LAS VEGAS – Most of us aren’t taking Shane Mosley very seriously in his uphill battle against Manny Pacquiao at the MGM Grand on Saturday. That includes the MGM oddsmakers, who have made Pacquiao a prohibitive 6½-1 favorite.
Team Pacquiao isn’t among that group.
From the start, Pacquiao and his handlers have expressed nothing but respect for Mosley, 39, even though he looked all of his years in a near-shutout loss to Floyd Mayweather Jr. and draw against Sergio Mora in his last two fights.
Mosley certainly is no Antonio Margarito, Pacquiao’s last opponent.
“Margarito is a tough guy,” said Freddie Roach, Pacquiao's longtime trainer, “and tough guys aren’t going to beat guys like Shane or Manny Pacquiao. We have two good boxers in the fight. They’re both technically very well-rounded boxers.”
Pacquaio has done what he almost always does, work hard and say the right things.
Normally he eases into his training, though, according to Roach. Not this time. From day one of this camp, he pushed himself as hard or harder than ever.
Why? Respect for Mosley, Roach said.
“Shane Mosley can’t be underestimated,” has been Pacquiao’s mantra since this fight was announced.
Roach attributed Mosley’s performances against Mayweather and Mora more to styles than any failings or deficiencies on his part, suggesting that Pacquiao’s style is more-suited to the aging champion.
“If both of them were aggressive, if they came to him, they would’ve been different fights,” he said. “That was a matter bad matchmaking with his team. He’s never done that well against that type of fighter, movers, in his life.
“Manny’s not that type of fighter. Manny is an aggressive guy.”
Therein might lie Mosley’s best chance to win the fight.
Why not do what Mayweather and Mora did? Why not stay out of danger and box his way to a one-sided decision, which Pacquiao probably could do?
Roach said Pacquiao will be Pacquiao, a fighter at heart. The trainer can only hope the fighter attacks intelligently.
“We can’t just walk into the fire,” he said. “We have to walk in with some intelligence. … We have a good game plan, which is to use our footwork to keep him guessing so he doesn’t know whether we’re coming or going. That’s’ the key to the fight.
“… We want to start quickly. We want a fast pace because we don’t think he can maintain a fast pace at this stage of his life.”
Playing nice: The final news conference before the fight on Saturday was about as friendly as it gets. Pacquiao, who despises trash talk, called it his favorite promotion for that reason.
However, there was a moment that seemed to irk Mosley and his trainer, Naazim Richardson.
Promoter Bob Arum was in the process of calling Pacquiao up to the lectern to speak during the formal portion of the event when he announced that the part-time crooner planned to sing as his post-fight party Saturday night.
Mosley and Richardson both blanched at that comment, appearing to take offense with the idea of Mosley’s opponent being in any condition to sing after the fight.
Richardson wouldn’t bite when asked about Arum’s comment, though. He said Pacquiao simply wants to promote his new single – “Sometimes When We Touch” – and took no exception on the record.
“I come from a neighborhood where people do illegal things to get their hustle on,” he said. “I respect a man doing something legal to get his hustle on. He was just promoting his album.”
Home away from home: Pacquiao has had some of his biggest fights at the MGM’s Grand Garden Arena, where he is 4-1-1 going into Saturday’s fight.
The first fight, against then junior featherweight titleholder Lehlo Ledwaba in 2001, catapulted him into our consciousness. He was a late replacement for Enrique Sanchez yet put Ledwaba down three times and stopped him in six rounds.
“I was such an underdog, like 20-1,” he said. “I took the fight on two weeks’ notice.”
Pacquiao also stopped Oscar De La Hoya in eight rounds at the MGM, making him a superstar. And his breath-taking one-punch knockout of Ricky Hatton in the second round might be his most-spectacular victory. He also stopped Miguel Cotto there.
The setbacks? His loss to Erik Morales in 2005, the last time he fought and didn't win, and his draw with Juan Manuel Marquez in 2004.