Shot fighter” is a fluid term born of speculative psychology and boxing’s undying need to get inside the heads of its fighters. There is no real medical, technical, or even linguistic way to define who is shot and who is not, and because a fighter performs so infrequently and only for a maximum of 36 minutes at a time, evidence can be tough to find. Since taking a knee in the 11th round of his fight against Antonio Margarito and his allegedly loaded gloves back in 2008, all discussions about Miguel Cotto have begun with the question, “Is he shot?” Cotto, who was all of 27 years old when he fought Margarito the first time, has typified the sort of shot that has nothing to do with age, but rather stems from lost confidence and the fear that accompanies a brutal beating. Once a boxer is tagged as “shot,” there’s not much he can do to escape the speculation. It’s a particularly brutal and ubiquitous label, especially because it can be applied to nearly anyone at any age or condition. In his next fight, the seemingly invincible Margarito fought Shane Mosley, who, at the shot-to-all-hell age of 37, entered the ring as a 4:1 underdog. In nine stunning and violent rounds, Mosley destroyed Margarito and set himself up for big fights against Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao. Margarito has never been the same and now carries the distinction of being the pound-for-pound most shot fighter in the world, a title he might have lost to Mosley on Saturday night.
At the weigh-in on Friday afternoon at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, I stood next to Evander Holyfield and some very spoiled, very loud brats from Mexico City. The brats were taking photos of themselves and Holyfield was frowning and I was trying not to stare at Holyfield’s ear. The crowd was mostly drunk and sunburnt and thoroughly uninterested in “Sugar” Shane Mosley. Mosley didn’t seem particularly interested himself. He sort of smiled instead and chatted up Oscar De La Hoya. When it came time for Mosley to step on the scale, a few people in the crowd began chanting “Steroids! Steroids!” referencing Mosley’s past connections with BALCO and performance-enhancing drugs. Just as he was going into his customary smile-and-flex, he saw that he had come in a half-pound too heavy. The crowd booed, Mosley tried to act angry and surprised, every boxing reporter took out his phone and began tweeting about the end of Sugar Shane, Holyfield shook his head in disgust, and I once again suppressed the urge to stare at his ear.