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Inside Boxing

March 19, 2001
March 19, 2001

Table of Contents
March 19, 2001

Inside Boxing

Inside Boxing

Sweet Dreams
Sugar Shane Mosley needs a challenge to put the icing on his
career

This is an article from the March 19, 2001 issue

Sugar Shane Mosley may forever lack a defining antagonist. There
may be no Frazier to his Ali, no Hearns to his Leonard, no Tyson
to his Holyfield. The best competition dodges him or moves up in
weight or ducks into a recording studio. So he becomes a kind of
monologuist, performing alone, with outclassed opponents like
Shannan Taylor answering the bell for the sake of a technicality.
They are stage props, really, in what might have to be a solo act
for the foreseeable future.

It doesn't matter. It's exciting enough just to watch him work.
Surely Mosley, who is grouped with Roy Jones Jr. and Felix
Trinidad in that mythical pound-for-pound elite, deserves better
than the unheralded Taylor in a Las Vegas ballroom. Shouldn't you
have to pay $49.95 to watch the WBC welterweight champion fight?
(Not last Saturday night, when HBO showed him for free from Las
Vegas's Caesars Palace.) But artistry survives such indignity,
and you are reminded that glamour springs from performance, not
from the trappings of arenas and pavilions.

And what a performance! Mosley, who hasn't played the big room
since he outpointed Oscar De La Hoya last summer, does not dial
it down according to the gate receipts. Playing to a crowd of
only 2,800, Mosley showed a power that, coupled with his speed,
makes him the most devastating active fighter.

He jolted his tough Australian challenger with a flush right hand
to the jaw in the first round, knocking him down and close enough
to out that Taylor's trainer nearly stopped the fight right
there. Then Mosley used the next four rounds to showcase wide
right hands and lefts to the body that had ringsiders shuddering
in sympathy. Taylor's trainer, Jeff Fenech, himself a former
champion, decided that enough was enough and kept his boxer on
his stool before the sixth round.

It was the kind of spectacle everyone could appreciate. Well, not
Taylor, who had no recollection of events following that first
knockdown; at no point, he said, "did I know what round it was."

Mosley downplayed the performance, saying he'd scored cleaner
knockdowns. Everyone else, though, was gushing. HBO boxing chief
Kery Davis, asked if he had any superlatives for Mosley, said,
"You'll have to make them up. I'm all out."

Sadly, we may never know how good Mosley can be. Since the De La
Hoya fight he has been unable to lure fitting opposition. De La
Hoya balked at a rematch and focused on cutting CDs. Trinidad has
long since left the welterweights behind for a middleweight
assault. That leaves fights against the likes of Antonio Diaz
(whom Mosley knocked out in November) and Taylor in hotel
ballrooms for relatively small fees. The $1.75 million he got on
Saturday night was Mosley's smallest payday in three bouts.

Mosley's father, Jack, who is more bottom-line than his son--"He
doesn't care about money," says the father-manager; "I do"--has
despaired of a De La Hoya rematch and a Trinidad fight. The
Mosleys, though, forgive Trinidad for moving on. "He went [to
middleweight] sooner than I thought," says Shane. "I guess that
window closed."

They are not so considerate of De La Hoya's legacy, which is now
based on avoiding rematches with Mosley and Trinidad and opting
for walkover Arturo Gatti on March 24. "We beat him once anyway,"
says Jack, smirking.

Jack believes his son is doing fine on his own. "Shane's the
superstar," he says. "People will come just to watch Shane box.
The next fights will be bigger."

Mosley wants to unify the welterweight division, but that plan
carries no additional marquee value. A proposed fight with top
contender Vernon Forrest is set for June, but that sounds more
like a mercy match than anything else. Mosley and Forrest were
amateur teammates (Forrest outpointed Mosley in 1992), and it has
pained Mosley to watch Forrest labor in anonymity and near
poverty. "He'd like to see Vernon get a nice house," says Jack of
his son's motivation for the fight. In any case, their match
wouldn't make for the kind of pay-per-view numbers that would buy
either fighter a very large pad. But then Shane, who lives around
the corner from his parents in Pomona, Calif., doesn't need one.

