Shane Mosley was born on September 7th, 1971 in Lynnwood, California. Like so many of the sport’s best, he learned how to box early, at the tender age of 8. Mosley had a good amateur career at a time when there were a lot of talented American fighters of his age group. His amateur boxing record was 250-16, and included the lightweight 1989 and 1990 US Amateur Championship, the 1990 Goodwill Games Bronze Medal, and then a move up in weight for the 1992 US Amateur Championship at junior welterweight. However, Mosley was denied a place on the 1992 Olympic Boxing Team when he lost at the trials to Vernon Forrest. Another future Mosley rival, Oscar de la Hoya, secured a berth on that team at Mosley’s old slot of lightweight.
“Sugar” Shane turned pro in February 1993 at lightweight. His rise as a fighter was typical of many novice boxers on the make: a steady, busy dance card featuring plenty of tomato cans and journeymen. It was not until August 1997 that Mosley got to show his stuff, in a title shot against undefeated Philip Holiday of South Africa. That night, Holiday was making the 7th defense of his IBF belt, and on the way he had beaten an undefeated Ivan Robinson. Mosley showed the speed, grace, and power that would become his hallmarks, and soundly defeated Holiday in a Unanimous Decision.
The win over Holiday opened a superb reign as IBF lightweight champion. From late 1997 to early 1999, Mosley defended his title in a dominating fashion that compelled even the mainstream sport’s world to take notice. He defended the title 8 times, and won every bout by knockout or stoppage, including big wins over the likes of John John Molina, Jesse James Leija, and Golden Johnson.
Unable to make 135 lbs any longer, Mosley made the jump straight to welterweight and the big money fights to be had at that weight, skipping the intermediate 140 lbs division entirely. He set out to make a statement by meeting Wilfredo Rivera of Puerto Rico in his first bout at 147 lbs. Rivera had given the defensive wizard Pernell Whittaker a pair of tough fights in losing efforts, and proved equally obdurate against Oscar de la Hoya. Yet it was Mosley who stopped the rugged Puerto Rican, scoring a clean knockout with 22 seconds remaining in the 10th and final round.
In June 2000, Mosley challenged WBC Welterweight Champion Oscar de la Hoya. Both from L.A., the two men had been long-time crosstown rivals, but had somehow never met as amateurs. Mosley was undefeated, and many felt that de la Hoya’s sole defeat – a points loss to Felix Trinidad – had been a robbery. In a highly spirited contest, Mosley used a combination of speed and switch hitting to keep the Golden Boy off balance and win a Split Decision victory. This time, while everyone thought it had been a closely fought battle, hardly anyone thought Oscar had won it. Mosley thus became the first man who could claim a clean, undisputed win over de la Hoya.
Having fought such top flight opposition for so long, Mosley took some time off and earned some paydays, making three easy defenses over the next two years. The next time he got in the ring with a real contender, it was with his bitter amateur rival, Vernon Forrest.
The Long Waterloo
Sometimes it is the case with a great fighter that, despite all the skill, speed, and power in the world, some other guy just has your number. For Oscar de la Hoya, those guys are the ones who are faster than he is. In the case of Mosley, it’s with tall, rangy boxers who can sharpshoot from the outside. That is what Vernon “The Viper” Forrest was. Following a bad clash of heads in the 2nd Round, both men were badly staggered and Mosley gashed on the hairline. Yet it was Forrest who capitalized, following up and knocking Mosley down twice. After that, Mosley was off his game for the rest of the fight, as Forrest stacked up the points for a decisive Unanimous Decision victory. Mosley had lost his title and his undefeated status to the main who kept him from going to the Olympics.
Mosley showed his character and self-confidence, however. Following his March 2003 defeat, he sought a rematch as soon as possible, which he got in November. Mosley made that a much closer contest, but he once again lost on points. Forrest, it seemed, just had his number.
