"I am curious myself on what will happen."
Sergio Mora, 20-1 (5), the winner of season one of "The Contender" TV series several years ago, was supposed to become a superstar overnight. After all, the whole idea of the show was to give up and coming fighters, or fighters who just missed the big picture, one last chance at stardom.
Mora appeared on the show week after week and beat opponent after opponent, advancing to the finals until he was the last man left, taking home $750,000 in prize money and the Contender championship.
The proposal was that the winner, in addition to receiving the aforementioned prizes, would be promoted like one of the sport's top names, appearing as the main event on fight cards through out the world.
But that's not exactly what happened. While there were title shots, main events and big money bouts, those "awards" were given to Peter Manfredo and Alfonso Gomez, two fighters who participated in the Contender, but did not win the series.
Manfredo faced 168 lb kingpin Joe Calzaghe in Wales last year on a premier cable network during a losing bid for the WBO Super Middleweight Championship and Gomez defeated former world champion Arturo Gatti on a premier cable network in a 2007 main event before losing to WBA Welterweight Champion Miguel Cotto just last month.
While Moraʼs fellow Contender alumni lost their title bids, the fact remains that they received those title bids. So what was to become of the inagural Contender champion?
Just a bit over a year ago, Mora was offered a title shot at then middleweight world champion Jermain Taylor. It was a bout that had venues and surroundings changing so often that before things could be agreed upon 100%, it never materialized.
Then, a fight scheduled for late last year with high volume punching former two time 154 lb IBF title holder Kassim Ouma fell apart as well, leaving Mora to accept a bout on an ESPN undercard against Rito Ruvalcaba.
Against Ruvalcaba, Mora prevailed via sixth round stoppage, but also tore all the tendons in his right hand and had to undergo surgery as a result. Things were definitely not going the way they were supposed to for Mora. In fact, they could have not been going more in the opposite direction.
But Moraʼs luck would change with one phone call. That call would come from the camp of current WBC Light Middleweight Champion Vernon Forrest. Team Forrest were looking for an opponent with a recognizable name to fans, yet one not too highly revered. The ideal opponent was to be undefeated, but not someone the world has seen too much of.
Sergio Mora fit the bill perfectly. With things not going as planned over the last year or so, Mora jumped at the opportunity. It would be his way back into the mainstream, the title shot he was looking for and the motivation that he had wanted since his disappointing performances of late.
Could this fight with Forrest have come at a better time in Sergio Moraʼs career? I donʼt know and no one will until June 7 when the bell rings for round one.
But there is something that I can assure you and that is that Sergio Mora has not been this upbeat for a fight since he won the Contender finale, assumably a good thing momentum-wise in his favor.
SaddoBoxing caught up with Sergio recently to hear how he felt about the chance to finally fight for a title, what this has done to help him get back on track with his career and what he has planned next, win lose or draw, after the bout. Read it here exclusively at SaddoBoxing.
SaddoBoxing: Sergio, how was training camp? Are you ready for June 7?
Sergio Mora: "It went very well. I had a long, hard camp like I did for the Ouma bout. It was about 10 weeks. I wish I could have displayed the work I put in preparing for Ouma, but things happen and our fight did not come off as expected. I am excited for this bout, though."
SB: Can you talk about the decision to fight at 154 lb? In your career, you have only had one bout under 154 and that was against Ishe Smith back in 2004.
SM: "It was spur of the moment. I had been disappointed with my last two performances. Even though I won my last bout by stoppage, it was not the fight I trained for. I was expecting to face Kassim Ouma and in the [Elvin] Ayala fight, everything just seemed to go wrong. In my last bout, I tore tendons in my right hand and I needed to have surgery, luckily everything went OK with that and they are fine now, but still, I was disappointed in myself.
"The offer of a title shot came in and without even thinking, I accepted it. I contacted a strength coach that used to work with Fernando Vargas to help me get down to the 154 lb weight limit properly without draining my body. I have been in the upper 150ʼs for a few weeks now and I am right on target to make 154 without difficulties."
SB: I have to ask how the bout with Vernon Forrest came about. Other than the Smith fight I mentioned, you have never campaigned at the weight and have no ranking, yet you have a title shot.
