When Fernando Vargas and Shane Mosley finally share a boxing ring February 25, at the Mandalay Bay Casino in Las Vegas, they will both have one thing in common. Both fighters will be fighting for their professional career, with each desperately needing a win over a marquee name fighter, if either of them wants to continue to fight on a world-stage platform. Many pundits have scoffed at this Saturday’s match-up as a fight that was roughly six years too late in the making, but the reality is that this bout will likely be just as competitive as it would have been back in 2000, albeit for entirely different reasons than fight fans would have ever guessed a half decade ago.
Shane Mosley, a fighter who many felt was at one time the best pound for pound boxer in the sport, has changed as dramatically as has Vargas since the turn of the century, when both fighters were engaging in big fights, and commanded both the respect and the attention of the boxing world. Mosley is still a superior athlete to most fighters, even those on a world-class level, however, the blazing combinations which he used so effectively to dissect and then derail opponents have become one of boxing’s biggest unsolved mysteries. Mosley has seemed to transform over the years, from a fighter who used his boxing pedigree in conjunction with his blinding speed to overwhelm opponents; to a fighter who has seemingly fallen in love with himself, and hence fallen into a prolonged funk. Mosley, it seems, has suffered the same fate that Mike Tyson suffered once he realized his speed and power were unmatched on a world-class level, he stopped throwing punches in bunches, which is exactly what got Mosley, and Tyson for that matter, to the top of the boxing world to begin with.
And as the saying goes, if you don’t dance with the girl you brought to the prom, then you may just end up going home alone, and so it seems, Mosley has to shoulder the blame for this regression. Of course, if you believe his latest trainer, John David Jackson, Mosley’s days as being a fighter who throws five or six punch combinations haven’t ended solely because he has fallen in love with his power and chosen instead to wind up on his punches and look for that one home run shot. Instead, according to Jackson, the transformation of Mosley as a boxer is partially due to old father time. As Jackson said during a teleconference on Monday, “Mosley has to learn to become a smarter fighter now” at 34, which is about the last thing any of the ‘Sugar’ man’s fans wanted to hear leading up to his fight with Vargas this Saturday night, though Jackson’s comments were telling in their simple frankness of the matter.
Though Jackson said that Mosley had indeed “fallen in love with his power, and believed he was a one punch knockout type of fighter”, Mosley’s lack of combination punching in his last several bouts is due more to the fact that at 34, “none of can be what we were at 21 or 25”. Mosley, said his trainer, has got to learn to “use the tricks of his craft, and be very clever, throw two or thee shots at a time and not stand around to admire his handy work”, if he ever wants to make it back to the center of the boxing world.
Fernando Vargas isn’t much different however, and his transformation from the almost recklessly tenacious brawler of his younger years into most recently, of all things, a defensive minded boxer, complete with a cop-off of the Mayweather shoulder roll, has been even more profound than Mosley’s metamorphosis. Vargas has gone from being the ‘ferocious’ one, into being the ‘precautious’ one, who no longer puts himself into unnecessary exchanges, but instead opts to jab and box his opponents, using a boxing pedigree that he always possessed, but usually never cared to showcase.
Vargas’s trainer, Danny Smith, insists that the ‘El Feroz’ of old will be back in all his glory this Saturday night, and said Monday that the return of Vargas the brawler is the result of a more focused training camp. Smith stated Monday that “Fernando had to be a boxer in these last few fights because he was so drained from the weight loss, he had to outbox these guys”, a problem Smith said, which has been remedied by a longer, more disciplined training camp.
“Vargas has been walking around at about 156, and he’ll only weigh about seven pounds over the junior welterweight limit when he gets in the ring Saturday, as a result of not having to cut all that weight this time” insists Smith.
Whereas Mosley’s trainer, Jackson, insists that Vargas is a man who comfortably walks around at 200 pounds, and will always be a drained fighter anytime he steps into the ring at 154, going so far as to call Vargas “a shot fighter, both mentally and physically.
“They’re going to come out and try to jump on Mosley for four or five rounds, because after that, they know Fernando is going to fade again, like he’s done recently, and that’s when Shane is going to begin to really take over” Said Jackson, who added that his fighter wouldn’t turn down the chance to slug with Vargas if the opportunity presents itself Saturday night.
Whatever experts or pundits are saying about this Saturday’s showdown, nearly all of them are in agreement that the ‘X’ factor in this fight is Fernando Vargas. Vargas and his camp have maintained that the ‘El Feroz’ of old is still around, and that Saturday will mark the reappearance of Vargas the brawler, Vargas the aggressive slugger. They maintain that the jabbing, shoulder shrugging, boxing version fans have been disappointed with lately is the result of poor focus, and too much weight loss. All this leaves the public wondering if Vargas indeed will turn back the clock to his more youthful days or instead, continue his transformation into a boxer.
Such guessing is not necessary with Mosley. People can count on the ‘Sugar’ man to show up in great condition, as always, and do his best to throw two and three punches at a time while craftily moving in and out of Vargas’ range, while avoiding return fire. Mosley has learned to adapt to becoming a fighter that is more ‘Hopkins-esque’ if you will, a crafty ring veteran, possessing a variety of tools, with great hand speed still included in that set. What fans want to know with two fighters who appear to be completely different than the versions of themselves fans fell in love with years ago, is whether or not a decent fight can still break out (dedicated to Brendon Stewart and Robert Thorsen).
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