A lot can change in six months, but this is a little ridiculous, even by boxing standards.
In roughly the same time span it took Mike Tyson to transform from a blood-thirsty villain threatening to eat children into a bloodied pulp kissing babies, the welterweight luminaries regressed from sugar and nice to bitter and vile. Bad is now good; good/bad.
"Sugar" Shane Mosley and Vernon Forrest were the kindest of adversaries in January in the aftermath of Forrest's decisive pummeling of Mosley, the former undefeated pound-for-pound champion of the welterweight division. They return to the ring tonight in Indianapolis with their nice-guy reputations buried under months of accusations and trash talk.
"I'm going to do my talking in the fight," said Mosley, who's been talking nonstop since suffering his first pro defeat to Forrest. "I'll see you Saturday, Vernon."
Shortly after the first fight, Mosley accused Forrest of dirty tactics, including an intentional head-butt in the second round that turned the tide of the bout and a low blow in the 10th that added insult to injury. Mosley says he has it on good authority from a former sparring mate of Forrest's that the Augusta native hones his head-butting in secret sessions with the most famous noggin' knocker in Atlanta, Evander Holyfield.
Forrest denies the accusations. For his part, he says he could have knocked Mosley out at any time during the last fight but kept him standing only so he could hurt him more.
Let's just say Augusta National Golf Club Chairman Hootie Johnson and women's activist Martha Burk get along more cordially these days - and Fox Sports would pay anything to get them paired up in Celebrity Boxing III.
But Forrest-Mosley II is set for HBO, and the prefight sparks have only added to the luster of a rematch neither fighter could wait to make happen.
Forrest, however, doesn't look like a man enjoying his place atop the boxing world. He is so surly that he skulked out of his public training session without comment because they turned off his profane music in deference to the children in attendance.
Why so angry? Maybe because this fight is as important to Forrest as the first. Not just to prove that beating the once unbeatable Mosley wasn't a fluke. Forrest needs to beat him clean to nip any reputation as a dirty fighter in the bud.
Holyfield's reputation as a headbuster is justly deserved. The elephantine welt he raised on Hasim Rahman's head last month was the signature stroke in a long history of skull brushes.
Forrest's reputation isn't so set. In August 2000, Forrest nailed Raul Frank with a head-butt in the third round that led to a no-contest. It was nine months before he got the chance to fight Frank again and earn his first world title and set the stage for facing Mosley.
The irony is, Forrest doesn't need anything other than his punishing jabs and superior reach to defeat Mosley. He has "Sugar's" number, much like Ken Norton had Muhammad Ali's. He beat Mosley as an amateur and backed it up as a pro 10 years later. A third triumph will seal it.
The usually soft spoken and respectful Mosley says this whipping is for Forrest, and that once delivered he's already looking forward to another date with Oscar De La Hoya in a higher weight class. Forrest isn't looking ahead to where his next paycheck will come from.
"(Vernon) better watch how he spends his money, because July 20 is his last hooray," Mosley said.
This one might get messy enough to make Tyson blush.
Reach Scott Michaux at (706) 823-3219 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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