SM: "I was offered a fight with Vernon about a year ago, actually. Vernonʼs manager called my promoter to set the fight up, but we were at 160 then. Like I said, with my last two performances not being what I wanted them to be, this gave me motivation.
"I am not really sure why I was offered the shot at the title, to be honest. It might be because Vernon is an avoided fighter. It could be because the division is stale at the moment and they figured to use my popularity and unbeaten record to help gain some interest in the bout. I am not going to say I should be the one getting the title shot, because I havenʼt fought at 154, but I am going to take it."
SB: You were given an offer to fight Jermain Taylor for the middleweight championship when he held the title, but turned it down. What was the reason behind that?
SM: "Jermain and I know each other very well; we faced each other in the amateurs to decide who was going to the Olympic team. He won a close points decision in a fight I think I won, but that was the amateurs and this is the pros. In the title fight proposed to me, things kept getting changed around; first the fight was going to take place at the Staples Center, then there was another location, then they changed it to another location. I felt mislead because things were constantly being changed around. I was not confident after all the switching around.
"I am not in this sport just for a payday. I want to win world titles and if I go into a fight not fully prepared and lose, then what? I do not want people to say 'Sergio Mora, he gave it his best shot and lost,' then end up swept under the rug and forgotten about. I want to make sure the shot I take is the best of what I have to offer, so this way if it doesnʼt work out, people still want to see more of me."
SB: Do you think that maybe it would have been a wise idea to have a few bouts at light middleweight on order to adjust to the difference between the two weights, especially before facing a guy like Vernon Forrest?
SM: "Yes, I would have liked to have at least one fight first to see how I felt at the weight. This fight though, is the biggest one of my career. I am motivated, I have only felt like this twice in my career. One time was during my pro debut and the other was for the Contender final. I have been eating and sleeping boxing. I am ready for this fight."
SB: Forrest boxes very well and he has the power to stop any opponent. He has also been on a tangent of sorts lately, making it clear he wants to make a statement in all of his bouts from here on out. What can we expect to see from you in this bout?
SM: "Vernon is definitely looking to make statements. I expect him to come out strong and try to put me down from the start. I can adapt to what ever style he brings. I have fought guys 5ʼ5" to 6ʼ4", from punchers to boxers and everyone in between. I have never fought anyone of Forrest's caliber, but I fight guys with high winning percentages. I am ready for this."
SB: You aren't a knockout puncher, as in your 21 bouts you only have 5 KOʼs. With Forrest being so aggressive of late, are you going to be able to handle an attacking Vernon Forrest looking to knock you out?
SM: "I train in the gym and go into a fight with a game plan, but sometimes you donʼt get to use that plan for whatever reason. I donʼt know what I will do when that time comes; maybe go at it with him, maybe look for a way around it? I think I will know once I am able to get a feel of how hard he hits, how fast he is and how his timing is. Once I get an idea of those things, I will adapt to him, attack and win. I am curious myself on what will happen."
SB: Win, lose or draw ,will you stay at 154 lb after this fight or will you be moving back up to 160?
SM: "I will probably return to 160. There is not really much action going on at 154. There are not a lot of exciting fights at that weight that fans are looking to see. I know I canʼt make it to 147 where all the action is right now. I would stay at 154 if, maybe, I knew I could get a fight with Oscar De La Hoya. Maybe, but I donʼt see that happening."
SB: Since winning the season one Contender finale, you have been fairly inactive, especially when compared to your fellow alumni Alfonso Gomez and Peter Manfredo Jr. In 2007, you only fought once. Is there any particular reason for that?
SM: "It has to do with spending too much time looking for the biggest fights possible instead of worrying about being active, a mistake myself and my team have made. The delay in between bouts is not good for me, I donʼt stay sharp enough. I am looking to fight three more times this year. I am young and just starting to reach my prime, fighting once in a year is just not working out. I just made a mistake, I am still learning, though."
SB: Is there anything that you would like to say to your supporters out there before we part?
SM: "I would like to say you can expect to see more of Sergio Mora this year and I am sorry for the inactivity. My last two performances showed my mistake. I am not making any excuses for it. I want to thank everyone for their support and let them know you will be seeing more of The Latin Snake."
SB: Sergio, thank you for your time and good luck on June 7.
SM: "Thank You."