A LITTLE R-E-S-P-E-C-T FOR MOSLEY.
Shane Mosley expected more of a return on his monumental victory over Oscar De La Hoya last year. He expected a few television commercials, sell-out crowds at massive arenas, his name on the lips of the casual sports fan.
It hasn't happened.
Mosley, perhaps the best fighter in the world, is a god in the boxing world but relatively anonymous outside it. He admits he's frustrated but insists he's happy. Life is good - it just could be a little better.
``It's frustrating because I love the sport of boxing,'' said Mosley, who faces Adrian Stone on July 21 in Las Vegas in the third defense of the WBC welterweight title he took from De La Hoya in June of last year.
``I want to do what I can to make the sport bigger, like (Mike) Tyson used to, like De La Hoya. I want to keep the sport alive, I want people to take it seriously.''
Mosley, who grew up and lives in Pomona, worked hard and long to get to the De La Hoya fight.
He established himself as an exceptional lightweight champion, outpointing Philip Holiday in August 1997 to win the IBF title and knocking out each of his opponents in eight defenses. Insiders were well aware of his greatness.
However, he had yet to engage in a defining fight, a fight for which he'd be remembered. That's why he skipped over the junior welterweight class directly to 147 pounds in 1999: He wanted De La Hoya.
The two filled Staples Center and provided a marvelous show. De La Hoya was good. Mosley was better, dazzling the fans and his L.A.-area rival with his speed and boxing ability to win convincingly even though it was officially a split decision.
The world took notice like never before, only not to the degree Mosley anticipated.
At 29 and on top of the boxing world, he believed his days of fighting before small crowds was over, that he could fill arenas because of his name, his perfect record (37-0, with 34 knockouts) and the fact he beat De La Hoya. Instead, he fought Antonio Diaz before only 5,000 at Madison Square Garden and Shannan Taylor before 2,800 in a Caesars Palace ballroom in his two defenses and wasn't happy about it.
To a good extent, no one is to blame. Such is boxing. A precious few are able to cross over into mainstream consciousness.
De La Hoya was one because he had unique advantages: An Olympic gold medal, good looks, charisma and the brilliant handling of promoter Bob Arum. Mosley, without the benefit of a big-time promoter until he signed with Cedric Kushner late in his career, had to claw his way to the top like almost all fighters.
Mosley also blamed Kushner.
``I expected him to do a little more,'' Mosley said. ``He says, `I'm doing all I can, I'm doing all I can do.' I see what other promoters are doing for their fighters, though. ... De La Hoya, (Felix) Trinidad, Tyson with (Don) King.
``I feel I have great talent and I deserve what they're getting.''
In other words, Mosley said Kushner is gone after the fight with Stone. Mosley, along with father/trainer Jack Mosley, will join the newest movement among elite fighters and self promote to gain more control over his own destiny.
There's a lot of work ahead.
Mosley is developing a problem similar to that of Roy Jones Jr.: few compelling potential opponents. Diaz, Taylor and Stone are all solid fighters but far inferior to Mosley. He stopped both Diaz and Taylor but lost much of the momentum gained with the spectacular victory over De La Hoya.
He plans to face Vernon Forrest - who beat Mosley in the 1992 Olympic Trials - and then go after De La Hoya again, possibly in November.
The only other big-name possibility out there is Fernando Vargas. Beyond that is a long, boring list of possible opponents that won't do anything for Mosley's career.
That's why he's actually talking about retirement. He loves to fight as much as anyone in the game but doesn't want to perform in relative obscurity. He's had a taste of the big time and doesn't want to go backward.
He envisions victories over Forrest, De La Hoya and Vargas and then calling it quits.
``I would retire before I got into a situation like Jones,'' he said. ``I really would.''
And if he does walk away without having made the impact he'd like to make on the sport? He'll be just fine. He likes the idea of shifting his focus to his family - he lives with his girlfriend and two children - and plans to train fighters.
``Hey, it's not about money,'' he said. ``I'm already well off. I have everything I want in my life, a beautiful family, everything. I have no regrets about anything.
``... It just probably wasn't meant for me to have all the breaks. Maybe that's a good thing. I'll just help the sport in another way, training, managing, commentating, whatever it might be.''
--Rabbit punches: HBO is giving up on ``KO Nation,'' which the network designed to attract younger viewers. The last show will be Aug. 11. ...
The De La Hoya-Javier Castillejo fight June 23 drew nearly 400,000 pay-per-view buys, according to HBO. That lofty number - the highest of the year - proves that De La Hoya remains extremely popular.
--Coming up: On ESPN2 on Tuesday, Eric Lucas will face Glenn Catley in Montreal for the vacant WBC super middleweight championship. ...
On Friday, also on ESPN2, Mickey Ward will face Emanuel Burton in a 10-round junior welterweight bout in Hampton Beach, N.H. ...
On pay-per-view Saturday, Roberto Duran will face Hector Camacho in Denver for something called the NBA super middleweight championship. ...
And on Sunday, on Univision, Martin Castillo will face Ricardo Vargas in a 10-round super flyweight bout in San Jacinto.
DAILY NEWS TOP 10 POUND-FOR-POUND
1. Roy Jones Jr. - Will Trinidad be his defining fight?
2. Felix Trinidad - He has a serious challenge in Hopkins
3. Shane Mosley - Must make rematch with De La Hoya
4. Floyd Mayweather - Should face Freitas-Casamayor winner
5. Marco Antonio Barrera - Barrera-Johnny Tapia is intriguing
6. Oscar De La Hoya - Must fight either Mosley or Vargas
7. Ricardo Lopez - How does Lopez-Eric Morel sound?
8. Erik Morales - Needs to lure Barrera into rematch
9. Bernard Hopkins - Victory over Trinidad would make career
10. Zab Judah - Still waiting for that break-out fight
WBC welterweight champion Shane Mosley says he's happy but admits there is ``frustration'' from not receiving recognition.
Jeff Zelevansky/Associated Press
Box: DAILY NEWS TOP 10 POUND-FOR-POUND (see text)