Still wondering: Why Mosley-Pacquiao?
Saturday saw the first episode in Showtime’s "Fight Camp 360" series of hype specials for the forthcoming Manny Pacquiao vs. Shane Mosley fight. As an added bonus to the promotion of the fight it debuted not on the premium network but its network big brother CBS.
The episode was as slick as you would expect but it couldn’t give a convincing answer to the question that has been hanging over this fight since before it was made: Why is Shane Mosley challenging Manny Pacquiao?
When it comes to selling a fight it's often the story that matters. Hook people in with a compelling narrative and the money will follow. There are three tried and tested stories a promoter can use to add steam behind a title challenge. The first and most obvious is that the challenger is an awesome fighter and that they have earned their big match with a long sequence of victories.
In no way could Mosley claim to be such a fighter, as he is coming off a terrible 2010 that saw him drop a one-sided decision to Floyd Mayweather before being frustrated and in many ways outboxed by crafty journeyman Sergio Mora. A 0-1-1 record is hardly the form you’d expect of somebody who is one half of boxing’s first superfight of 2011.
In contrast, the likes of Andre Berto or Timothy Bradley may not been as big names as Shane Mosley, but the story of a young fighter promising to prove themselves the best fighter in the world by beating Pacquiao would have been far more compelling. Of course most of the fighters in the light-welterweight and welterweight divisions who are in top form are unkown and unproven, so one can almost forgive Bob Arum for overlooking them.
It should also not be ignored that some of the greatest fights in boxing history weren’t justifable on pure sporting grounds. In such cases, it's usually the feud between the two opponents that allowed fans to overlook the fact that the challenger was unworthy.
The best example of this is the most iconic fight in heavyweight boxing; Joe Frazier had done nothing since being destroyed by George Foreman to suggest he deserved a shot at the world champion, but at the Thrilla in Manilla he and Muhammed Ali tore the house down in a violent end to their blood feud.
Mosley’s fight against Mayweather was a lesser example of this tactic — with the longstanding low-level sniping between the two welterweights going into overdrive when "Sugar" stormed "Money’s" post-fight celebrations in September 2009.
Arum actually had such a grudge match open to him with three-weight world champion Juan Manuel Marquez openly campaigning for the opportunity to face Manny Pacquiao. At both featherweight and super-featherweight the Mexican legend took Pacquiao to his absolute limit, with his highly technical counter-punching style perfectly suited to pick apart the wild Filipino brawler.
Both the drawn first contest and the Pacquiao’s victory in the second are disputed by Marquez. A third fight in their classic series would be eagerly anticipated by fight fans due to the quality of the previous contests while to casual fans there’s a natural-made story due to the previous history.
This wider context would make most ignore the fact that in 2011 the fight is likely to be a mismatch, particularly if Pacquiao was to insist on the fight taking place at 147 pounds. That fight was rejected by Arum due to the biggest feud in boxing — Top Rank vs Golden Boy.
The last promotional tactic is to show how popular or important the challenger is and how the fans have been demanding that he gets the chance to prove himself one more time. A recent example would be Bernard Hopkins’ recent bout against Jean Pascal, where the focus was firmly on how this would be a chance for a fighter to finish a wonderful career making history by becoming the oldest ever champion. Equally the boxing world justified Mike Tyson getting a title shot at Lennox Lewis because Tyson was the most popular and interesting heavyweight in the world.
With all due respect to Mosley, there is no such groundswell from fight fans for this one. Mosley has had a great career and fully deserved his shot at proving himself the best fighter in the world. But the fact is he got that shot last May when he fought Mayweather. Behind the glitz and glamor of "Fight Camp 360," the network television commercials and nationwide press tours, there is simply no good reason for Shane Mosley to be facing Manny Pacquiao.