On Saturday night, against Shane Mosley at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, Mayweather again needed few, if any, words. His fists spoke loudly, clearly and emphatically as he affirmed his favored status with a lopsided and unanimous decision.
Mayweather did not win Mosley’s welterweight championship belt, but only because he refused to pay the sanctioning fee. Instead, Mayweather polished his unbeaten record (41-0) and controlled this fight, winning 32 of 36 rounds on the scorecards of three judges.
“I have to be truthful with you, Mayweather is on a different level,” De La Hoya said. “We’re looking at something special. You have to respect that.”
Still, the potential bout between Mayweather and Pacquiao hung over another victory, as it did after Pacquiao’s last win, and as it will until Mayweather and Pacquiao settle their differences inside a boxing ring and not a courtroom (Pacquiao is suing Mayweather for defamation).
“If Manny takes the test, we can make a fight happen,” Mayweather said. “If he doesn’t, we don’t have a fight.”
Mayweather took on Mosley (46-6) instead of Pacquiao, who balked at Mayweather’s demands for blood testing. Mosley accepted those conditions, and both fighters allowed the United States Anti-Doping Agency to administer the tests.
Historically, 40-0 is the boxing equivalent of unlucky No. 13. Sugar Ray Robinson, George Foreman and Felix Trinidad suffered their first loss in their 41st professional fight. Mosley’s first defeat came in bout No. 39.
Despite Mayweather’s grandstanding, both boxers considered this fight important, even career-defining. Mayweather called for an impromptu workout late Wednesday, confirming his camp’s assertion that he prepared for Mosley with more intensity and vigor than his already maniacal standards mandated.
Mosley has delivered so often at the MGM that his camp nicknamed the building Mosley’s Greatest Moments. But questions lingered for the 38-year-old Mosley. Was his dismantling of Antonio Margarito in January 2009 an aberration? Or a sign that Mosley had put a messy divorce and his role in the Balco steroid scandal behind him?
The answer, it turned out, was neither, not exactly.
Mayweather and Mosley presented classic contrasts: loud against subtle, smirk versus smile. Even their entrances highlighted their differences. Mosley’s was low key; Mayweather, clad in some sort of sweater vest, was preceded by the O’Jays.
Mosley seemed to surprise Mayweather in the second round, making Mayweather’s knees wobble with a straight right hand to the face, then sending Mayweather into the ropes. Chants of “Mosley! Mosley! Mosley!” rang throughout the arena. For critics who said Mayweather had never faced adversity, here it was.
Mosley said he had told himself that after his big right, he needed a quick knockout before Mayweather, a defensive tactician, figured him out. Mosley also said afterward that his neck had felt tight. That combined with Mayweather’s quickness proved to be too much.
According to two of the three judges, Mosley won only the second round. He had no answer for Mayweather’s speed, strategy, crisp jabs or series of stinging right hands.
In the seventh round, Mosley’s security guard bellowed, “You’re the better fighter, let them go!” But it was Mayweather who kept landing, kept smiling that mischievous grin, who staggered Mosley once, twice and again.
Mayweather controlled the tempo, rhythm and pace. He fought apart from classic Mayweather style but not far away — engaging more but still technically proficient, based not on speed or aggression but on timing that was nearly perfect.
“I did what the fans came here to see,” Mayweather said. “Toe to toe. That’s not my style, but I wanted to give them that kind of fight.”
Mosley’s corner implored him to jab more, but Mayweather continued to dictate terms. In the sixth round, he landed a series of right hands, including a sharp blow to Mosley’s face. After the eighth round, Mosley’s trainer, Naazim Richardson, told him that conditioning appeared to be the difference, and said it looked as if he was fading.
Against a fighter of Mayweather’s pedigree, those words proved ominous. Mosley never seriously challenged after the second round.
Instead, most of the action came before the fight.
The jousting between the camps started after Mayweather bested Juan Manual Marquez in September. To Mayweather, that fight affirmed his ability to last 12 rounds against elite opposition, despite a nearly two-year boxing absence. But when it ended, Mosley climbed into the ring and dimmed the celebration. Mayweather considered Mosley’s challenge a sign of disrespect.
Over the past three weeks, Mayweather lobbed insults at Mosley. Although the boxers played nice at Wednesday’s news conference, tension boiled over two days later at the weigh-in. After their argument nearly led to blows, both camps claimed the skirmish proved that the other side was worried.
The real fighting took place Saturday, in front of governors (Arnold Schwarzenegger), hip-hop moguls (Jay-Z), actors (Will Smith), Hall of Famers (Magic Johnson) and what seemed like the entire Jets organization, including Mark Sanchez and the owner, Woody Johnson.
Last week, Mayweather said that when he beat Mosley, boxing experts and reporters would point to Mosley’s age, diminishing another Mayweather triumph.
“No matter what happens, I’m always in a no-win situation,” he said. “All I’ve done is consistently beat whoever they put in front of me. I’m never going to get my just due.”
Perhaps, but on Saturday, Mayweather
claimed his 41st victory, giving boxing’s most active mouth another round of
ammunition. Let the chatter resume. But expect much of it to be about