Vernon Forrest admits it. He screwed up big time.
He let Sergio Mora, a guy with half his experience, get the best of him and take away his WBC super welterweight title in June. He came out listless, never got his game in gear and got beat.
Now, Forrest gets a second chance, an opportunity for redemption, when he and Mora face each other Saturday to highlight the undercard of the Juan Manuel Marquez-Joel Casamayor lightweight fight at the MGM Grand Garden. Forrest promises things will be different this time.
“I was just flat, man,” said the 37-year-old from Atlanta who has won world titles in two weight classes. “It was one of those days. I couldn’t get a rhythm. I couldn’t get any bounce. He did his thing, and he wanted to fight.”
Forrest (40-3, 29 knockouts) said the 12-round majority-decision loss June 7 at Mohegan Sun in Connecticut was a wake-up call. He knows if he wants to remain relevant in boxing, he can’t afford to take any more nights off.
“It was embarrassing, to tell you the truth,” he said. “I was so disappointed in myself for not being professional in preparing for the fight. He took advantage of it.”
Buddy McGirt, who trains Forrest, said he shoulders much of the blame for the long training camp in Vero Beach, Fla., for the first fight.
“That’s my fault,” he said. “It was too long. Fighters are like racehorses. You’ve got to have them ready at the right time, and I didn’t do that for the first fight.”
For the rematch, Forrest returned to Atlanta, shortened the amount of preparation time in the gym and focused on being sharper.
“We just really worked on the things we should have worked on the first time,” he said. “Right now, everything is clicking on all cylinders. I’m really happy with the way my camp went.”
He senses that Mora is coming into Saturday’s fight overconfident. At Thursday’s news conference at the MGM Grand, Mora (21-0-1, five KOs) talked about the excitement surrounding the rematch with it being Mexican Independence Day weekend.
“I’m an entertainer first, a fighter second and a businessman third,” Mora said. “I’m going to entertain the thousands who show up to support me.”
Forrest heard the comments and smiled. “He’s an emotional fighter, and this will play right into my hands,” he said. “I’m going to use that emotion against him. He says he wants to be an entertainer first? That’s great. Me? I’m a boxer first.”
The fight is a virtual pick ’em among bettors. MGM Mirage properties have Forrest a minus-120 favorite, with Mora at even money. But Forrest said he’s focusing on regaining his title.
“The only thing the last fight did was get my competitive juices flowing again,” he said. “You’ve got to stay motivated. You’ve got to stay hungry, and you’ve got to stay on course for what got you there.
“I strayed off that course the last time. But I’ll show everybody I’m back on track when I beat this guy Saturday and get my belt back. Then we can move on to bigger and better things.”
Contact reporter Steve Carp at scarp@ reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2913.