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Mayweather a draw even without Manny Pacquiao

Tim Dahlberg, The Associated Press

LAS VEGAS – The talk around the MGM Grand hotel Wednesday was about new pay-per-view records and many more millions for Money Mayweather. The fact that it came mostly from fight promoters wasn’t terribly surprising, but it did mean that the hype for boxing’s latest big fight had officially begun.

Whether Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Shane Mosley prove to be the kind of attraction that Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao would have been is doubtful, no matter how hard promoters try to convince everyone otherwise. Still, it’s Mayweather against a quality opponent, and that by itself should be enough to convince a lot of people to shell out $59.95 to watch it at home Saturday night.

The last time Mayweather fought, more than 1 million people did just that, and Juan Manuel Marquez wasn’t exactly what oddsmakers in this gambling city call a live dog. Mosley is that and more, despite being a 4-1 underdog in the sports books to a fighter who has never lost.

Do the math and you can see why Mayweather doesn’t mind playing the role of boxing’s bad boy. It’s made him more money than he can count, and he figures to bank many more millions for what figures to be 12 rounds of work in a welterweight fight that isn’t a bad substitute for the Mayweather-Pacquiao bout that everybody except Mayweather seemed to want.

Count Mosley among those grateful for Mayweather’s drawing power, even if Mayweather has taken it upon himself to portray him as a steroid-fueled fighter. At the age of 38, Mosley is suddenly making a minimum of $7 million in a fight that could define his career and he couldn’t be happier.

“I think he brings a lot of mouth. People dislike him so much they buy the fight just to see him lose,” Mosley said. “But he does a very good job of promoting his fights.”

There’s little argument there. Despite having a defensive style that wins him few fans, Mayweather has become a superstar at the cash window, helping bring in $292 million in pay-per-view buys in his last six fights.

And, though there were still tickets for sale Wednesday at the MGM Grand arena, this likely will be a pay-per-view smash even with Pacquiao at home running for congress in the Philippines.

“They say I pick and choose who I fight,” Mayweather said. “It doesn’t matter. I’m Floyd Mayweather and they come to see me regardless.”

Mayweather was surprisingly subdued at the final prefight press conference, perhaps because he’s spent much of the last few weeks doing the dirty work for this fight. That meant everything from throwing F-bombs around on HBO’s “24/7” series to questioning whether Mosley ever fought without the use of performance enhancing drugs.

His entourage was equally subdued, though uncle and trainer Roger Mayweather did come up with the line of the afternoon.

“I know it’s a big fight or all you people wouldn’t be eating for free,” he told people who were, indeed, eating for free.

It would be even bigger had Mayweather not taken a hardline stance in demanding Olympic-style drug testing as part of the price for a fight with Pacquiao, who showed his star power last month when he drew more than 50,000 people to Cowboys Stadium. Most in boxing figure that fight will happen this fall should Mayweather beat Mosley, but most in boxing figured it would happen in the first place and it didn’t.

The biggest knock against Mosley is that he’s getting up in years and hasn’t fought in more than a year, a combination that hasn’t worked well in the past for other fighters. But he’s won titles in three weight classes, beaten Oscar De La Hoya twice, and has both the speed and power to make Mayweather work hard for his money.

Equally telling, perhaps, is that Mayweather’s people negotiated a rematch clause in the contract, but only if their fighter loses.

“He couldn’t just fight Joe Blow,” Mosley said. “He had to fight somebody good if he wants to be considered the best.”

That doesn’t mean the fight will be a classic, though it certainly has that chance. Both fighters are gym rats to begin with, both are highly skilled masters of their craft, and both have seen just about everything in the ring in their long careers.

But big fights seldom live up to their hype. And if Mayweather hadn’t invented his thug persona to sell himself, he would still be waiting for the first fan to buy a ticket to watch him crouch and duck and counter his way to yet another tedious decision win.

Mayweather won’t be changing his style against Mosley. Not when it’s served him well in winning all 40 of his fights.

And certainly not when people will keep buying in anyway.

– Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at tdahlberg(at)ap.org


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