By Matthew Aguilar



There were some dark days for Shane Mosley. Days when those early-career comparisons to the other “Sugars” – Ray Robinson and Ray Leonard – seemed preposterous. Like July 20, 2002 – the night Mosley wrestled and clinched and mauled with nemesis Vernon Forrest, but did very little meaningful punching in losing a dreadful 12-round decision in Indianapolis. It still ranks among the most boring fights of the last decade, and, besides it being Mosley’s second consecutive loss to Forrest , it served as the beginning of this Sugar’s slow decline into boxing’s peripheral.

Then there were the back-to-back losses to Winky Wright in 2004. After the second encounter, even though he was much more competitive than he had been in the first, you had to figure Mosley’s days as a top attraction were limited.

The speed, the power, the skills – all the things that seemed to make Mosley so exciting and so special early on – were gone. All that was left, it appeared, was a huge fighting heart.

So it is a little strange that Mosley, three years removed from that second loss to Wright, is again one of boxing’s top fighters. And he didn’t do it by winning some cheap plastic alphabet belt against a no-name from South America. He did it the old-fashioned way – fighting, building a five-fight win streak, beating a big name, and getting back into a rhythm.  And, somehow, Mosley has regained the spectacular form that allowed him to beat Oscar De La Hoya and reel off three of the most impressive welterweight title defenses you’ll ever see earlier in the decade.

That’s the Shane Mosley that Miguel Cotto will meet Saturday at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The one who throws blazing combinations, digs lasers to the body, and thinks that he’s unbeatable. The one who made De La Hoya wince with a body shot of their 2000 title fight in Los Angeles. The one who dropped Shannan Taylor and Adrian
Stone with hydrogen bombs.

Not the tentative, confused, unsure fighter who lost to Forrest and Wright. In other words, Cotto is in for the fight of his life.
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly where Mosley began to regain his confidence, and his form. It surely wasn’t September 2003, when he beat De La Hoya for the second time on a controversial decision in Las Vegas. Most people thought De La Hoya won that one, and, truth be told, both fighters looked past their peaks.
It wasn’t the pedestrian decisions over David Estrada and Jose Luis Cruz in 2005. But those two wins did put him back on the road to superstar status. He began to find himself again.

When he was matched with Fernando Vargas in 2006, it seemed to reinvigorate Mosley – much like in 1983, when a previously horrible Roberto Duran was matched with Pipino Cuevas and suddenly became inspired. Like Duran, Mosley was motivated again, probably because he was facing a fellow Californian and a fellow former world champion.
Whatever it was, it worked. And Mosley dominated Vargas over two fights.
Sure, Vargas was past his prime. Sure, he was suffering from injuries. But Mosley looked like his old self again, especially in the rematch. Up on his toes, bouncing, boxing, Sugar flattened Vargas with a beauty of a left hook.

Mosley continued the march back to elite status in January, when he dominated another former champ, Luis Collazo – the same Collazo who came within a hair of dethroning 140-pound champ Ricky Hatton.

There was no controversy, as in the Hatton struggle. Mosley won easily. And impressively. When news broke this summer that Mosley would be facing Cotto, the boxing world rejoiced. It seemed like such a perfect matchup. The young, future superstar against the experienced ex-champ. But it’s much more than speed vs. power, boxer vs. puncher. Because both guys can box, and both guys can punch. Both are peaking (strange for the 36-year-old Mosley). Both are fighting at their prime weights. The stars have aligned. This is the fight boxing needed. And, by the end of it, it may be a history-maker.
If common sense were to be considered, the 27-year-old Cotto is the winner. He is younger, he is supposedly stronger, and he is on the way up. As  HBO’s Jim Lampley put it, Cotto is like a freight train that is so engrained on the tracks that nothing can knock it off. But there have been similar upsets in the past.

Remember, in 1986, when a streaking Donald Curry, thought to be one of the top two best pound-for-pound fighters in boxing, was upset by Lloyd Honeyghan? Or a year later, when up-and-comer Mark Breland was upset by old wily veteran Marlon Starling? It can happen.
And, Saturday in the Apple, it will happen.

Cotto, 30-0 (25 knockouts), has improved tremendously over the last several years. Every facet of his game is complete. But the 5-foot-7 slugger will still be at a decided speed disadvantage against the 5-9 Mosley, who, surprisingly, still possesses blinding quickness. As a result, Cotto will be consistently beaten to the punch, his natural strength and aggressiveness effective only in spurts.

Yes, the Puerto Rican strongman will land his share of blows, and he might even rock Mosley once or twice. But he won’t drop him, because Mosley’s chin – which has survived the bombs of De La Hoya twice, Vargas, Forrest, and a bigger Wright - is carved from granite.  Cotto’s? Not so much.

Getting wobbled by Zab Judah last June is one thing. But getting hurt by DeMarcus Corley and Ricardo Torres is another. Torres, a very good puncher but far from an elite fighter, had Cotto down twice and severely hurt in their 2005 war. Cotto showed great courage in surviving the onslaught. But his chin almost ruined him.

Pomona, California’s Mosley, 44-4 (37 KOs), fighting at a more comfortable 147 pounds – where he should have been fighting all along - will take advantage, and hurt Cotto early with quick, searing combinations. Remember, he has been fighting much bigger fighters over the last few years. Cotto will feel his power.

Mosley will also batter the Puerto Rican to the body – something Mosley was known for during his heyday.

Cotto will fight back hard, as usual, landing his own thumping body shots. And the fight will still be in question entering the late rounds.

But Mosley will begin to turn it on down the stretch. And, by the championship rounds, Cotto will be battered, bruised and bloodied from numerous cuts.

Mosley will drop him with the same kind of left hook that dropped Vargas in the 11th round. Cotto will gamely get up, and re-enter the fray. But to no avail. Mosley's followup attack will finish him along the ropes.

And the new millennium’s edition of “Sugar” will then fit right in with those other Sugars. Mosley TKO 11.


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