There are several reasons to see the confirmation that Manny Pacquiao and Shane Mosley will meet on May 7 as neither the worst nor most-surprising news ever.
After all, although we like to think otherwise, this business always has been less about rewarding the most-deserving fighters than it is about making the fights that make the most money.
If you don’t believe that, ask yourself how in the hell 45-year-old George Foreman got a title shot at undefeated heavyweight champion Michael Moorer in 1994. Foreman hadn’t fought since losing a decision against Tommy Morrison 17 months before. Ray Leonard had been off for three years when he entered the ring against middleweight champ Marvelous Marvin Hagler in 1987. And Muhammad Ali hadn’t been near a ring in two years when he got a shot at heavyweight champion Larry Holmes in 1980.
Those fights didn’t happen because Foreman, Leonard and Ali earned them. They happened because Foreman, Leonard and Ali were among the most popular figures in sports at the time, and everyone knew the fights would do big business. Mosley is Charley Burley in comparison.
Mosley isn’t the world’s most-popular fighter by a long shot, but, as Bob Arum has said, people who don’t follow boxing as closely as you do know his name and probably remember that he beat Oscar De La Hoya twice, more or less.
It won’t matter to the casual fans that Mosley looked God-awful against Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Sergio Mora, or that if you exclude the Antonio Margarito fight, he hasn’t looked very good since beating Luis Collazo in 2007. (And no, I don’t include the close loss to Miguel Cotto; Cotto’s jab had Mosley looking like a bobble head doll over the entire first half of the fight.) Those fights won’t matter to the casual fans because they didn’t see them.
Also, sometimes a guy isn’t as shot as he looks. Evander Holyfield was stopped by Riddick Bowe and struggled in a win over Bobby Czyz in his previous two fights before overcoming huge betting odds to stop Mike Tyson in their first fight. So who knows? Mosley could hit Pacquiao on the chin and knock him stiff. Those things happen. That’s why we watch.
Finally, you’ll get no hand-wringing from me about the possibility that Pacquiao will really hurt Mosley, or at the least significantly shorten his cognitive lifespan. Mosley is a grown man fully aware of the risks he takes, and if he doesn’t mind having a working vocabulary of about 11 words when he’s 50, well, then, who am I to deny him a $9-million payday? It seems a fair enough trade-off to me, and even if it didn’t, it’s none of my damned business.
Which brings us to this: Mosley is recently-divorced, and if you know anything about that, you know the guy needs a payday. A big one. Jin is not exactly the coupon-cutting, dollar-store type, so unless you want to see “Sugar Shane” struggling against firemen and dishwashers for $1,500 a fight on ESPN2 five years from now, you should be happy he’s getting the big score, no matter the circumstances.
Even with all that, and regardless of the outcome, the fight is an abomination, mostly because of the cynicism, greed and arrogance that have gone into its making. Arum, who has always demonstrated an acute disdain for the truth, nevertheless has had no problem telling various news outlets that he couldn’t care less about what the hardcore boxing fans want.
What a remarkable stand Arum has taken for one who has made his living off the backs of those very fans and whose numbers he has helped to drive down with just the kind of business modeling used in the making of this fight. Because what do you think will occur in the minds of all those casual fans who buy the fight and then realize a couple rounds in that Mosley is a few months shy of his 40th birthday and getting decimated by the best prizefighter in the world?
Here’s what it won’t be: Boy, I can’t wait to buy the next big pay-per-view fight. I don’t feel ripped off at all.
It doesn’t help either that we’ve been led to believe, one way or another, that Pacquiao is above all that, that he’s the kind of prizefighter who values his legacy and reputation as much as he does how many more millions he can sink into his many bank accounts and political aspirations. We thought he was the exception, that he was better than all that. We were wrong.
We’ve felt the same way about Freddie Roach over the years, that he’s a straight-shooter and an honorable man and yet here he is parroting Arum, being a good company man, building up Mosley when he knows as well as anyone the man can’t fight anymore.
Sell, baby, sell.
Besides that, those of us who didn’t have a big problem with Pacquiao-Margarito — another challenger who hadn’t earned the right – let it slide largely because we figured Pacquiao was too much of a pro to take another nonsense fight right afterward, that he would make up for it next time, with the next opponent. With the right opponent.
He can’t make up for it with Mosley, regardless of what happens. The fight is trash. You know it. Everyone involved in making it knows it. And they know you know it. They just don’t care.
The only way to reconcile it emotionally is to root for Mosley to knock Pacquiao on his ass. The downside is Arum will say it was proof the critics don’t know anything, that he knew all along it was a big risk for Pacquiao.
We’ll know better.
Some random observations from last week:
If you’re Sam Peter, you’ve got to love all these sanctioning bodies running around. Peter was run into the ground by both Brothers Klitschko, but reportedly is in the mix for an IBF eliminator with Tomasz Adamek. Who does he think he is, Oleg Maskaev? …
Berto reportedly isn’t mad at anyone for having been passed over for the shot at Pacquiao. How gracious of him. He wanted Pacquiao like he wanted typhoid. …
Congratulations to Steve Farhood, to whom the Boxing Writers Association of American awarded the Nat Fleischer Award for excellent in boxing journalism. It’s long overdue. …
News from Germany is that Arthur Abraham is going to take a tune-up before meeting Andre Ward in the next leg of the Super Six tourney. Good for him, though it seems a bit late in his career to start thinking about improving. That ship has sailed. But hey, at least he didn’t bail on the tournament. Way to go, Artie. …
I hear some folks don’t like the new Round Card Girl section in the redesigned Ring. This confounds me. Sports and hot women go together like Gary Shaw and cheese blintzes. …
Pacquiao fans have made scanning the reader comments at the end of our columns more entertaining than ever. I’m considering writing a column entirely about Len Wickwar or Billy Conn just to see how many Pac-maniacs feel compelled to chime in for no apparent reason that Manny is the greatest ever. …
Still seeing blowback from the Pascal-Hopkins draw. Still don’t get it. B-Hop was down twice in the other guy’s hometown. What did you expect? …
So is Marco Antonio Barrera going to fight again, or isn’t he? And if he is, let’s just cut to the chase and get him and Erik Morales together again all right? …
Kudos to Koki Kameda for jumping up all the way from flyweight to bantam — an amount equal in weight to one my chins — and taking apart the useful Alexander Munoz. …
Those of you who have been keeping track of the Quick Picks results on Ring Theory know that the 2010 competition has come to an unfavorable end for co-host Eric Raskin, who proved a worthy but inevitably doomed adversary.
Bill Dettloff, THE RING magazine’s Senior Writer, is working on a biography of Ezzard Charles. Bill can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org