By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
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By LA Weekly
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Merchant is equally perplexed. "Speaking as a former sports editor, the negligence of the Timestoward Shane is just stunning to me, and troublesome as well. They appear to have developed a policy toward boxing that unless a celebrity fighter, like Oscar or Tyson, is involved, they don't cover it. To me, here's this great athlete who is also a good guy, in their circulation area, and he's ignored because he's a boxer?"
Indeed, Shane Mosley has everything you would think a mainstream sportswriter would kill for: the talent and drive, the passion to be the best, and a lifestyle that would make a politician envious. He signs every autograph, poses for every picture and, in sharp contrast to most top athletes, looks his fans in the eye, completely in the moment and honestly appreciative of their support. "I don't take anything for granted. I think I appreciate what I have now because it took me so long to get it," he says. "That keeps things in perspective -- keeps me hungry too, which is good. Also, I've been in Pomona my whole life; I bought my house here, raise my son [Shane Jr., age 8] here, so I'm part of a community, just maybe a little more famous than people who do other types of work, that's all."
Mosley, who signed a long-term contract with HBO early in 1998 and has earned close to $3 million since, even owns the Little Citizens Day Care Center, which is run by his sister and has about 90 children currently enrolled and a lengthy waiting list. He also sponsors a Little League team and is involved with the Corporate Kids Cyber-Club, a group that helps children learn about computers and do projects like making their own business cards and comic books, one of which is scheduled to feature Shane as a superhero. "I'm for anything with kids. In fact, I own a building that we're planning on turning into a gym later this year, a place kids can go to, work off some energy and find some discipline in their lives," he says, sounding much like his own father.
WHAT SETS SHANE MOSLEY APART AS A PERFORMER IS HIS passion. His energy level and devotion to his craft generate the sense that something special is about to happen, that a truly great artist is going to put on the show of a lifetime. Philadelphia is known as America's best and toughest fight town. When Mosley defended his title there against Wilfredo Ruiz at the Apollo of Temple in June 1998, the building was alive, crackling with energy. Shane displayed all the weapons in his considerable arsenal, and with each dazzling combination, all of which were as powerful as they were fast, he drove the crowd to a frenzy.
The same phenomenon took place outside under a full moon at the Pechanga Tribal Casino in Temecula the night he made his debut as a welterweight, against rugged Wilfredo Rivera. By the time Shane stepped through the ropes, the crowd, eagerly anticipating his arrival, had already risen to a fever pitch. Shane responded by throwing everything he had at the veteran warrior in the first round, and again, with each attack, pushed the crowd ever forward. After nine tough rounds, Shane was ahead, but the fight was still surprisingly close, and his father was concerned. "You've got to close the show," Jack told his son, "otherwise they can take it away from you. You got that?" Nodding, Shane came out of his corner and unleashed a fury on Rivera that can only be described as shocking. Overwhelmed, Rivera went down a minute into the round. It was the first time anyone, including De La Hoya, had ever knocked the granite-chinned contender out.
British boxing writer Claude Abrams, who's attended every fight of consequence for the past 15 years, remarked immediately afterward, "That's boxing, mate, all of it right there, as good as I've seen. Ever. The skills, the passion -- beautiful stuff."
A great boxer is an artist. Sugar Ray Leonard reached that level because when tested, he proved he had tremendous courage, along with all the speed and flair anyone could hope to have. Mike Tyson had it for a while, adding pure fury to the mix of skill, speed and passion. Roy Jones Jr. is the contemporary fighter closest to this level now, but lacks the passion and naked aggressiveness. De La Hoya has the charisma, speed and technique, but his unwillingness to let it all go, dare to be great and damn the consequences, is what keeps him from joining that select group.
"Sugar" Shane Mosley lacks only a stage big enough to demonstrate to the world that he too belongs in such lofty company. He has put himself in position -- and De La Hoya has given him the opportunity -- to perform on such a stage, in his hometown on June 17.
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