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Sugar Turns Sour

Still Searching for Fame and Fortune, Mosley Is Leaving His Promoter


NEW YORK — Shane Mosley, frustrated by his inability to win the fame and fortune of Oscar De La Hoya despite winning the only professional fight between them, is leaving promoter Cedric Kushner after Saturday night's fight against Vernon Forrest in the Theater at Madison Square Garden.

In the future, Mosley, an undefeated welterweight from Pomona, plans to use whichever promoter is offering the best deal for a particular fight.

He is also signing with IMG, hoping the marketing group can increase his visibility and appeal outside boxing.

"This is what I believe will work," Mosley said. "Oscar is in the mainstream, but Oscar is still in the boxing world as well. I've just got to get into the mainstream and I'll be all right."

Mosley should be a marketer's dream--handsome, articulate, scandal-free and, arguably, the best fighter, pound for pound, in the world. The World Boxing Council welterweight champion, he is 38-0 with 35 knockouts.

Yet he hasn't fought on pay-per-view since beating De La Hoya in June 2000; all three of his bouts since then were free to HBO subscribers.

And he hasn't fought in a big arena since he and De La Hoya met in Staples Center, stuck instead in small venues like the 5,000-seat Theater for his matches against Antonio Diaz, Shannan Taylor and Adrian Stone.

All of which has left Mosley unfulfilled and perplexed.

Lou DiBella, formerly a key HBO executive and now an advisor to several fighters, says it is tougher for Mosley because he is African American.

"An African-American fighter is disadvantaged in this marketplace, no matter how good he is," DiBella said. "Unfortunately, if an African American is not getting headlines with bizarre behavior, if he is not getting the publicity required to be featured on broadcast television, it's going to be tough for him.

"Premium cable and pay-per-view have made this more a niche business. In a broadcast world where a million homes is a big number, the African-American fighter does not have the national market of a Latino fighter. The Latino community is the most loyal audience for pay-per-view. A bilingual, Latino fighter is viewed as the most desirable fighter today.

"Everyone always used to talk about the Great White Hope. Today, a white fighter still has an advantage over an African-American fighter even if the white fighter has marginally inferior skills."

Promoter Bob Arum disagrees.

"That's ludicrous," Arum said. "It was always the African-American fighters, like Ray Leonard, like Muhammad Ali, like Sugar Ray Robinson, who were the biggest draws in boxing."

But Arum, who tapped into the Latino market by building De La Hoya into a superstar, concedes that, below the superstar level, Latino fighters begin with an advantage.

"It is true," he said, "that Latino fighters have rabid fans and thus start out with a bigger base. African-American or Caucasian fans generally are not going to identify with an African-American or Caucasian fighter unless he is something special. If you have an Irish fighter, Irish people are going to identify with him, but not necessarily other whites or blacks. Rocky Marciano, who was Italian, not only had Italians on his side but everybody else because he was a special fighter."

Said Jay Larkin, chief of boxing programming at the Showtime network, "Just because it's easier to sell to the Latino fan base doesn't mean it's hard to sell an African-American fighter.

"Boxing tends to go in waves. The first wave of immigration included Jewish, Italian and Irish fighters, and a majority of the boxing fans were Jewish, Italian and Irish. Then, there were an increasing number of African-American fighters. Then, an increasing number of Latin-American fighters. Now, we have an increasing number of Eastern European fighters. It really does track the socioeconomic patterns."

Larkin doesn't agree with Mosley's decision to go from promoter to promoter

"It's a mistake," Larkin said. "There's no continuity. Every time you have somebody new, they have to start over. And there's no way they want to build you up to hand you over to the next promoter."

Mosley, however, doesn't want to be tied down even though Kushner is planning to offer him a new deal.

"I just want to leave my options open from fight to fight," Mosley said.

Larkin also doesn't buy Mosley's belief that his victory over De La Hoya should have automatically catapulted Mosley into De La Hoya's role as the Golden Boy.

"Just because you beat the man doesn't mean you become the man," Larkin said.

Mosley thinks De La Hoya's triumph at the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona is also a key factor in determining the separate roads they have traveled. Mosley was favored to win a berth on the U.S. team in 1992 but lost in the trials to Forrest.

"It would have been a lot different if I had won a gold medal," Mosley said.

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