Sugar’s sweet at 2-1

Nov 16, 2004 6:35 AM


Odds should make you fickle, especially since faithfulness is no way to bet boxing. I’ve got lots of faith in both Winky Wright and Sugar Shane Mosley. I was one of the first kids on my block to suggest both of these guys could fight. But I play no favorites when they fight each other. I play underdogs.

That’s how I wound up with 5-2 dog Wright in their first meeting, back in May, a shocker against a man who was coming off his second triumph over the fabled and slightly over-rated Oscar de la Hoya.

Thanks, Winky, I needed that.

This time, though, I need Shane to reverse the purse.

There is no great mystery to my infidelity. This time, Mosley is the price, a 2-1 or so dog. It may go up as we get closer and closer to the fight at Mandalay Bay if you believe my colleagues. A poll taken of alleged boxing scribes, and others, showed Wright ahead, 74-13-1. The single vote for a draw was by Al Bernstein, the TV commentator who knows how to duck a controversy.

This seems rather strange to my thinking. Yes, the Wink was dominant in their first meeting, but I’m not sure that was the best Mosley we saw that night. In my mind, the same reason I bet on Wright in May forces me to switch allegiances this time: They are fairly evenly matched. Even Wright, who waited a long time before someone from the game’s elite class would step up and fight him, does not take polls as seriously as Republicans or Democrats.

"A lot of people who have me picked to win the fight had me picked to lose before," said the Wink.

When in doubt, take the price, especially when two of the most skilled boxers in the world are involved.

That much was displayed vividly in the opening four or five rounds, among the best in boxing in recent years. Wright took control. He was able to make some adjustments. The southpaw’s long right jab zoned in and disrupted Mosley’s attack. The Sugarman, who was one of the late Eddie Futch’s favorite boxers, grew more and more frustrated. He had a bad night, said his new trainer, Joe Goossen.

Goossen was able to take Diego (Chico) Corrales, coming off a loss to Joel Casamayor — trained then by Goossen — remind him that he had a jab and, switching corners, wound up on the winning side again. He has taken over for Jack Mosley, the fighter’s father and teacher, and while at this stage of his career, Sugar Shane isn’t about to earn a PhD in another subject, he will be reminded of what he used to do so well, which is throw combinations with speed and power. Goossen has known Shane Mosley since one of his kids, another future world champion, Rafael Ruelas, fought him when they were 12-year-old 80-pounders (Mosley won, by the way).

"He’s one of the greatest fighters I’ve ever seen," Goossen said of his new student. He saw the first fight live. "The first thing I said to myself was that’s there something wrong with Shane. It was clear that wasn’t Shane at his best."

Mosley has talked of feeling strangely spent after two rounds. Maybe he went out dining with Wladimir Klitschko. No, that’s a low blow — Mosley was not suggesting any foul play, the way Wlad did after collapsing against Lamon Brewster.

He was having some problems in the gym with his father, who might have been thinking about other business (like the rap music industry where Jack is now involved). Mosley’s father and wife were not getting along. Hey, he had a bad night - in no small part because Wright was so good.

The Wink has some real physical advantages. He is a natural 154-pounder whereas Mosley has moved up from 135. Many of my colleagues, after Wright dominated the first meeting, believe Mosley has risen too far. But it’s not so much that Wright is the stronger fighter, or hits harder (he doesn’t). He’s simply taller and Mosley discovered his height disadvantage against Vernon Forrest.

Chris Byrd was the one who picked Forrest over Mosley a couple of years back. He told me that Mosley would have the same troubles the smallish heavyweight does against the behemoths of his division - even with great hand speed, it is difficult to get off combinations against taller men who know well how to counter.

But Mosley did much better against Forrest the second time around. I expect he’ll do much better against Wright, too. This is a lot closer fight than my peers, if I have any, believe. I think Mosley will be able to make enough adjustments to warrant the generous odds on a guy Eddie Futch thought was one of the best boxers he had seen in 25 years.