FROM LAS VEGAS — Give Floyd Mayweather Jr. credit. Boxing is full of broken-down humpty-dumps he could have chosen as his comeback opponent.
Juan Manuel Marquez is hardly that.
He also is a 4-1 underdog for tonight's fight at the MGM Grand Garden (6, HBO pay per view). That adds to the fascination of this previously agreed to 144-pound fight, which now turns out to be 146-pounder Mayweather versus 142-pounder Marquez.
Friday's weigh-in produced this strange mess. A four-pound discrepancy is a lot at this weight, and can be even more telling as boxers gain as much as 10-12 pounds in the 30 hours between the weigh-in and the fight. Mayweather couldn't make the 144, so he will pay what was termed a "substantial penalty" directly to Marquez.
Even before the weight discrepancy, this easily could have been dismissed as a mismatch favoring one of the world's best boxers, who also happens to be bigger and younger, against an unflashy Mexican who almost beat Manny Pacquiao twice.
It shouldn't be.
Yes, all the negatives are there for Marquez. At 36, he is four years older than Mayweather. He has had a long and successful career at weights under 130 pounds, fighting above that number only in his last three fights. His record is 50-4-1, with 37 knockouts, which can be read as the mark of great success or of somebody who has been out there too long and been hit too much.
He reportedly gives up at least six inches in reach to Mayweather, who has fought easily at weights up to 154 (against Oscar de la Hoya) while winning all 39 of his matches.
Marquez has, until the last few years, made a career out of being a tactical counter-puncher, similar to Mayweather, only clearly smaller.
But the inner brawler came out in the quiet man from Mexico City in his two classic battles with Pacquiao, the Filipino star who took over the sport's top pound-for-pound fighter designation when Mayweather went on his 21-month "retirement" lull.
Pacquiao remains boxing's current star and biggest draw. In the last two years, he has sent De La Hoya into retirement and most likely did the same to England's Ricky Hatton. So his current stature, factored in with his two wars against Marquez -- a draw in 2004 and a one-point, split decision victory in 2008 -- give boxing fans some pause in the general conclusion that this one will be a lark for Mayweather.
The Marquez camp doesn't even consider the 2008 Pacquiao fight a loss.
"We are a big underdog here," says his trainer Ignacio "Nacho" Beristain. "Nobody thought we could beat Pacquiao and we did."
Beristain is so dismissive of Pacquiao that he says he would have little interest in another fight with Pacquiao, although he says "my fighter might." He says that they have tried in the past to get that third fight and Pacquiao's handlers have bobbed and weaved and danced "like ballerinas." On the other side, Pacquiao's trainer, Freddie Roach, says he is actually hoping Marquez wins this fight so they could fight him again and put an end "to all their whining."
The purpose of this fight, of course, is not to get another Pacquiao-Marquez match, but to get to a Mayweather-Pacquiao mega-fight. Former pound-for-pound star against current one.
And those 4-1 odds say that is likely the way this one will go.
Still, Beristain says they have a plan, that they are hoping Mayweather shows no signs of rust in his comeback because "we want no excuses for when Juan makes history." He also says his fighter has the ability to analyze what is happening as he goes along in a fight and is willing to adjust his tactics.
Usually, analyzing and adjusting are things boxers talk about in the weeks before a fight and forget quickly the first time they get it in the head. Marquez may be the exception.
He certainly is the exception in one other area.
During one of HBO's "24/7" shows, the cable network's documentary infomercial used to help sell pay-per-view buys, Marquez revealed that part of his training regime was to drink his own urine to replace vitamins and minerals.
That, of course, has become the talk of the boxing community leading into this fight, the topic always bringing scrunched-up noses and puckered lips. Pacquiao was told about it last week at a news conference in Yankee Stadium for his Nov. 14 fight against Miguel Cotto. He scrunched up, puckered and then did a little dance like a person who was trying to shake off a bunch of leeches.
Pacquiao laughed and nodded when it was suggested the Marquez had been hit in the head too often.
"Lots by me," he said.
Marquez, who says he doesn't drink or stay out late and also that he has been in training nearly four months for this fight, tells reporters, with a straight face, that the taste is not so bad in the morning, but awful at night.
Beristain, who has been working with Marquez since he was 14 years old, has no problem with the urine recycling.
"The doctor who tells him this is good is my doctor too," Beristain says.
The last segment of "24/7," which will run right up until the fight, ends with Marquez taking a drink from his urine cup.
If he wins, think about what this might start.
On second thought, don't think about it.
Times boxing writer Lance Pugmire will be live-blogging round-by-round coverage of Saturday's Mayweather- Marquez fight on our Fabulous Forum blog at latimesblogs.latimes.com/ sports_blog. Readers will be able to vote in an online poll after each round, letting us know who you think is winning the fight.