The criticism was immediate and relentless after Shane Mosley wilted badly in his May fight against Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Mosley rocked Mayweather in the second round, then Mosley faded so noticeably in the last 10 rounds in a lopsided loss that some didn't expect him to fight again.
"Shane is looking his age in this fight," trainer Emanuel Steward said during the Mayweather-Mosley broadcast.
Mosley turned 39 last week, but he didn't make it a birthday-retirement party.
Instead, Mosley (46-6, with 30 knockouts) is fighting Saturday night at Staples Center, headlining an HBO pay-per-view card against former junior-middleweight world champion Sergio Mora (22-1-1). And Mosley is spinning a story about why his decision to keep boxing is grounded in common sense, and is not a repeat of the proud-warrior-hanging-on-too-long syndrome.
"I love to fight, and there's still big fights out there for me," said Mosley, who was paid $7 million for the Mayweather bout. "I didn't even second-guess it. I know what I can do. I feel better this time."
Mosley said his poor performance against the unbeaten Mayweather was not because of age, but from neck pain that worsened by the pressure Mayweather applied.
"He'll hate me for saying this," Mosley's friend, Hassan Abdul Rahim, said recently at a Mosley workout in Hollywood. "He had a back injury as well, from a snowboarding injury right before the Mayweather camp. We tried physical therapy and massage, but he still felt it. He couldn't move like he always does. I want him to say it. He won't. He doesn't want excuses."
Abdul Rahim and Mosley's attorney, Judd Burstein, also said that Mosley went into the Mayweather fight dealing with the financial headaches of his shattered marriage to the woman he had three children with, Jin Mosley. Mosley paid his soon to be ex-wife $1.2 million before the Mayweather bout, plus an agreement to pay another $2.7 million, Burstein said.
"Anybody who has that much taken from them right before a fight is going to be affected," Abdul Rahim said.
Said Burstein: "He thought divorce meant moving on with his life. That really hasn't happened because of California's disgraceful community property rules. His job causes him to risk his life. She has nannies caring for their children. And she gets 50% of what he makes."
Jin Mosley, who was with Shane from his 2003 victory over Oscar De La Hoya to shortly before his gripping comeback technical knockout of Antonio Margarito in January 2009 at Staples, said she isn't buying the alibis.
"They're making excuses for what happened that night, for why Shane lost [to Mayweather]," Jin Mosley said. "None of those excuses are legitimate. Shane should've retired a couple years ago. I'm telling you, I did nothing that was devastating to his bank account or ego."
Asked whether he's fighting Mora just for the money, Mosley tried to make light of his divorce.
"I do have money. I need to re-up again because of personal stuff," he said.
Mosley is guaranteed $1 million for the fight, and oddsmakers favor Mosley by 3-1.
But there remains the issue of Mosley's age. Muhammad Ali was 39 when he last fought, Sugar Ray Leonard quit at 40, and De La Hoya last fought at 35 — and all lost their final fights.
Mosley's promoter, Richard Schaefer, said that while he saw his business partner De La Hoya age to the obvious point of retirement in the ring, he believes Mosley deserves the benefit of the doubt. After all, Schaefer said, after Mosley's lethargic 2008 win over Ricardo Mayorga, at age 37 Mosley rallied to win the welterweight title again by beating Margarito.
"[Mosley] knows what happened in the ring [against Mayweather] and he came right back asking to fight Mora," Schaefer said. "He knows how to make adjustments, and believes he'll show the world what he's all about. He's still fighting because he can. He's convinced he can still beat the best fighters out there. And if he goes out and dominates Mora, he's right back where he wants to be."
A shot at Manny Pacquiao? A rematch with Mayweather, Miguel Cotto or Margarito? Or World Boxing Assn. welterweight champion Andre Berto? Mosley insists that "boxing fans need superstars like me to hang around."
If Mosley wins Saturday, Schaefer promises he'll get Mosley one of those big fights, but attaches an asterisk: "He has to look good. It's a tremendous amount of pressure on Shane. It's a must-win night. Must win."
Mosley assures he's "feeling better" than he did last training camp, "landing more shots," in sparring, and with no complaints of fatigue and soreness to his closest advisors as he did in preparing for Mayweather.
Plus, there's the motivation to "re-up."
"Jin thought she'd get out while the getting was good before he fought Margarito," Burstein said. "Well, Shane has had eight figures [worth] of earnings since then, eight figures she blew by not having faith in Shane."