Mayweather makes long-awaited return vs. Marquez

LAS VEGAS (AP) - Floyd Mayweather Jr. learned to fight shortly after he learned to walk, and he needed a break from boxing. He essentially spent the past two years trying out other lives: By turns he was a television star, a pro wrestler, a playboy, a businessman, a record producer and a doting father of four.

The experience - and the money it cost to have it - only left him eager to get back his unblemished sporting life.

When Mayweather returns from a 21-month retirement to fight Juan Manuel Marquez on Saturday night at the MGM Grand Garden, the fighter who nicknamed himself "Money" is certainly in it for the cash, which will be used to pay off a few IRS debts and perhaps some bills on his massive "Big Boy" mansion in the Vegas suburbs.

He won't get quite as much money after showing up to Friday's weigh-in two pounds over the 144-pound limit, which likely cost him a six-figure contract penalty. Mayweather weighed in four pounds heavier than the 142-pound Marquez, who agreed to stay in the fight for a fatter paycheck.

Though the money is important, Mayweather (39-0, 25 KOs) also seems reinvigorated by the thrill of the fight. After finishing most of his last half-dozen bouts with injured hands and weary threats of retirement, Mayweather sees himself back in boxing for several more years.

"I'm back to get what's mine," Mayweather said this week. "I've got to show everybody that what I do is still better than what everybody else does. I should be around for a while."

Mayweather's life is never calm, but his fractious family seems to be relatively harmonious as well. His trainer and uncle, Roger Mayweather, is coexisting peacefully so far with Floyd Mayweather Sr., who's back in his son's life after nine years spent mostly apart.

Roger Mayweather profanely scoffs at the suggestion that such a layoff could affect Floyd Jr.'s skills, pointing to champions from Muhammad Ali to Sugar Ray Leonard who came back strong from extended absences.

"He hasn't lost (anything)," Roger said. "Marquez is a good fighter, but he isn't on the level we play on. My nephew is above everybody."

While Mayweather intends to pick up his unblemished career right where he left it, Marquez (50-4-1, 37 KOs) sees their bout as the biggest moment of his career - and so he'll be bigger than he's ever been. Just two fights after his first move up to 135 pounds, he weighed in at 142 Friday to take on a taller, heavier fighter with a longer reach.

Judging by the long odds in Vegas' sportsbooks, most people can't imagine how the smaller Mexican star can compete with the former pound-for-pound king. Yet the 36-year-old Marquez is a tenacious competitor even by his sport's lofty standards, with a stubborn streak as long as Mayweather's property line.

Marquez apparently didn't hesitate to stay in the bout even when Mayweather informed him Friday morning he wouldn't make the 144-pound catch weight limit.

After impressive victories over Juan Diaz and Joel Casamayor in the past year, Marquez likely would be a favorite against any fighter below 140 pounds except Manny Pacquiao. Instead, he'll get $2 million - and another big chunk of change after the weight brouhaha - to take a shot at Mayweather.

"My style is different," Marquez said. "I try not to get hit. ... I can use his fight with (Jose Luis) Castillo to see what to do. I will show more intelligence. (Castillo) showed pressure, pressure."

Marquez's counterpunching style could be tough to use against Mayweather, the best defensive fighter of his generation. If Mayweather can dodge and duck punches as he usually does while occasionally stinging Marquez, he could control the bout and perhaps even hurt Marquez enough for a stoppage.

Although Mayweather insists he never watches tapes of his opponents "because I don't have to," Roger Mayweather is a boxing encyclopedia who sees every big fight and has loud opinions about everybody who doesn't measure up to his nephew.

"There's a blueprint on how to beat Marquez," Mayweather Jr. said. "There's not a blueprint on how to beat me."

Mayweather never got out of shape during his sojourns away from boxing, still spending countless late nights training in his boxing gym and shooting hoops at the local courts. Even the father who raised him as a fighter thinks Mayweather should have little trouble reclaiming his top spot.

"Anybody loses a little bit after a layoff, but he's got enough to care of business," Mayweather Sr. said.


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