"Sugar" Shane Mosley was once one of the most exciting fighters in the sport. He was a top three pound for pound champion. He racked up win after win by either quick knockout or one sided decision; he was "Sugar" in the ring. Now bearing a 41-4 (35) record after having lost to only two men, Mosley has been impressive in the past. But so has his opponent for February 25th, Fernando Vargas.
Vargas has built a reputation based on all out assaults and power punching. Like Mosley, he has an impressive knockout percentage; twenty two out of his twenty six wins have ended with his opponent on his back, down for the count before the final bell. His non stop offense has earned him the nickname "Ferocious" and his heart matches his style. In both of Vargas' losses, he got up off the canvas more than once. He was plainly outgunned but still made a war of it the best he could before being saved by the referee.
This all out style has taken it's toll on Fernando though. He has also had recent back surgery and is now fighting a safer style. He also reportedly used steroids in the past, making some wonder if his new style is due to the fact that he may have lost some of the pop in the punching department. Though Vargas claimed he did not know he was taking the steroids there must have been some noticeable effects both when on and now off them. Or has "El Feroz" really just decided that defense is as important as offense and that's the only reason for the sudden change? Either way, after a break from the ring and a few tune up fights, Feb 25th will give us the answer on this. Can Vargas still succeed at the elite level as a boxer as he did as a puncher?
Mosley, on the other hand, has a different dilemma. Once the most sensational fighter in the sport, the former lightweight champion has lost some of his fizz after two back to back losses to Vernon Forrest. In both bouts Mosley was not just beaten, but beaten soundly - even being put down once. After the second fight, Sugar Shane didn't seem so sweet; his wins were lackluster. Then, after his rematch with Oscar De La Hoya, Shane acted as though he was rejuvenated, like the Mosley of old.
Then, he suffered back to back losses to Winky Wright, losing his junior middleweight crowns in the process. As in the Forrest fights, he was clearly outboxed. His heart seemed all but gone. Add some personal problems within his camp to the mix and Mosley was suddenly in limbo. His last few wins again seemed lackluster, as if he was just going through the motions. Has Mosley's heart been taken for good this time? If he can't deal with adversity, then he isn't as "Sweet" as we thought he was.
So now, both men have more than a title eliminator on the line. If Mosley should lose, can his psyche take it? Can he mentally recover from another big loss if out boxed? Worse yet, if he is knocked out, will he become punch shy? Vargas has knocked out fighters with those kind of vicious result before. Mosley lost a step after the Forrest bouts and then another after the Wright contests. Neither opponent carries the power that Vargas does and a knockout loss will really add to the fragility of Mosley's mental state.
Will Vargas ever be able to box as well as needed against a slick puncher like Mosley? Will Fernando be able to compose himself enough to stay away from the all out assault we have come to associate him with? If Vargas does resort to power, does he still have enough left to finish Shane? Does he have the power to keep Mosley, who has an impressive history of knockouts himself, off of him? Without the power to do this, Vargas will be in the same boat he was in the during the Trinidad and De La Hoya fights. If this happens, the blueprint will be there for everyone to see and Vargas' future will be in jeopardy. With no punch to keep opponents honest and not enough defense to make him a crafty boxer, Fernando will be just another fighter.
The answers to these questions will be unveiled on February 25th. One of these men will step up to rejoin the elite. The other will have a lot of thinking to do about his future. If either retired now they could be proud of their careers, as they were both former multiple world champions. Yet both are still young enough to have another lengthy title reign. The pair are also about one fight away before it would be a smart move to hang the gloves up, unless they want their legacies to be severely compromised. Vargas and Mosley will not only answer our questions on February 25th, but their own as well.