The Latin Snake moves forward

Photo by Will Hart/HBO

Photo by Will Hart/HBO

 

Originally, Sergio Mora was slated to face Jermain Taylor this Friday night at the Beau Rivage Resort and Casino for Taylor’s IBF middleweight title. But as the troubled Taylor ran into more legal difficulties, this fight was scrapped and now the “Latin Snake” is paired with Abraham “Abie” Han.

 

As he got the news, Mora’s reaction was, “‘Here we go again,’ that’s exactly the thoughts that went through my head and after that, I started getting the details and I felt sorry for him a bit. But all in all it was disappointing for me and my team.”

 

Back in 2007 when Taylor was the middleweight champion of the world and a staple of HBO’s boxing franchise, Mora turned down a reported $750,000 payday because of his reluctance to face Taylor in Memphis, Tennessee. He believed the locale gave Taylor an unfair advantage. Years later, he admits that perhaps it wasn’t the wisest decision. It was never meant to be, it seems, for these two to ever get together in the ring at the same time.

 

“That’s exactly how it is and I’m a firm believer of fate,” Mora says, philosophically. He says the back of his trunks reads an Arabic word meaning “destiny.” “I believe in destiny. I think everything happens for a reason or put in our places and it wasn’t meant to be with Jermain Taylor.”

 

In Taylor’s place is Han and instead of being an IBF title fight, it will be for the vacant USBA title (which puts one in line to eventually fight for the championship). Just as important, it’s still the main event on ESPN2’s “Friday Night Fights.” That alone is important to Mora, whose last couple of fights have not been televised.

 

“Absolutely – and I don’t know if you remember our last conversation but I said I was going to be more active, no matter what. The pay wasn’t going to be important; the television wasn’t going to be important. If I I wanted to get back to the main events, the big networks, I needed to stay active and I’ve done that,” stated Mora, recalling a conversation we had last spring prior to his late May bout against Samuel Rogers on the non-televised portion of an HBO Latino card in Las Vegas. “I got four fights and it just so happened that all of them were on undercards of big fights or network television and now I’m headlining. So I’m just going to get a piece of this headline on national television. It is a great thing for a fighter.

 

“Not much of us get to headline, especially on ESPN, Showtime and HBO. So we’re fortunate.”

 

There was a time when you could’ve accused Mora of having a false sense of entitlement and living off “The Contender” for a few too many years. That said, recently, he’s been more than willing to make the sacrifices necessary to climb back up the ladder. And now that he’s with Al Haymon, does this mean he has a new lease on his career?

 

”Great question,” said Mora, contemplating the ramifications of his recent decision. “Of course, because that’s just the environment and the nature of the sport that I’m in. They respect that man and I respect that man.” Mora points out that not only does Haymon open doors that would otherwise be slammed shut, “We get treated great from beginning to end.”

 

So what is the grand plan in 2015 for Haymon and his vast-and-still-growing stable of prizefighters?

 

Mora wouldn’t lay out specifics but he did say, “I’m just gonna say that he has a lot of television dates; he has a big 2015 planned for a lot of his major fighters and major names and he has a lot of pull and power with the networks and a fat wallet to throw around as well. So I can’t get into details but lets just keep it there. The man has a lot of power and the man has the dates and we want that power and we want those dates and he treats us well and I’m going to fight my ass off for him and Lou DiBella.”

 

But his re-emergence isn’t just about Haymon’s influence; Mora has done his part by trying to alter his style to be more fan-friendly and, for the most part, he has delivered. Always slick and slippery (like a snake), he is now more willing to initiate action and stand in the pocket. After suffering a bruise under his eye against Milton Nunez in Nov. of 2013, Mora said to this reporter at the fight hotel, “This ‘being more exciting’ thing is tough,” while pointing at his bruising.

 

Mora still feels like he is unfairly stigmatized by his draw against Shane Mosley in Sept. 2010, an awkward affair, to put it kindly. The HBO crew led by Jim Lampley was hypercritical of Mora and his style and he was essentially embargoed from the network after that bout. It was at this point in which he made a conscious effort to take more risks inside the ring. But old perceptions are often difficult to change.

 

“People listen to people like him and other critics but when they see me actually perform, then they’re going to say, ‘Well, this guy has a lot of skill; this guy has a lot of talent.’ Right now, the only people that respect and really take stock in my talent are people that have known me from the get-go that have seen me from the beginning and know the things I’ve done,” said Mora, now 34 years old.

 

“These are the people that still know I have it but the casual fan, they just listen to commentators and critics. These are the guys I gotta convince and it starts with shows like these and undercards like I’ve been doing. I haven’t changed my stripes; I’ve adapted to what you guys want now. I’ve always had that in me but it takes a lot to fight like that. I’ve been getting hit harder; I’ve been getting in more dangerous situations,” stated Mora, who actually traded knockdowns with Dashon Johnson in his last fight before winning an eight-round verdict back in December.

 

“So it takes a lot to be fighting more exciting but that’s what I’m going to do for you guys because that’s what it takes to get back on top.”

 

Regardless, Mora has had a very productive career, from starring on “The Contender” and winning its first season on NBC to winning a world title against the late, great Vernon Forrest and facing some of the biggest names of this past generation. By any standard, it’s been a success.

 

OK, with that said, does Mora wish he would have done this sooner?

 

With a hearty laugh, he says, “Listen, if I could take everything back, I wouldn’t change a thing.”

 

 

TNR

 

Here’s the latest edition of “The Next Round” with Gabe Montoya and Yours Truly

 

 

FRIDAY NIGHT FLURRIES

 

Dan Rafael of ESPN reported that Golden Boy Promotions sold the contract of Leo Santa Cruz to Al Haymon…Yeah, it absolutely looks like time-buys are coming to ESPN2 after the end of May (and you can guess who will be involved)…A step-aside fee has been worked out for Billy Joe Saunders/Frank Warren and WBO middleweight beltholder Andy Lee will be facing Peter Quillin in the spring…With all the issues surrounding the card, the March 21 HBO doubleheader at the Theater of Madison Square Garden featuring Terence Crawford and Nicholas Walters has been scratched…Say it ain’t so! No more Radio Shack?! Where will I get my old-school cassette recorders? (And yeah, I still use them.)…Tiger Woods is done; stick a fork in him…So is Brian Williams negotiating with Floyd and Manny to get this fight done?…I can be reached at steve.kim@ucnlive.com and I tweet (a lot) at http://twitter.com/steveucnlive. I also share photos of stuff at http://instagram.com/steveucnlive and can also be found at www.tsu.co/steveucnlive.

 

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