As the Mosley following grows, we're likely to see him working
slightly bigger rooms, if not the room he deserves. Yet how big a
room does he need? It's a one-man show, after all.

Holyfield Hangs On
Requiem for a Heavyweight?

Hardly anything is more paternalistic than the boxing press when
it starts calling for retirement. Take Evander Holyfield, whose
glorious career has been forged on a bravery that even in his
youth was near foolhardy. Always undersized, he waded through
bigger opponents with recklessness, eventually winning four
heavyweight titles. It's hard to say he should even have been
allowed in the ring with a Riddick Bowe or a George Foreman.
Except that he would often beat them. Now, all of a sudden, we
know what's best for Holyfield?

Well, probably. He's 38, and though his body remains chiseled,
he has finally outlived his prime. It was no fun watching him
struggle in last year's fight with journeyman John Ruiz, winning
a suspect decision for the suspect WBA title. Holyfield had
already lost to Lennox Lewis when Lewis held all the belts, so
picking up a version that had been stripped from Lewis because of
politics was little more than a nice send-off for the man we used
to call the Real Deal.

Because the decision was so suspect, however, Holyfield was
pressed into a rematch, which he lost more definitively two weeks
ago in Las Vegas. Ringsiders watched in disbelief as Holyfield
failed to manifest any offense against a boxer who wouldn't have
been even a useful sparring partner in the old champ's better
days.

More horrifying than diminished skills was the knockdown
Holyfield suffered in the 11th round. He was clocked on the
temple and floored, yet staggered to his feet, reeling from post
to post, trying desperately to clutch Ruiz and survive the round.
Somehow he did. "I don't think there's another fighter in the
world," said Jim Thomas, Holyfield's loyal manager, "who would
have been brave enough to last that round."

That's exactly the point. Holyfield's bravery is now so
self-endangering as to be almost suicidal. He insists, however,
that his career isn't over yet. "I'll just get back in line," he
said.

It's not likely he'll be convinced to do otherwise, even by news
that came out of Kentucky last weekend about Greg Page, one of
those forgettable heavyweight champions of the pre-Mike Tyson
early 1980s. Page, who was definitely no warrior, was still
fighting on small cards for small paydays into his 40s. Last
Friday he was seriously injured when he was pushed down and then
struck his head on the ring apron. As of Sunday he was in
critical condition. It was 17 years ago that he won and almost
immediately lost his championship. He'd been back in line ever
since.

COLOR PHOTO: HOLLY STEIN/HBO Mosley used blistering speed and a withering punch to take apart the previously unbeaten Taylor.B/W PHOTO: TIME INC. PICTURE COLLECTION

Noms de Guerre?

John Ruiz, who defeated Evander Holyfield on March 3 to claim the
WBA's slice of the heavyweight title, is known as The Quiet Man.
The nickname (based on Ruiz's soft-spoken nature, not on the fact
that he was once rendered catatonic in 19 seconds by David Tua)
harks back to the 1952 John Wayne movie of the same name and
certainly ranks as one of the less ferocious of ring sobriquets.
Here are a few more--and we are not even including 19th-century
bare-knuckle champion Henry Pearce, proudly known as The Game
Chicken. See if you can match the heavyweight champion with his
nickname.

1. James J. Corbett
2. Bob Fitzsimmons
3. Jack Johnson
4. Jess Willard
5. Jack Sharkey
6. Primo Carnera
7. Max Baer
8. James J. Braddock

a. The Cinderella Man
b. The Ambling Alp
c. The Livermore Larruper
d. The Boston Gob
e. Gentleman Jim
f. Ruby Robert
g. L'il Arthur
h. The Pottawatomie Giant

Answers 1-e, 2-f, 3-g, 4-h, 5-d, 6-b, 7-c, 8-a