Boxing: Mayweather sees Marquez as way back into big time

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The Independent Online

It was inevitable that Floyd Mayweather would end his self-imposed exile from the boxing ring and equally predictable that he would control every aspect of his return to a sport that has missed him.

Mayweather walked away after beating Ricky Hatton in December 2007, but he has been training in secrecy for over 12 months for tonight's return against the carefully selected Juan Manuel Marquez. The fight at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas has been greeted with relative calm by the punters, but Mayweather's record at the box office and on pay-per-view TV is golden.

Tonight is all about Mayweather putting himself back in the shop window and letting people know that he is available at the right price for a fight against either Miguel Cotto or Manny Pacquiao, the sport's premier attractions, who just happen to be fighting each other in November. Poor old Marquez, who is surely one of the top five Mexicans of all time, is just there to get punched and paid a career-high purse.

"I have missed boxing and who wouldn't miss a sport where you can make $200m or $300m?" asked Mayweather. "I'm 'Money' Mayweather and that is what I do – and now I'm back." In May 2007 Mayweather beat Oscar De La Hoya and set a series of financial records, beating Mike Tyson at the box office, and even his fight with Hatton generated vulgar sums of cash and left Hatton richer by an estimated £17m.

Marquez has held world titles at three different weights, is still relatively fresh at 36 and has never been stopped in 55 fights. However, he is shorter, has a six-inch reach disadvantage and more alarmingly will be boxing at a weight that is 10 pounds heavier than he has ever been. Mayweather has selected wisely.

"I see a chess match early," said Mayweather. "I expect Marquez to make the same mistake Hatton made and fight too hard from the start. People forget how hard I can punch and only realise when it's too late. That is what happened to Hatton."

Mayweather is unbeaten in 39 fights and has operated close to the fight's chosen poundage of 144 pounds for six years, which will give him a massive advantage over Marquez. It should, however, be pointed out that Pacquiao gained 10 pounds and ruined De La Hoya last year. "That's right," Mayweather said. "But, I'm not Oscar and everybody needs to remember that. I'm not coming out of retirement, I'm just getting back after a break – I've lost nothing since beating Hatton."

A stoppage by Mayweather tonight would be a tremendous achievement, but Marquez will have to fight a dumb fight to help make that happen. The sensible pick is Mayweather on points.