What’s disappointing about Saturday night’s pay-per-view Golden Boy/HBO card led off by Shane Mosley-Sergio Mora is less its content — although there is some valid reason to be disappointed by that, if only a little — than the broken vows it represents. The reason is because nobody’s under any obligation to spend $50 on it if they don’t wanna, the same way anyone can ignore PPV cards by Top Rank that are just as lackluster, and often more lackluster, in content, but don’t face the same kind of negativity this one has. But it most certainly isn’t the stacked undercard Golden Boy claimed it would consistently deliver after a stacked undercard did good business earlier this summer. And it most certainly isn’t the “mega-event” kind of pay-per-view card HBO had pledged to limit its devotion to, beginning last year.
As it is, it offers two developmental bouts for two young Mexican stars-to-be in various stages of their to-be’s, which we’ll discuss a bit later in the week, and beyond that, it offers what add up as two potentially competitive bouts. The first is Mosley-Mora, a junior middleweight bout that nobody really asked for due to Mora’s crowd-displeasing style but that figures as a difficult fight for both men. It is at least modestly significant as a result of the presence of Mosley, still in my pound-for-pound top-10 and that of some others, a future Hall of Famer coming off the most one-sided loss of his career, to Floyd Mayweather. The second is between two of Ring magazine’s top-10 featherweights, #7 Daniel Ponce De Leon and #10 Antonio Escalante, a potential crowd-pleasing brawl to offset the Mora effect.
Because of the significance and potential competitiveness of those two bouts on the highest-profile card of the week, and because of the postponement of a far more desirable bout originally scheduled for Showtime the same night between featherweights Juan Manuel Lopez and Rafael Marquez, Mosley-Mora and De Leon-Escalane get the full preview and prediction treatment, including its applicability for TQBR Prediction Game 4.0. It’s not meant to be any kind of elevation of the card, which overall is not as bad as some say but not terrific, either. HBO and Golden Boy have evidently reasoned that if they put a card together in Los Angeles on Mexican Independence Day weekend featuring any number of fighters of Mexican heritage — that, plus Golden Boy’s obligations to deliver fights to Mexican-American Mora being the only reason I can figure he’s in the main event at all — it’ll sell enough to make their money back and then some. I’ll figure out whether I want to pay for it later in the week, depending on how eager I am for what meager boxing pleasures it offers; I ain’t saying YOU should buy it, either way.
SHANE MOSLEY-SERGIO MORA
I’ve seen it said that Mora is a tough style match-up for Mosley. Who wouldn’t he be a tough style match-up for? He’s a tricky, always-running fellow. He was outclassed by Vernon Forrest in their rematch, and has a surprising draw with Elvin Ayala, but he’s hard to hit cleanly under any circumstances. It frustrates me to watch him. I’m sure it frustrates people to fight him.
His elusiveness — with his legs and his upper body movement — counts as his primary trait as a boxer. Offensively, he can fight moving forward or backward, leading with his jab when on the attack and putting the most force between his right hook either off the jab or while countering. His speed is pretty good, too, but his power doesn’t exist. He has six knockouts in 22 wins.
Of the grads of The Contender show, where he was the winner of the first season on NBC, he is the most accomplished, not that it has translated to big bucks. Beating Forrest in their first bout was a big deal. Beating Ishe Smith, plus Peter Manfredo, Jr. and Jesse Brinkley — given what Brinkley has managed to do since then — count as pretty good wins, too. But he’s had some bad luck and has made some bad decisions in his career, such as losing out on a Kelly Pavlik fight and turning down a Jermain Taylor fight, respectively. After his loss to Forrest, he said he had trouble making weight and would move back to 160 pounds. Now he’s back at 154, and you have to wonder if that’ll be good for him.
Mosley’s not fighting at his best weight, either, as each time he’s moved up to 154 from 147 he’s usually looked competent rather than elite. And despite Mora’s timely heritage, this fight is really about Mosley. He’s the bigger name, the man who’s been on the top then back again more times than the once Mora tasted a little of it against Forrest. He’s the betting favorite by a surprisingly wide 3 to 1 margin — surprising given that everyone seems to recognize that Mora is a live ‘dog.
Mosley had lost a few times before, but never so comprehensively as he lost against Mayweather. He also managed to come as close to knocking out Mayweather as anyone ever had, but after his 2nd round charge, he completely disappeared. Some blame Mayweather’s adjustments and the punishment he piled up. Some blame Mosley’s age — he’s 39 — and ring rust. Mosley’s team blames some nagging injuries coming into the bout. All are plausible, even some combo of them all. It’s a pretty big mystery whether he’ll be anything like his old self, the fast, powerful, aggressive boxer who wrecked everybody at lightweight and most everybody at welterweight, plus a couple people at junior middle.
My mind is an odd blank when I try to envision how this fight will go. Mora could be weight-drained and outclassed again. Mosley could be half-shot and too small. Mosley’s not fought a bunch of runner-types, and Mora’s not fought much of anyone like Mosley. Mosley handled Luis Collazo, a light-hitting quick-footed sort, pretty easily, but Collazo was a lot smaller than Mora. When in doubt in situations like that, I tend to go with the overall more proven fighter. That’s Mosley. I’ll take him to win by decision in a pretty boring bout.
DANIEL PONCE DE LEON-ANTONIO ESCALANTE
I doubt De Leon-Escalante will be boring, but I doubt it’ll live up to what amount to the highest expectations for any fight on this card. Escalante has proven his excitingness credentials as early as this year in a bout with Miguel Roman, a contender for 2010′s best. De Leon hasn’t been in that good a fight for a while longer.
That’s because De Leon’s once fearsome power has largely evaporated since moving up from 122 pounds full-time. He has one knockout in four wins since moving to featherweight last year, compared with 31 knockouts in 35 wins before. That power drop-off means he tries to box more, and he’s not so great at it, so his fight with Cornelius Lock on the Mayweather-Mosley undercard was kind of awkward and ungainly.
Escalante’s not a technical boxer, either, and his knockout ratio isn’t what you’d expect from a brawler of his brawlaliciousness. Despite fewer KOs than De Leon, he does have some of the more impressive knockouts of late between himself and De Leon, though, including KOs of Gary Stark, Jr. last year and Mike Oliver in 2008. What’s more, he had a much easier time against Lock than did De Leon.
De Leon is more experienced, might hit harder even at 126 and maybe is the better technician (when has anyone ever said that about De Leon?). But Escalante is five years younger at 25, is unrelenting and has all the career momentum. I can’t find any lines on the fight, so we’ll assume unless one emerges that Ring’s more highly-ranked De Leon is the “favorite” in this bout. Either way, I’m going with Escalante by unanimous decision in a pretty competitive, pretty good but not great fight.
[TQBR Prediction Game 4.0 is in effect. Remember the rules.]