"I was worth millions, or so I thought," he says, "but I was living in my parents' garage, making $1,500 or $2,000 a fight."
Not that the garage was any particular hardship. It might not seem fair that while Mosley was double-parked at his parents' house, a contemporary like De La Hoya was drawing up plans for his Big Bear chateau, but Mosley doesn't complain. "That garage was nice," he says. "I had cable, air conditioning, a lot of space." Home cooking? "That, too."
But once Mosley's first promotional contract expired and he signed with Kushner, a move up and out was inevitable. Kushner, who operates in the big leagues and has a variety of champions signed at any time, lured Mosley under his ample wing with the prospect of fighting Holiday, a Kushner-promoted boxer who happened to hold the IBF lightweight title. Mosley jumped at the chance.
The fight against Holiday is considered one of his poorest, although Mosley's performance had less to do with the presumably stiffer competition than it did with a huge ingestion of muscle builder. By his own admission Mosley took too much creatine the day before the bout and became dehydrated by diarrhea. "He had an upset tummy," is how Kushner puts it. By fight time Mosley weighed 136 pounds, about 10 less than he normally would have, and he didn't have the strength to take out Holiday, one of only two opponents to have gone the distance against him.
Kushner kept Mosley busy thereafter, accepting small paydays in less than glamorous venues just for the activity. Ordinarily this would provoke a champion to bolt, but both Mosley and his father were persuaded of Kushner's wisdom. And what might have seemed like downward mobility—Mosley once fought for $75,000 less as a champion than he had as challenger, and he bounced from HBO to the USA network to Fox—turned out to be the path to fame and fortune. By virtue of his relentless schedule, which was played out almost entirely on the East Coast, Mosley became recognized as the sport's rising star. In 1998 HBO signed him to a three-year contract, validating his string of conquests.
This is a splendid payoff for Mosley, who at 27 does not have time to spare. But he doesn't intend to relax much. "I like to fight," he says. "I don't have time or focus for anything else." In an age when athletes reach the top very quickly and then begin planning alternate careers, Mosley is a throwback. "Ten more years," he says. "What else am I going to do?"
He will almost certainly move up in weight, possibly as high as De La Hoya's class (147 pounds), and earn commensurate purses. He could turn out to be one of those rare fighters who is so extravagantly skilled that it matters less whom he fights than whether he fights at all.
If Mosley turns into a kind of performance artist—in the fashion of a young Roy Jones Jr., for example—he will certainly be a busy one. He doesn't enjoy downtime. Just weeks after a recent victory over Golden Johnson, which was a sort of solo act (highlight: a round in which Johnson failed to land a punch), Mosley was back in the gym, working out and playing pickup basketball twice a day. "If I'm not working out," he says, "I get grouchy."
This might not be so much a matter of self-discipline as it is hyperactivity. "He was always very, very hyper," says his mother, Clemmie. "In nursery school they let me bring his Big Wheel so he could ride around during nap time. All the other kids were asleep, but Shane...."
The trick throughout his young life was to keep him busy, in soccer, basketball, it didn't matter. But even if he couldn't be contained by ordinary means, he was not likely to get into much trouble. The sisters at St. Joseph's had a soft spot for those dimples.