Tonight, you can choose whether you want to watch what makes boxing great or what makes its most ardent fans cringe. You're forgiven in advance for choosing the latter.
Shane Mosley v. Pablo Cesar Cano (FoxSports/FoxDeportes, 9:00 EST/6:00 PST): "Sugar" Shane Mosley, once one of the brightest stars in the sport, is now its worst trope. Just a decade ago, Mosley sat atop many pound for pound lists. After dominating the lightweight division for years, he leapt to welterweight and immediately vanquished its biggest star, Oscar De La Hoya. He eventually ran his record to 38-0 with lopsided wins over a number of high quality opponents. He had blazing speed, bone-crushing power, and a megawatt smile. More than that, Shane was one of the good guys. He would always stop to chat with fans, sign autographs, and pose for pictures. He gave good interviews. He was positioned to become boxing's biggest star: a worthy heir to the "Sugar" moniker.
That never happened. A pair of losses to his longtime nemesis, Vernon Forrest, and an ill-advised trip up in weight to meet Winky Wright set his career back. Compounding that, Shane was caught in the BALCO scandal, and after years of denials, eventually admitted under oath that he had knowingly used PEDs. A messy divorce to his devoted and lovely wife, Jin, followed shortly thereafter, and threatened to further sully his already damaged good guy reputation.
Against all odds, Shane briefly managed to fight his way back to the top. After looking slow and old while narrowly squeaking by sloppy Nicaraguan slugger Ricardo Mayorga, Shane was matched with heavily-favored welterweight champion Antonio Margarito. Margarito was coming off a brutal win over Miguel Cotto, in which both men had been battered beyond belief. And, while the press focused on the remarkable chin Margarito had displayed that night against Cotto, few noticed when he came into camp for Mosley overweight and weak. Boxers, like racehorses and strawberries, can go bad overnight. Great champions like Meldrick Taylor and Chico Corrales were never the same after heroic battles that quite literally beat them beyond repair. Few realized that Margarito's greatest victory had left him a dead man walking. Things got even worse the night of the Mosley fight when Margarito was caught loading his gloves with plaster inserts that would harden into concrete blocks as the fight went on. The Margarito who ultimately entered the ring was hollow physically and mentally.
A century ago, Einstein proved that perception and reality are relative, and never was that more true than the Margarito-Mosley fight. Margarito entered the ring appearing an unbeatable destroyer of men, but in actuality was little more than a spent husk. Margarito, never a speedy fighter, lumbered around the ring, barely throwing and hardly able to defend himself against an onslaught of punches from Mosley. Compared to the unexpectedly lethargic blob in front of him, Mosley looked sharper and younger than he had in years. By the time he knocked Margarito out in the ninth round, the press was proclaiming that Mosley was back and better than ever. Neither statement was true.
Since then, Mosley's career has plummeted. He was embarrassed by Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao, before being sent into a short-lived retirement by 20 year old Canelo Alvarez in his last bout. Not only did Shane look slower and more timid than he ever had; he often looked disinterested and lost in the ring. His once distinct speaking voice has grown thick and slurred. He is the quintessential great champion who held on too long.
His opponent tonight, Pablo Cesar Cano, is a cut below any opponent Shane has fought in years. He's already lost to another washed up former great, Erik Morales, and was (controversially) decisioned last out by the feather-fisted Paulie Malignaggi. Still, Cano is a professional boxer in the prime of his career, and that in itself should be more than enough to take care of Mosley. If Shane has merely slowed down a bit, lost some zip on his fastball, he should breeze by the naturally smaller and far less-talented Cano. But, if he's truly broken inside and out, as I fear he is, this will simply be the exclamation point on the sad end of a once great former champion.
PREDICTION: Cano, TKO, 8.
Lucas Matthysse v. Lamont Peterson (Showtime, 9:00 EST/tape delayed on West Coast, because Showtime hates its fans): On the other side of the spectrum, this is a fight between two young up and coming contenders with intriguing backgrounds. Matthysse is the sort of boxer that boxing "wise guys" love to latch onto. He has explosive power and the two blemishes on his record were both controversial decisions against better-known opponents (Zab Judah and Devon Alexander) who Matthysse was able to knock down. Wise guys love fighters have good excuses for their defeats. The problem with wise guy fighters is that the same excuses that popped up when they were underdogs have a tendency to show up again when they are favored. (For example, Joshua Clottey, who became a popular wise guy pick after a gutty loss to Antonio Margarito despite an injured hand, ended up just being a guy who claimed to injure his hand a lot.) In Matthysse's case, he tends to take rounds off and he's susceptible to being outboxed by a clever opponent. All the power in the world won't change that.
Lamont Peterson is a clever opponent with good boxing skills and he's famously been on the other side of a controversial decision. After eeking out a close decision in a fight against heavily favored Amir Khan, reports began to spread that an mystery man from Peterson's entourage had mingled with the judges and tried to influence the scoring. Peterson's reputation took a further hit when he tested positive for steroids during the preparation for a rematch with Khan. So, there are clearly questions about Peterson as he prepares for tonight's matchup and Matthysse is, deservingly, the pick of many boxing experts. I'm going with Peterson, however. I don't think Peterson is going to be anything great, but he's got the perfect style to frustrate a guy like Matthysse and steal all the rounds that Matthysse gives away. I wouldn't be surprised if Matthysse puts Peterson down tonight, but I also wouldn't be surprised if, as with Judah and Alexander, that still is not enough for him to earn the decision.
Of course, I won't be able to watch this fight live because Showtime is tape delaying it on the West Coast. Why Showtime chooses to continue alienating a huge portion of its boxing audience by doing this is beyond me. Not only does it mean I will know the outcome before the fight airs, it means I probably will end up watching Mosley die in the ring on the earlier broadcast and be in no mood to watch more boxing by the time the replay shows up at 9:00 PST. Between decisions like this, and the miserable production values on the Floyd Mayweather PPV earlier this month, Showtime is ceding any goodwill it earned by overpaying for Mayweather and Golden Boy's catalog of fighters. HBO may not have the biggest names in the ring any more, but I would rather watch a live high quality production of well matched opponents than what Showtime is offering.
PREDICTION: Peterson, UD.