Beat The Man and you become The Man.
So many boxers think like that and so many of them are wrong. Shane Mosley figured when he defeated Oscar De La Hoya 2 1/2 years ago that he would inherit the mantle of the Golden Boy. Instead, he got the same small purses to fight the same anonymous opponents in the same tiny venues as he had before while De La Hoya, despite the loss and a brief retirement to pursue a singing career, returned with his golden glow as bright as ever.
It was a tough lesson on the value of charisma, shrewd promotion and the burgeoning buying power of the Hispanic market.
It's a lesson Vernon Forrest and his handlers have learned well. Forrest beat Mosley, the man once touted in many corners as the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world, twice last year, winning and defending the World Boxing Council welterweight title in the process. That improved Forrest's record to 35-0 with 26 knockouts. His punching power destroyed Mosley in the first fight and Forrest's boxing skills enabled him to win the rematch.
But rival promoters didn't come banging on Forrest's door waving money. He would have loved to fight De La Hoya, for the most lucrative purses outside the heavyweight division. But the best he could get from De La Hoya was an offer to sign with his company, Golden Boy Promotions, or take part in a tournament to select De La Hoya's next opponent.
So Forrest and his team -- managers Al Haymon and Charles Watson, and trainers Ronnie Shields and Al Mitchell -- decided to seek leverage. They signed a six-fight deal with HBO and went in search of more belts, figuring if they could get an undisputed championship, fame and fortune would surely follow.
With De La Hoya having moved to 154 pounds and Mosley out of the picture, Forrest went after the next best fighter, World Boxing Assn. champion Ricardo Mayorga (24-3-1, 22) of Managua, Nicaragua. They will meet tonight in a unification bout at the Pechanga Resort & Casino in Temecula.
Next on Forrest's dance card will be International Boxing Federation champion Michele Piccirillo.
But first comes Mayorga, who boasts, "As soon as the bell rings I'm going to hit him with everything I've got. I'm going to knock him out in seven rounds."
Forrest may view Mayorga as a mere steppingstone, but he's not the first to make that mistake. In the summer of 2001, Andrew "Six Heads" Lewis was riding high as the WBA welterweight king, fighting for promoter Bob Arum and hunting for Mosley, the biggest head in the division.
He stepped into the ring on the undercard of a Roy Jones fight at Staples Center to face Mayorga and stumbled out. Seven seconds into the second round, an accidental butting of heads produced a deep cut on Lewis' left eyelid, resulting in a no-contest.
In the rematch last March in Reading, Pa., Mayorga captured Lewis' title via a fifth-round technical knockout.
Also on tonight's card will be a 10-round junior-lightweight bout between former World Boxing Assn. super-featherweight champion Joel Casamayor (28-1, 18) and North American Boxing Federation titleholder Nate Campbell (23-0, 21).
Three fighters facing upcoming title fights will stage a free public workout today beginning at 1 p.m. at La Curacao, 5980 Pacific Blvd., Huntington Park. The trio consists of Manuel Medina, who will be fighting Juan Manuel Marquez for the vacant IBF featherweight title at Las Vegas' Mandalay Bay Events Center Feb. 1, Carlos Hernandez, who will face David Santos for the vacant IBF super-featherweight championship on the same card, and Antonio Magarito, who will defend his World Boxing Organization welterweight championship against Lewis on Feb. 8 at Mandalay Bay.