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Mayweather backs up his big talk in a big way

September 20, 2009|BILL DWYRE

FROM LAS VEGAS — The braggart backed it up. Floyd Mayweather Jr. came back in flamboyant fashion Saturday night, 21 months after he had left.

And it was as if he never had.

The Las Vegas boxer with the arrogant swagger and the fitting nicknames of "Money" and "Pretty Boy," destroyed a game but overmatched, Juan Manuel Marquez of Mexico before a packed house of 13,116 in the MGM Grand Garden.

The decision was unanimous, the judges scoring it 118-109, 120-107 and 119-108.

That outcome was fairly obvious after the second round, when Mayweather caught Marquez with a left hook that put him down. While not out, Marquez -- and everybody else in the place -- started to realize that Mayweather was going to dominate.

In the end, lots of people spent lots of money to witness the obvious. Mayweather was bigger, stronger, faster and even ended up prettier. He had nary a mark on his face. Marquez's was a mess.

The questions had been whether Mayweather had any rust from his nearly two-year sabbatical and whether the much-smaller Marquez could come up the equivalent of four weight classes and retain his speed.

When it ended, the answers were plain as the blood and swelling on Marquez's face. Mayweather is back. No slippage. No signs of any fall-off in speed, power or defensive skills, which are some of the best in the history of boxing.

Mayweather is only 32. His record is 40-0. Marquez pursued all night, tried mightily, produced huge punching flurries when he had Mayweather in the corners, and mostly hit air.

Marquez didn't have any trouble summing things up.

"He's too fast," Marquez said.

He also said that the knockdown in the second round surprised and hurt him, but not after that.

"I don't want to make excuses, but the weight was the difference," Marquez said. "If I had three or four more fights at this weight, I would have done better."

The weight was the big issue all along, and became even bigger at Friday's weigh-in. The fight contract was for a welterweight fight (147 pounds), but at a catch-weight of 144. Then Marquez weighed in at 142 and Mayweather at 146. The extra two pounds reportedly meant that Mayweather had to pay Marquez an estimated $300,000 a pound for the overage.

The contract reportedly had been revised Friday morning, when the Mayweather camp knew that their fighter could not make 144. Marquez, with his biggest payday ever of $2 million looming, signed off and the fight went ahead, with the possibility of an even wider weight discrepancy at fight time. That's because Marquez, who fought most of his now 50-5-1 career at 126 pounds and only fought above 130 his last three fights, had come in below the 144.

Usually, fighters will allow their weight on fight night to be taken and recorded. Marquez did so and had gained only six pounds to 148. Mayweather refused to make that number public. Some fighters can gain as much as 10-12 pounds between weigh-in and fight, so worst-case scenario for Marquez was that he was fighting one of the toughest, fastest men in the world who also happened to outweigh him by at least 10 pounds.

There was another issue that wasn't addressed in the weight controversy. With the fight publicized at 144 pounds and the parameters not changed until the day before the fight, many people had wagered on the basis of a 144-pound fight. That would mean some money went on Marquez under the premise that Mayweather would have to come down too far and be weakened by that.

But gamblers did not have the option of getting their money back. When questioned on that, MGM's sports book director, Jay Rood, said, "Their contract change had nothing to do with the gambling."

Oh?

Afterward, Mayweather gave credit to Marquez.

"He's as tough as nails, a great little man," he said. "I dropped him and he got right back up and came back fighting."

Mayweather said it took him a few rounds to feel like he was really back.

"I know I'll get better," he said.

That is very bad news for those waiting to get a shot at him. The most obvious is the fighter who filled Mayweather's mythical boxing pound-for-pound title while he was "retired," Manny Pacquiao of the Philippines. Pacquiao will fight Miguel Cotto in this same arena Nov. 14, and all signs point to a boxing mega-fight between the two after that, assuming Pacquiao beats Cotto.

Mayweather was scheduled to get $10 million for this fight. That, of course, is more than half a million lighter now, with his weight issue.

But Mayweather won't let little things like that slow him down now. He is fond of saying, among his repertoire of braggadocio, "I have the skills to pay the bills."

Indeed he does. If it isn't bragging when you can do it, then Mayweather was a model of fact and truth Saturday night.

He's back. And with a bang.

--

bill.dwyre@latimes.com.

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