"He left lightweight to follow the money because Oscar (De La Hoya) was there. He left welterweight again to follow the money because Oscar had moved up to junior middleweight, and Winky Wright was also there. Now, although Shane is No. 1 in Ring Magazine's ratings at 154, he's doing the same thing by moving down to welterweight where the money is."
Steward, the Hall of Fame trainer and HBO commentator, is never shy about over-praising his fighters, but he made a somewhat stunning statement - even for him -- in a conversation a few months ago with this writer. Asked who could beat Mayweather, Steward flat-out said, "Cintron can beat Mayweather. Floyd, like everybody else, has flaws." Never take lightly the words of a man who has trained two dozen champions.
So high is Steward on Cintron that in his travels for HBO, he takes Cintron along so he can spar with fighters in New York, Los Angeles and Las Vegas. It is reasonable to think that with the Steward extreme makeover, Cintron is a much better fighter now than he was when he fought Margarito.
By year's end, meanwhile, three others could work their way into the money picture. One is Joshua Clottey, who gave Margarito all he could handle in a close loss in December - despite a hand injury Clottey suffered in the fourth round. The unheralded Clottey left many wanting to see more of the compact, precision-punching Ghanaian, who could spell trouble for any of the division's leaders. Also in the wings are unbeaten blue chip prospects, Olympian Andre Berto and Demetrius Hopkins, nephew of Bernard Hopkins.
Before Mosley (43-4, 37 KOs) can pursue his personal gold rush, there may be a significant obstacle in his way: former champion Luis Collazo (27-2, 13 KOs), whom he will fight on HBO's "World Championship Boxing," Feb. 10.
Collazo, despite being the belt holder, was considered by many a designated body for Ricky Hatton in the Brit's American and welterweight debut in Boston last year. But Collazo gave as good as he got for 12 rounds, and while losing on a tight unanimous decision, 112-115 twice and 113-114, many feel he chased the British champion back to the junior welterweight division.
"Collazo is a tough guy, and Shane has never liked fighting southpaws," Merchant said. "This fight will be no walk in the park for Shane."
One could even make the case that Collazo should be unbeaten. His first loss came in 2002 to Edwin Cassiani, but was tainted when referee Jay Nady seemed to prematurely jump in and stop the fight in the third round.
Collazo's second loss was to Hatton, and again, many thought he had done enough damage with hard, clean shots to the Brit's head, which left both eyes puffy and blackened, to win the fight.
The Brooklyn native also had a very good amateur career. He is a former two-time New York Golden Gloves champion who participated in the 2000 Olympic trials. His crafty southpaw style makes him a tough target, and he has enough power to keep Mosley honest. As Merchant said, don't count him out.
Should Mosley get by Collazo, the degree of difficulty will increase significantly -- in more ways than one. Not only are there very tough fighters out there waiting to get a piece of him - and make no mistake about it, Mosley is currently the cash cow in the division - but there could be also be a serious roadblock in the way of his making some of the better fights.
Bob Arum promotes both Cotto and Margarito, and in case you have been off the planet for a while, the on-going feud between Mosley's promoter, Oscar De La Hoya, and Arum has been heating up to a boiling point ever since Manny Pacquiao covered all his bases and signed deals with both Golden Boy and Top Rank. Each promoter is suing the other, and De La Hoya has made it crystal clear he won't co-promote with Arum, although Arum is willing.
"There could be a problem for Mosley fighting Cotto or Margarito because of the animosity between Oscar and Arum," Merchant said. "Those two fights look like hard ones to make."
Still, if bitter rivals Arum and Don King can work together on a promotion, as they did with the Mayweather and Judah fight last April, never say never in boxing.