Blocked by Forrest at 147 lbs, Mosley moved up to 154 lbs. He made his debut in his new weight class against former champion and Olympian Raul Marquez, but that was declared a No Contest after 3 Rounds due to a clash of heads, which opened a pair of nasty cuts opened on the brow of Marquez. That led to a September 2003 rematch with Oscar de la Hoya, now the WBC-WBA 154 lbs champion. Unlike their first bout, this time de la Hoya came prepared to adjust to Mosley’s speed and his near-ambidextrious switch-hitting. Some observers thought de la Hoya did enough to win, but most agree that Mosley’s late rounds rally clinched the win for him. This, however, was tarnished by a later admission in 2003 that Mosley had been taking steroids to prepare for the bout.
Mosley took his new championship into a bout with IBF 154 lbs Champion Ronald “Winky” Wright. This proved to be another case of a fighter who had Mosley’s number. Although less of a sharpshooter than Forrest, Wright was still a taller guy with plenty of reach on Mosley, and a southpaw counter-puncher with an awkward defense. What still posed a problem for Mosley was a guy who could handily potshot him from the outside. Wright decisively beat him when they met in March 2004. As with Forrest, Mosley demanded and got a rematch, and just like before he improved on his performance, but not enough to change the results. The November rematch was a much closer fight, scored as a Majority Decision for Wright, but Mosley still clearly lost. Wright walked away with the Undisputed Championship, and it can be easily said that Wright’s fame was built largely on his two victories over Mosley.
Of his big fights, Mosley had lost 4 of 6. The only name he had beaten was Oscar de la Hoya. While he showed plenty of guys and heart in taking on Forrest and Wright so soon after losing to them, guys named “Sugar” are supposed to win. Commentators began wondering if perhaps Mosley was not over-rated.
In February 2006, the Sugarman fought a crossroads bout with Fernando Vargas, and won with a 10th Round stoppage. This time it was Vargas who demanded a rematch, and Mosley gave it to him in July. The results pretty much finished Vargas’s reputation as a top fighter, as Mosley hammered him flat with a picture-perfect left hook in the 6th. He consolidated his status by returning to welterweight, taking on fringe contender Luis Collazo, knocking him down and outpointing him.
In November 2007, Mosley fought the rising star of Puerto Rico, Miguel Cotto for the WBA title. Cotto was undefeated and 27 years old; Mosley was an old lion at 36. However, the old lion gave the hottest prospect of a new generation of welterweights a hard run for his money in an exciting battle that saw the momentum change hands more than half a dozen times. It was a close run thing, but Mosley just barely lost it.
Needing a win and a payday, Mosley went north to 154 again and fought the Nicaraguan thug Ricardo Mayorga. It proved to be a tougher fight than many expected, as Mayorga displayed his often-neglected (and hence, underestimated) boxing skills. However, Mosley pulled out his statement by knocking out Mayorga in the 12th Round.
With commentators whispering that Mosley was getting old and ready to be taken, he got another shot at a welterweight title. This time it was against the Mexican monster who had walked down and destroyed Miguel Cotto, Antonio Margarito. Few thought Mosley had a chance against Margarito, and some thought he would be seriously hurt. However, in what might be remembered as his career-defining performance, Mosley turned back the clock and put on the kind of fearsome display of speed, power, grace, and skill that made him famous, stopping the Mexican in the 9th (this was also the bout where Mosley trainer caught Margarito and his camp in an attempt to pack Margarito’s hand-wraps with plaster).
As the man many consider to be the leading welterweight champion, Mosley is currently frozen out of the mega-fight picture. Manny Pacquiao is set to fight Mosley’s old foe Miguel Cotto, and Floyd Mayweather is awaiting the winner of that contest. That effectively locks Sugar Shane off the dance cards of his two most logical options: a showdown with Mosley or a rematch with Cotto. Instead, he is probably going to tangle with Joshua Clottey of Ghana in December 2009.
Sources: hbo.com; boxrec.com; live fight footage