Tuesday, April 17, 2007


They’ve known each other since they were small boys fighting their way up and their way out. They were stars of the Los Angeles amateur scene nearly 25 years ago and those who saw them when they were teenage boys knew someday that something big was in the cards for the pair of them. But nobody could have predicted the hand they were dealt would contain a fortune of notoriety, stardom and riches.

They fought each other as amateurs and twice again as pros and although they were fierce rivals they have always had a mutual respect for one another. Eventually they would team up and become business partners. Now, as Oscar De La Hoya prepares for one of the biggest fights of his career against Floyd Mayweather, Jr. – Shane Mosley is there to lend his friend a helping hand. They are otherwise known as “The Golden Boy” and “Sugar” and together they have forged a friendship that contradicts the violence of their chosen profession.

In a move that surprised many veteran watchers of the fight game, Shane Mosley volunteered to serve as a sparring partner in order to help his friend prepare for one of his most significant challenges. He recently flew to De La Hoya’s training camp in Puerto Rico, unloaded all of his boxing gear and made his way straight to the gym.

Mosley is as nice a person as you will find in the trenches of what the great Hugh McIlvanney called “The Hardest Game”. For him, the thought of helping a friend in need was something he took no time to think about. The boyish Mosley is eager to do what he can to ensure a De La Hoya victory. “Well, I mean, we’ve always been friends”, says the affable Mosley. “I’ve been sparring with Oscar for a long time. So, I know Oscar very well…since we were kids. I sparred with him before he went to the Olympics (in 1992). I missed the Olympics and I had to help him out for that, you know, so I’ve always worked with him. We’ve always been friends and we’ve traveled around the world together as amateurs. We grew up together.”

Exactly one year ago, just after De La Hoya had separated Nicaragua’s Ricardo Mayorga from his unpredictable senses after six rounds of fury, the fight between Oscar De La Hoya and Floyd Mayweather, Jr. was conceived. At the post fight press conference, it was “Pretty Boy” Floyd that was making the case to anybody that would listen that it was he who should get the next shot at De La Hoya because, as he said, “If it makes dollars it makes sense.”

The fight, which will take place at The MGM Grand Garden in Las Vegas in only 2 ½ weeks is going to make a lot of dollars. Many have begun calling it the biggest fight in boxing since Lennox Lewis fought Mike Tyson back in 2002. If ticket sales, which sold out in one day, resulting in the largest live gate in Nevada history, is any indication of the widespread interest the fight is generating, it should be a pay-per view blockbuster.

Mark Taffett, the guru of HBO’s pay-per view arm thinks this fight could break records. “We know we have a special event on our hands. This is a bone fide mega-fight. It’s the SuperBowl of boxing and a Hollywood movie premiere all in one. We believe that this fight is special because it’s the biggest and the best participants in the sport going at it. The fight will take its place among the biggest events in pay-per view history.”

For Shane Mosley, a champion in three weight divisions, his involvement in De La Hoya’s training camp is as a non-paid volunteer. Though he will make money off the promotion because of his partnership in Golden Boy Promotions, his actual work as De La Hoya’s sparring partner is totally voluntary.

It’s similar to the storyline in Rocky III when Apollo Creed helped Rocky Balboa prepare for his big heavyweight championship rematch against Clubber Lang. It’s a sure case of life imitating art and you can think of Mosley as Creed, De La Hoya as Balboa and Mayweather, Jr. in the role of the crude and vitriolic Lang.

As a sparring partner, Mosley is the perfect foil and he tells the story of how this unlikely scenario came to be. “It originated a while back, way before they even signed the fight”, explains Shane. “They kind of thought, you know, ‘What do you think about sparring with Oscar and kind of helping him?’ Because I’m basically similar to Mayweather with the speed, I told them, ‘No problem.’ Then, when it came up again after they signed the fight, I was like ‘Just send me out there and I’m ready to go, you know, no problem.’ I love to be in the ring, I love to workout, I love to train and I love to help out a fellow friend.”

