Mosley convinced he’s ready for Pacquiao

LAS VEGAS – Almost a year to the day earlier, Shane Mosley sat in the same chair in the same room in the same casino and said nearly the same things about an upcoming fight against a superstar opponent.

He brushed off questions about his age. He dismissed suggestions that he was in decline. He insisted that he would stun those who sized up his fight with Floyd Mayweather Jr. and came away believing Mayweather would win in a rout.

That was in 2010, and a few days later, Mosley was drummed by Mayweather, beaten like he had never been beaten before. He won only one of the 12 rounds and only won that one because of a single right hand which landed and hurt Mayweather in the waning moments of the second round. If he could have avoided that one punch, Mayweather would have had himself a shutout.

Fast forward a year, and Mosley is now 39, pushing 40. He’s an 8-1 underdog to Manny Pacquiao, yet he beams when it’s suggested it’s too old, out of his league, no longer fast enough to defeat the man now almost universally regarded as the best boxer in the world.

He fights Pacquiao on Saturday for the World Boxing Organization welterweight title in the main event of a pay-per-view card at the MGM Grand Garden Arena and will, he says, make believers of those who question his ability to compete at the highest level.

[Related: Why Mosley is a good match for Pacman]

He concedes he’s no longer the physical specimen he was when, as a lightweight, he had some very credible boxing experts proclaiming him among the greatest in the division’s rich history, though he said his hand and foot speed is still very much above average.

He’s a smarter and wiser boxer today, he’ll tell you, than he was a year ago when he was preparing to face Mayweather. The only difference, however, other than another candle on the cake, is that he’s 0-1-1 since then and looking every bit like a one-time star on the downside.

But his trainer, Naazim Richardson, said Mosley has one of the highest boxing IQs he’s ever met and has taken advantage of every round he’s been in the ring.

Mosley has learned to adapt, Richardson said, as his body has evolved.

“Sometimes, we critique athletes at a level where we lose sight of what’s important ourselves,” Richardson said. “When I was a young man and I went out to the car to get the groceries, I went out there and I grabbed every bag and threw them on my shoulder and brought them in the house. As I got older, I took more trips to get the bags. As I got even older, I looked at my sons and made them get the bags. We make adjustments as we get older in everything that we do.

“Nobody is doing things the way they used to do them. This is how it is in sports. Like anything else, naturally, you get smarter and you make the necessary adjustments to cater to those reflexes getting a little slower.”

[*Order Pacquiao-Mosley fight]

Slow reflexes are a big problem for any boxer against Pacquiao, who has lightning fast hands and may be one of the best-conditioned athletes in all of sports.

Antonio Margarito is a heavy-handed puncher, but he’s slow and lacks quickness. When Pacquiao fought Margarito in Dallas in November, he landed 474 punches, the eighth-most in a championship fight in the 25 years that CompuBox has been counting punches, despite giving up more than 20 pounds by the time the bell rang to start the bout.

Though it’s true that Margarito landed far more punches on Pacquiao than he did on Mosley (229 landed against Pacquiao compared to 108 landed against Mosley), part of that is because the Pacquiao fight went the full 12 rounds and the Mosley fight ended early in the ninth.

Additionally, 41 percent of the punches Margarito landed on Pacquiao were jabs, while just 17 percent of the punches Margarito landed on Mosley were jabs. In essence, Margarito landed a far higher percentage of cleaner, harder punches against Mosley than he did against Pacquiao.

It’s also nearly 2 1/2 years since Mosley’s stunning upset of Margarito.

Mosley, though, is emboldened by the sheer numbers alone.

“You know, if Margarito could hit Pacquiao as often as he did, wow,” Mosley said. “I know I’m quicker than Margarito.”

Mosley’s a relentless optimist, and nothing anyone says will convince him that he’s anything less than the elite fighter he was earlier in this decade. His father, Jack, his original coach, is much the same way.

And as a reporter recounted all the challenges Shane faces against Pacquiao, Jack Mosley broke into a broad grin. If he’s worried about his son’s health, he does a good job of hiding it.

“You know, Shane’s heard it for years, how he couldn’t do this and how he couldn’t do that,” Jack Mosley said. “Even when he was a kid, people would tell him this guy was too big or that guy was too fast, but Shane beat ‘em all. And when he fought Oscar (De La Hoya), everybody kept telling me what Oscar was going to do to him. But then Shane went out and beat him twice.

“Shane’s got the tools to beat this guy. He knows what he has to do and he has the ability to go out there and do it.”

Part of the reason that Richardson is so confident in Mosley’s chances is because of how well his father taught him. Mosley, Richardson said, is as wise as anyone in the game and is remarkable in his ability to follow a game plan.

When Mosley fought Margarito, he landed a hard body shot in the first round that made Margarito wince. When Mosley walked back to the corner, he said to Richardson, “I got him.”

Richardson, though, didn’t want Mosley to abandon the game plan and go for the knockout. And so for eight more rounds, Mosley systematically stuck to the plan and broke Margarito down. It’s why he believes Mosley will have a chance to score the upset on Saturday.

“Shane doesn’t get the credit for having such a high IQ in boxing,” Richardson said. “When you see the physical attributes he has, a lot of times we lose the sense of remembering what an intelligent fighter he’s been over the years. I was taken aback when I started working with him how high his IQ is. He really understands it.”

And so, despite the odds, despite his recent history, Mosley believes. This isn’t a guy who’s just showing up to cash a $5 million check and squeeze out a few extra moments in the spotlight.

This is a guy, four months shy of his 40th birthday, who totally believes he’s going to beat the best fighter in the world on Saturday. His experience, he said, is the difference.

“I’ve faced a lot of different people with a lot of different styles,” Mosley said. “He’s not been in there with guys like that.”

And it’s safe to say that Mosley hasn’t been in with anyone like Pacquiao. For that, he’s glad. He loves boxing, he loves competition and, most of all, he loves proving people wrong.

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Kevin Iole covers boxing and mixed martial arts for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter. Send Kevin a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated Thursday, May 5, 2011