By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Despite contracting a debilitating case of stomach flu the day of the fight, Mosley easily outboxed Holiday, won a unanimous decision and became the IBF lightweight champion of the world. "That was a great moment for me and my dad," says Shane. "When they put the belt around my waist in the ring, because of everything we'd gone through, and to have it finally happen, it felt awesome." The win, and the increased purses that followed, allowed Jack, who had worked for the county for 25 years, to retire and train Shane full time.
Larry Merchant, considered by many to be the most knowledgeable analyst in the sport, was ringside for HBO. "I'd been told about Shane a bit earlier by a friend close to the L.A. boxing scene who said he was an excellent amateur and something of a local gym legend. HBO got me some tapes, and I watched them in a state of surprise, high excitement and stunned disbelief. I asked myself, 'Can anybody be this good that I haven't heard of or seen?' I told myself to just trust my eyes, and though I knew his level of competition wasn't much, the way he went about it was so pure, such a throwback, that going into the Holiday fight I said on the air he was as close to Sugar Ray Robinson as anyone I've ever seen."
Invoking comparisons to Robinson in boxing is akin to comparing a young jazz musician to Miles Davis, and many insiders and old-timers were leery, to say the least. "Of course, he had the stomach problems and didn't do his normal thing against Holiday, and I think my comments actually hurt him and took away from his victory," admits Merchant. But Merchant's faith in the boxer would soon be validated.
SHANE FIRST DEFENDED HIS TITLE THAT NOVEMBER, KNOCKing out tough Manuel Gomez in 11, then in February he blasted out number-one contender Demetrio Ceballos in 8. "Ceballos had said some rather provocative things about Shane at the press conference, and Shane didn't really respond at the time," recalls Merchant, who was again ringside. "But when the bell rang, he just broke him down piece by piece in the ring, showing all his skills and power." After the sixth round, a prominent official who'd made light of the Sugar Ray Robinson comment caught Merchant's eye. "He gestured toward Shane's corner and said, 'You were right.'"
Mosley merely shakes his head when Ceballos is brought up. "Boxing is a business, but he said some personal stuff about my manhood and my family, so I made sure he understood what I was all about and made him pay before I knocked him out."
The Mosleys refer to Shane's style as "power boxing." Merchant loves it: "First, there's the beautiful balance -- when he throws a punch it can be followed in sequence, or, if necessary, he's in position to deal with punches coming back at him." The Mosleys also talk about punching at whatever target the opponent leaves open, most often, of course, the body. Merchant points to this as another example of why Shane is such a crowd-pleasing, entertaining fighter. "To commit to a body attack means putting yourself at risk, and Shane does it as a matter of course, much like Sugar Ray Robinson. He's quick enough and confident enough to go for it with a vengeance, fully understanding the potentially brutal consequences. [That] is all too rare these days, especially with the guys making real money. What more can you ask of a fighter?!"
Three more defenses followed Ceballos, all on the East Coast, each more spectacular than the last. By this time, the normally crusty East Coast press were taking to Mosley. "Shane had those four title defenses right around the tristate area, and frankly, none of us had seen anything like him in years," says veteran Boston Heraldboxing writer George Kimball, who was impressed not only by Shane's ability, but also by his humility. "The thing was, he's this sweet kid, still young, totally open and engaging, and yet when the bell rang, there he was, all business and very old-school in his approach, breaking guys down to the body, then finishing them off with those furious flurries of his."
The boxing writers named Shane fighter of the year in 1998. Every boxing magazine in existence has featured him on its cover, and Sports Illustrated, which has cut way back on its boxing coverage, ran a four-page feature on Mosley last year. Yet, the L.A. Times has still run almost nothing on the fighter. "The Times is in bed with Oscar, and that's their business," says a disappointed Shane. "It used to bother me, but with everything I've achieved to this point, that's their problem, not mine."
Jack Mosley sees a clear bias on the part of the paper. "Here Shane is, born and raised in L.A., three-time U.S. amateur champion, does charity work, never been in trouble, the only African-American lightweight champ in the history of California, named fighter of the year by the boxing writers, and it's like he doesn't exist. It ain't right."