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In the MGM Grand, full to the rafters for Saturday's megafight, Floyd Mayweather Jr., an American welterweight (40-0; 25 KOs) jauntily strided toward the middle of the ring. The boxer, who claims to be better than Sugar Ray Robinson and Muhammad Ali, wore red faux leather trunks trimmed in black fur, his 5'8" body rippled with muscles and a confident grin. His weight was announced at 146. In the opposite corner stood Sugar Shane Mosley (46-5; 39 KOs), another American, about the same size, give or take a pound at fight time, but five years his senior.
Mayweather is arguably the greatest defensive technician in the history of the sport, but many boxing fans, who pay to see two men pummel each other silly, don't always appreciate his gift for dodging punches—and worthy opponents. Enter Mosley, Mayweather's quickest and most formidable foe to date. "I believe I am faster," Mosley, a natural welterweight, told me before the fight. "I have never faced him so I don't know. But I am fast." Most of my colleagues in press row, Nevada bookmakers, and the betting public didn't think Mosley, 38, was fast and powerful enough anymore, and made the veteran a 4-to-1 underdog. And by the beginning of Round 3 Mosley was breathing through his mouth, a sure sign of fatigue.
After the opening bell, Mosley, clad in black shorts trimmed in baby blue, stepped forward to pursue the younger man. Mosley connected with some right hands in the early rounds but mostly he punched the air. In the second round Mosley nearly pulled off the upset. The crowd chanted, "Mosley! Mosley!" after he landed a big right, which seriously stunned Mayweather. "It's a contact sport," says Mayweather. "You're going to get hit, but when you get hit you suck it up and keep fighting." To regain his composure, he told me after the fight, he thought about his family, and it calmed him down. The blow was the lone highlight of the night for Mosley. His age (he complained of a tight neck) and Mayweather's right hand over Mosley's jab caught up with him as the fight wore on. "He was too quick, and I was too tight," Mosley admitted later.
Mayweather, who is usually speeding around the ring like a Nevada jackrabbit, decided to stay in the center of the ring and go toe-to-toe. It seemed to shock everyone, including his opponent. Mayweather cleverly jabbed and counter-punched Mosley, and though the fight went 12 rounds, it was dominated by Mayweather, who won in a unanimous decision.
Mayweather will now be considered the best boxer in the world. Manny Pacquiao of the Philippines will be ranked number two. Mosley is usually rated a close third. Tommy Hearns and Sugar Ray Leonard, two veterans of the last great era in boxing who fought each other 29 years ago, were on hand for the fight. Leonard described the modern era as a "dark time in boxing," but his presence at the match seemed to imply that Mayweather-Mosley might help the sport revive its glory days. It was hardly a classic—no blood stained the ring, and there wasn't enough back-and-forth drama—but Mayweather proved he has few equals, now or in earlier eras. It has been theorized that Mayweather's fights draw millions of pay-per-view buyers because people are desperate to see him lose. Mayweather must be laughing his way to the bank. He was guaranteed $22.5 million for the bout but could make more depending on pay-per-view buys; Mosley has a guarantee of $7 million.