Sugar Shane Mosley sustained all of his worst beatings in recent years outside the ring. Although his boxing skills are honed to a razor's sharpness after a lifetime of training, they weren't much use against a world that seemed determined to hit him below the belt.
Mosley became embroiled in a drug scandal after what he claimed was inadvertent use of BALCO designer steroids. He endured a bitter public breakup with his wife and manager, Jin, in a divorce that might get even nastier before it's all over.
Several of Mosley's prospective bouts fell apart for reasons both tragic -- the Haiti earthquake, which forced Andre Berto to miss their January fight -- and bizarre, such as the time Zab Judah cut his arm open on a glass shower door. Mosley also became a nightmare opponent for almost any welterweight: Far too good and experienced to beat easily, but without enough drawing power to entice any fighter more famous than him.
"You get to a point in your career where things are tough, and then some things happened to me that made it even tougher," Mosley said during a recent workout in Pasadena, Calif., sweat still clinging to the curly hair that Floyd Mayweather Jr. loves to mock.
"This is a funny sport, and a lot of it is out of your hands," Mosley said. "You can only control your own attitude, and being ready when it's time."
Mosley never became despondent, and he never stopped training. Boxing is breathing for the 38-year-old former three-division champion, who works out compulsively and sometimes gets into sparring sessions on vacation, just for fun.
After years of failing to land the biggest fights, perhaps the biggest of all fell into his lap: Mayweather agreed to risk his unbeaten record against Mosley on Saturday night at the MGM Grand Garden.
"This is a fight that I've definitely earned, and it's definitely past due," Mosley said. "I'm putting everything I have into it. I don't ever want to look back and think I should have done something different to get the most out of my boxing career."
Mosley got his break when Mayweather's long-anticipated bout with Manny Pacquiao fell apart over Mayweather's sudden determination to carry the flag for exhaustive drug testing before his bouts, an insistence that offended and worried Pacquiao.
Mosley already had broken with his usual reserved character to challenge Mayweather in the ring after his comeback victory over Juan Manuel Marquez last September. When Mayweather finally called, Mosley eagerly accepted the drug tests and the bout, which is likely to pay him more than $7 million.
Mosley says he no longer fights for money -- although a little extra cash won't hurt after his divorce is finalized in his native California. He simply wants to seize every day, fighting major opponents in bouts with landmark importance to his career -- and if he upsets Mayweather, a 4-1 favorite, he'll get his pick.
"I have to say I was a little surprised, but I'm grateful for it," Mosley said. "I think he's competitive, where he loves to win. I think he's also scared to lose. That's his motivation at this point. Fighting me validates him deciding to fight junior welterweights. He needs to beat me to gain any credibility of his legendary status, so I think that was enough to get him in there with me."
Mosley knew what came next when he took a bout with Mayweather, who has made himself boxing's top pay-per-view star in large part because people are eager to see somebody shut that big mouth. Mayweather has taunted Mosley about everything from his haircut and nose to his recent resume, and the entire Mayweather clan has taken turns discounting Mosley's achievements due to steroid use -- even though Mosley never failed a drug test.
Although they play the game when necessary, the salesmanship of boxing holds little interest for Mosley or Naazim Richardson, Mosley's patient trainer.
"I'm not surprised he's been raising the steroid issue," Richardson said. "People in this business lay out cushions. If a guy is going to knock me out, I want to have a reason out there, so the cushion will catch me when I fall."
Mosley had long been trained by his father, Jack, until Mosley hired Richardson, Bernard Hopkins' longtime mentor and a respected strategist. Mosley flatly says his father "lost the hunger for the game," failing to match his son's unwavering focus.
"When you put boxing second, it puts you second," Mosley said.
Mosley and Richardson share that focus. While many fighters hold training camps in the high altitudes and quiet environs of Big Bear, Calif., Mosley built a home there, surrounded by an iron gate and containing a full gym.
Mayweather's speed and elusiveness make him a particularly tough matchup for Mosley, yet Richardson believes Mosley has the veteran tenacity -- and the will, after several years of turmoil -- to pull off a historic upset.
"We've got 12 rounds to try to get him, and anything that gets on the scale and weighs 147 pounds, I think Shane can knock it out," Richardson said. "If a Shetland pony comes in at 147, I like Shane in that fight. Floyd can turn into a dragon, sprout wings and a tail and breathe fire. It's not going to scare Shane. Everybody is going to see what I'm talking about."