Originally created 07/20/02

Head-butt still raises discussion



INDIANAPOLIS - Want to see the haunted look in Shane Mosley's eyes? Care to raise the ire of the Vernon Forrest camp?

Then just ask about the head-butt - nothing more, nothing less - and be prepared to spend hours listening to both sides of the argument.

The head-butt in question came in the second round of their Jan. 26 fight at Madison Square Garden, when Forrest, an Augusta native, threw a right hand to the body, Mosley lowered his head and their noggins clashed together.

The head-butt is a common occurrence in boxing.

For Mosley (38-1), it was a significant moment from which he never recovered. He lost a lopsided decision and his WBC Welterweight title. For Forrest (34-0), it's become a hindrance, an annoyance and an easy way for Mosley to cast doubt over everything that happened during the rest of the fight.

Both boxers are determined not to focus on the issue when they step in the ring at about 11 tonight at Conseco Fieldhouse for their title rematch.

Both boxers also are determined not to let the head-butt, which was ruled accidental, define their careers.

"He says if he wouldn't have gotten head-butted, the fight would have gone the other way," said Forrest, who knocked Mosley down twice in the second round and once in the 10th. "My response to that is that (if) it hadn't been for my right hand and uppercut, the fight would have gone the other way."

Mosley's rebuttal: "The first fight didn't show what I can do because of what happened in the second round. I fought with spirit and heart that fight. This time, I'm going to fight with my mind."

Mosley's most important opponent tonight might not be Forrest. It might be his head.

"Mentally, I overcame it, because I know it wasn't Shane Mosley fighting in there," Mosley said of the loss. "I wasn't really down emotionally (after the fight). I was shocked, because I couldn't do what I wanted to do. I know it wasn't me in there fighting."

So, Mosley got his head together in the same place he got his body back in shape - in the gym.

"He's refocused," said Jack Mosley, Shane's father and trainer. "He's strong and powerful. He's worked very hard. Based on our calculations and the work we've done, we should win the fight. The head-butt messed him up, but Shane feels like he's the better fighter."

He feels it so much that he pushed hard for an immediate rematch, just six months after Forrest decimated him for 12 rounds.

That decision, Tom Moraetes said, is an unusual one.

"I'm surprised Mosley is fighting him so soon and not fighting a few warmups," said Moraetes, Forrest's former trainer and executive director of Augusta Boxing Club. "I mean, when was the last time you saw a champion lose two fights in a row? It never happens. The first one could have been a career-breaker for Vernon. This one could be a career-breaker for Mosley."

Mosley is aware of all that. He just doesn't care.

He's hungry to prove he's a better fighter than Forrest. He's hungry to prove he's the top boxer in the world. And he's hungry to prove that when he's not taking a head-butt, Mosley can be sweet as sugar.

Or as sweet as Sugar Ray Robinson, who won four rematches with opponents who had beaten him.

"(A loss) could set me back," Mosley said. "But I don't look at it that way. Only the old-time fighters would lose a fight and come right back. I consider myself one of the greats. I couldn't see myself fighting another opponent. Knocking another guy out wouldn't be any satisfaction to me.

"I get another shot at him. When I came to the gym, my mission was to destroy Vernon. There was nothing else on my mind. That's what I ate, drank and slept."

It's hard not to believe him. But what really amuses Forrest is when Mosley claims the current champion has attended a head-butting school in Atlanta and that the incident in January was no accident.

All of that could give Forrest a mental edge. But he doesn't see it that way.

"I don't really know in terms of getting a mental edge," said Forrest, who suffered a concussion and a busted eardrum in the first fight. "That's not my strategy. But if he's harping on it, and I can exploit it, so be it."

Forrest also defeated Mosley during 1992 Olympic Trials. Moraetes said Forrest should enter the ring with a huge advantage.

"Vernon's got the edge," Moraetes said. "When one boxer beats another one, that's a huge edge. In football, they say it's hard for one team to beat another three times a season. It's not that way in boxing. Both fighters know Vernon can win this fight. When the bell rings, Shane's out of the fight. Vernon has to be the one not to let him get back in."

No ifs, ands or head-butts about it.

Reach Josh Katzowitz at (706) 823-3216 or josh.katzowitz@augustachronicle.com.