Network, Schaefer says Khan usually sees only about $9 on every buy. And though Khan's popularity has grown in the U.K., he usually will do only around 150,000 buys. Factor in undercard expenses, and Schaefer says "there is not a lot of money there."
• Schaefer says he is moving closer to completing a deal with HBO for a rematch of the controversial draw between Bernard Hopkins and Jean Pascal in December. That fight was on Showtime, but industry sources say HBO has been working with Hopkins, Pascal and Chad Dawson on a deal that would match Hopkins with Pascal in the spring with the winner facing Dawson in the fall.