Mayweather, Jr., who fancies himself as the new age fighter in this villainous era of hip-hop, predictably sneered at the idea of Mosley serving as a sparring partner for his boyhood friend. Floyd has never been one to mince words and he’s also a world champion of trash-talking. Nobody escapes Mayweather’s forked tongue and he likes to get his licks in verbally whenever the opportunity presents itself. “If Shane Mosley is a sparring partner, then that’s what he is”, barked Floyd. “That’s all Shane Mosley’s ever been, was a sparring partner. I can’t really say nothing bad about Shane because he’s not his own boss. If I’m going to say anything or talk about Shane, I’m gonna talk to his wife or I’m gonna talk to Oscar because they’re his bosses. So all I can say is Shane ain’t nothin’ but a sparring partner.”

Mosley, ever the diplomatic gentleman would not be drawn into Mayweather’s crass war of words. When asked what he thought of Floyd’s comments, Mosley took the high road. “I really don’t care about what Mayweather said. I’ve always worked with Oscar. I’ve sparred with him a lot of times. I spar with a lot of world champions to get them ready for their fights. So, those comments really don’t bother me. I’m having a good time in Puerto Rico. I came out here to help Oscar to sharpen up his tools so he can be ready to fight with Floyd.”

De La Hoya should surely benefit from working with Mosley. The conundrum in preparing for a fighter of Mayweather’s unique talent is finding someone that can match his eclectic blend of reflexes, speed and quickness. Mosley, among his many talents, is a skilled mimic when it comes to imitating fighting styles and he possesses the same savvy that Mayweather does.

“I’m just as fast as Mayweather and that’s going to help Oscar”, says Mosley. “That’s going to help him be able to think when he gets in there with Mayweather who is not as strong as I am, but I’m not out here throwing hard shots. I’m out here doing nothing but speed, a lot of speed, a lot of movement, a lot of what Mayweather will do. Anything and everything that Mayweather does, I’m trying to give it to him where he can have it. Left hooks, fast jabs and right hands. I’m giving him the works where he’ll be prepared when he gets in the ring.”

The book on how to beat the 30 year-old Mayweather has not yet been written. At 37-0 (24) knockouts, he has never been off his feet and he has barely been tested in his 11 year pro career. Along the way he has won titles at 130, 135, 140 and 147 pounds and he’ll be going for a title in a fifth weight division when he meets De La Hoya at 154 pounds. Mayweather is a physical marvel and disciplined taskmaster who is never out of shape and is continuously training to hone is body to a fine point.

Mosley has been watching his friend training under the auspices of trainer Freddie Roach, and so far he is impressed with De La Hoya’s progress. “Oscar has been looking very sharp and I think Freddie is working on making sure that he has more confidence in his right hand. His right hand is very hard. I felt it the other day. I think Oscar wants to make it a physical fight and he wants to stay close and cut off the ring and stuff like that but fight a physical, smart fight – not a fight where he’s just walking into punches. It’s the type of fight where he’s giving him angles as he’s coming in and cutting off the ring and giving him that sense of presence that he’s bigger and stronger and he’s going to knock him out.”

For the 33 year-old De La Hoya, now in the certain twilight of a brilliant career, it’s one of the first times that he’ll go into a fight as an underdog. The betting odds against him on May 5th are 2 ½ to 1 and he’ll have to draw on all of his ring experience to overcome Mayweather’s spastic style. That’s part of the reason De La Hoya asked his friend to come to his training camp and help him. “You can’t get any better sparring for him and for myself”, says De La Hoya as he smiles. “So, it’s like killing two birds with one stone. You know, we’re working together and obviously he’s a great champion. He’s gonna’ get great work out of it too, just like myself. It’s perfect that he can come down here and do me the favor.”

Only one question remains: “Who will win on May 5th?”

Well, Shane Mosley thinks he has the answer to that question and of course it’s no surprise that he’s in his friend’s corner. He and De La Hoya have known each other for nearly 25 years and he knows his friend well. “When Oscar gets to Vegas he’s going to do an absolutely great job”, says Shane. “Without giving too much away, I think that Oscar is probably too big and most likely is going to catch Floyd later on in the fight.”

Helping a friend train, becoming a loyal business partner and offering moral support. That’s the special relationship that Shane Mosley and Oscar De La Hoya have developed over their lifetimes in this game they call boxing – and that’s what friends are for.

April 2007

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