At 35, Shane Mosley has become what few fighters at that advanced age are. He's become a boxer with options.
Not options that restrain him from fighting, the kind that promoters have used to make a living off fighters with for 50 years while tying up the sport in so many knots fans have grown weary of it all. No, for Shane Mosley his options are really opportunity knocking if he can just knock off former welterweight champion Luis Collazo Feb. 10 on HBO in what has become a fight for the interim WBC 147-pound championship.
That title is actually held by Floyd Mayweather, Jr. but he relinquished it to move up to 154 pounds in May and face Mosley's business partner and friend, Oscar De La Hoya, in what will be one of the most talked about and highest grossing non-heavyweight prize fights in the sport's history. If that fight goes as De La Hoya plans, which is to say that the bigger man beats the smaller one, that is good for him and seemingly better for Mosley because it may add to what is suddenly a growing list of opponents with whom the three-time world champion can make big noise and, more to the point, big money.
Just over a year ago however, Mosley seemed to be a man fighting for his fistic life. After having lost back-to-back fights to Winky Wright in 2004 following his second win over De La Hoya, Mosley was adrift. He and his father and lifelong trainer, Jack, had split and there was little call for his services. Mosley continued to fight but after a no contest against Raul Marquez following the second Wright fight, there was little interest in seeing him again as a top of the marquee attraction.
But Mosley fought on against whomever would get in with him until he struck a promotional deal with De La Hoya's company, Golden Boy Promotions, and thus began his resurrection with the aide of a man he had twice dethroned. Although he had beaten De La Hoya in the ring, together they mapped out a plan that not only put Mosley back into a high profile fight with another former De La Hoya opponent, Fernando Vargas, but also began a redemptive process that now has Mosley one more win away from several multi-million dollar fight possibilities himself.
That's because he twice stopped the game but outgunned Vargas, the second time knocking the well shot foremr junior middleweight champion out. That victory last July 15 was Mosley's first by knockout in five years, a concussive declaration that he was again someone the boxing public could not ignore.
Those wins convinced him however that his true place was not at 154 but rather at the welterweight limit of 147 and so he has gone back there to take on Collazo, a southpaw 10 years his junior who believes firmly that while Mosley may have the bigger reputation and the more impressive resume what he doesn't have is what Collazo feels will make the difference - young legs.
"It's time for Shane to pass the torch,'' Collazo (27-2, 13 KO) claims. "This is my time. He isn't the same Shane Mosley of 10 years ago.''
If he's right that would change everything for Mosley for he cannot afford at 35 to lose to such a man. But Mosley believes his time has finally come and so does Golden Boy's president, Richard Schaefer, whose company has mapped out a plan for Mosley that could include a big-money fight with Mayweather as well or a unification fight at 147 with the winner of the Antonio Margarito-Miguel Cotto showdown.
Either would carry with it great drama both in and out of the ring. For Mosley, the challenges would be obvious, as would the rewards. For Golden Boy, which is a rising star in the promotional end of the sport, it would not only put one of their equity partners and star attractions back into the kind of match people talk about before it happens rather than just after it but it would also pit their company against the man De La Hoya fought for for so long, Bob Arum.
For any of that to occure, Mosley must avoid backsliding, as he did in fights against lesser opposition like David Estrada and Jose Luis Cruz before he stopped Vargas. He won those fights but looked disinterested and was underwhelming, acts that call an older fighter's future into immediate question. He cannot afford such a performance against the slick boxing Collazo, who has the skills and quickness to make anyone look bad if he's not outgunned, because although victory is the true aim impressive performances are demanded a this age to retain the public's interest in his future.
Mosley and Schaefer are expecting both the former and the latter, knowing that much lies in the balance at a time when most fighters are watching their career wind down.
"Shane had a big year last year with those two wins over Fernando Vargas,'' Schaefer said. "Short of Oscar, Shane felt there was no one to fight in the 154 pound division so he moved back to 147. If everything goes well Feb. 10 Shane would be in position to fight Margarito or Cotto and when Floyd loses to Oscar he'll realize 154 pounds is not the right weight for him and move back to 147. It's like Oscar found out against Bernard (Hopkins). He learned he wasn't a middleweight but he moved back to 154 and had a big fight there against (Ricardo) Mayorga and now one with Floyd.
