Mayweather will be back

June, 12, 2008
6/12/08
9:15
AM ET
Floyd Mayweather Jr., who called off his Sept. 20 rematch with Oscar De La Hoya by announcing his retirement last week, told ESPN.com that he was planning a comeback.

OK, not really.

I was just practicing writing the story for when he does announce his return. If you think Mayweather is done boxing for good, put down the glue. He'll be back as surely as I will banish somebody from Friday's chat.

A competitive, healthy athlete at the peak of his fame and earning power at age 31 does not walk away for good, especially when you are a limelight lover like Mayweather is.

Maybe Mayweather will take off a year, maybe two. But he will be back. Like with Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield, both of whom made way more money than Mayweather, there will come a day when he will need the cash. He does, after all, call himself "Money." It's easy to spend wildly when there's an eight-figure check coming in every six months. They'll stop in retirement, even if Mayweather's well-documented lavish spending habits and love of sports gambling probably won't. We're talking about a guy who stuffs $50,000 in a paper bag to go the mall.

Theories abound on why Mayweather elected to retire now. The one that I like best comes from Larry Merchant, who told me (in jest, obviously), "I have it on good authority that Mayweather retired because he broke both hands patting himself on the back."

Another one might be as a way to get back at his daddy, Floyd Mayweather Sr. , with whom he has been estranged for years other than a brief reunion last year. Big Floyd was all set to train De La Hoya for the rematch and set to cash an enormous check for his role, a storyline that was really the only intriguing thing about the rematch. Big Floyd, of course, sat out the first fight, but was not afraid to tell anyone who would listen that his presence in the promotion for the rematch was what was going to sell it. Little Floyd, the theory goes, didn't like that and simply stuck it to his father, ripping away his big payday and taking away his chance to beat his son, something Mayweather Jr. couldn't possibly live with.

Junior doesn't much care for De La Hoya either, so by pulling out, he takes away a massive payday and leaves De La Hoya in a tough spot by messing up his planned schedule of a September rematch followed by a career finale in December.

But if Mayweather truly is retired, he won't go down as the greatest fighter in boxing history, even though that is what he insists he is.

Mayweather was terrific and a top 20 all-time fighter, maybe even top 10, but not No. 1. He was undefeated, won titles in five weight divisions, dominated lots of quality opponents and was worthy of his pound-for-pound mantle. But please don't tell me he was better than Sugar Ray Robinson, Henry Armstrong, Muhammad Ali or Sugar Ray Leonard, among others.

He never had a foil to bring out the best in him like those men did. He didn't have a Joe Frazier like Ali had or a Tommy Hearns like Leonard did.

On his way up the ladder, Mayweather beat significant opponents such as Genaro Hernandez, Diego "Chico" Corrales and Jose Luis Castillo, but he also managed to miss some deserving opponents. I'm not placing blame solely on Mayweather, but the fact is he never fought Acelino "Popo" Freitas or Joel Casamayor at a time when all three held junior lightweight titles and were in their primes. (Freitas and Casamayor at least fought each other in a unification fight.)

Mayweather never fought Kostya Tszyu, the real junior welterweight champ when he moved up, and refused to fight Shane Mosley when Mosley was lightweight champion. Mayweather avoided Mosley again at welterweight. And now, by walking away, Mayweather has left one giant challenger unvanquished: Miguel Cotto.

The best fighter of all time cannot leave such obvious unfinished business. Did Ali skip any challenger? Did Robinson? If Mayweather wants to be known as the best fighter ever, the onus is on him to fight the fighters the fans and media perceive to be a threat, even if Mayweather himself doesn't think they are.

Well guess what? We believe Cotto is a threat. A big one.

And let's be honest: Since Mayweather left the lightweight division at the end of 2003, he didn't exactly face murder's row during his eight-fight run above 135 pounds. In fact, not one of his opponents was an in-his-prime, at-his-best-weight foe.

• DeMarcus "Chop Chop" Corley, who went on to become a Mayweather sparring partner, was a washed-up former titleholder coming off a loss.

• Henry Bruseles was a 100-1 underdog coming off a draw.

• Arturo Gatti had a junior welterweight belt but zero chance of even making it competitive, much less winning.

• Sharmba Mitchell was as a shell of himself, above his best weight and completely shot. It still irks me to this day that HBO bought that crap.

• Zab Judah was a live dog and a good fighter, but he was coming off a loss.

• I understood and endorsed the Carlos Baldomir fight because he was the legitimate welterweight world champion, but we all knew it would be a demolition -- a Ferrari vs. a Pinto -- and that's what it was.

Then came mega money fights against De La Hoya and Ricky Hatton. I won't complain about either, but facts are facts: Neither of them were fighters residing in Mayweather's own deep division. The welterweight division boasts Cotto, Antonio Margarito, Paul Williams and Mosley, yet Mayweather never fought any of them.

You can't be the greatest ever if you can't even clean out your own division, especially when at least two of them (Cotto and Mosley) are on the pound-for-pound list.

But don't worry, folks. There's still time.

There's still time because Mayweather will be back.

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