"When the fight goes the way we believe it will, Floyd can do the same thing. He can go back to 147 and face Shane and it would be a big fight.''
Following Mosley's sixth round knockout of Vargas last July, he met with Schaefer, De La Hoya and Golden Boy's smart young matchmaker, Eric Gomez, to sort out his future. According to Schaefer, De La Hoya told Mosley he had no problem if he wanted to fight Mayweather first in November but Mosley decided to take more time off to rest and recover from the two Vargas fights, which were taxing both in preparation and execution. That meant he would not get the first shot at the undefeated Mayweather if De La Hoya decided to fight once more in May but all sides agreed that Mosley had other opponents with whom he could make money and win titles with.
Originally, Mosley thought that would be IBF welterweight champion Kermit Cintron but things did not turn out that way because of (what else?) promotional problems between Cintron and his alleged benefactors. That left Mosley with a decision to make and he opted to face Collazo, who had lost the WBA version of the welterweight title to Ricky Hatton last year in a hotly disputed decision Mosley seems to feel went to the wrong guy.
"You can say he's the uncrowned champion,'' Mosley (43-4, 37 KO) says now. "That fight with Hatton should have been a draw at best. Luis is a rising star and a difficult guy to fight because he's a southpaw and because he'll come with everything he has to try and beat me.''
Mosley believes he has too much skill and power for the light-hitting Collazo to deal with effectively and his opponent's left-handed stance does not concern him. Neither does the consequences of the fight for him, although Mosley understands at 35 there is little room for error, especially in a fight like this one against a younger opponent the public may be taking more lightly than his skills warrant. Most importantly, he and Golden Boy understand what the future holds if Mosley can win again in the same kind of devastatingly dominate fashion he showed against the older, slower and valiant but long-vanquished Vargas.
"Shane has a lot of ways he can go if he beats Collazo,'' Schaefer explained. "If a Mosley-Mayweather fight doesn't happen he can choose from a unification fight with Cintron or one with the Margarito-Cotto winner or he can go and fight Diego Corrales, who I 'm not sure can make 140 pounds any more. if Chico decides to move up to welterweight it's another opportunity for Shane. We can put together a long list of potential big opponents for Shane Mosley.''
Such a statement would be remarkable if said about all but a handful of fighters Mosley's age but all the moreso because only a year ago he was at a crossroads. The winner of the Vargas-Mosley fights might have the ability to cash another check or two but to have a future something spectacular had to happen. Mosley made that happen after going five years without a knockout win and Schaefer believes part of the formula was the odd pairing of Mosley, De La Hoya, Hopkins and Marco Antonio Barrera into share holders in the fastest-growing promotional company in the sport.
The same thing happened to Shane after the fights with Winky Wright. Then they came together as business partners and became The Four Musketeers. They've re-energized each other. You see it at ringside, When one of them is fighting the others are there pulling for each other.
"I saw the same thing with Marco coming off being stopped by Manny Pacquiao and Bernard after his losses to Jermain Taylor,'' Schaefer said. "People wrote them off. The same thing happened to Shane after the fights with Winky Wright. Then they came together as business partners and became The Four Musketeers. They've re-energized each other. You see it at ringside, When one of them is fighting the others are there pulling for each other. They all wanted to prove they were older but they weren't done.''
Mosley is the latest to have done that with his wins over Vargas. He is back to being one win away from the big stage he once trod upon when he was widely considered the best lightweight and later perhaps the best welterweight in the world. In those days following his first victory over De La Hoya he was also talked about on a short list of candidates for pound-for-pound best fighter in the world. It has been some years since Mosley's name appeared on that list but today it is on a more important one. It's on a short list of guys with a future in boxing. All he has to do to maintain it is what all boxers, young and old, must do when the bell rings. He has to fight and he has to win.
If Mosley does that on Feb. 10 he won't have to worry about his boxing future. He'll only have to worry about picking the right guy from a list of opportunities waiting for him. In the end, that may be his greatest accomplishment. Greater in some ways than his three world titles in three weight classes because the hardest thing to do in boxing, or in life, is not to win. It's to come back from defeat. Shane Mosley has done that. Where he Where he goes from here is up to Luis Collazo and, more importantly, up to him.