Floyd Mayweather Jr. keeps us all guessing after latest pledge to return to the ring

Kevin Iole
·Combat columnist
If Floyd Mayweather Jr. is just blowing smoke about coming out of retirement next year, it won't be the first time. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
If Floyd Mayweather Jr. is just blowing smoke about coming out of retirement next year, it won't be the first time. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

LAS VEGAS — Floyd Mayweather is even more difficult to understand as a supposedly retired boxer than he was to hit during a career in which his brilliant reflexes, great legs and internal radar made him one of the greatest defensive fighters ever and carried him to a 50-0 record.

And there he was again on Thursday, turning the combat sports world on its ear 48 hours before the first bell in a major heavyweight title fight between Deontay Wilder and Luis Ortiz. Mayweather began by putting out a pair of posts on social media that suggested: A) he’s going to fight again in 2020 and B) he’ll work with UFC president Dana White on some sort of event.

It’s no surprise Mayweather would talk about fighting again. Anyone — and I mean just about anyone on this planet — would seriously consider it if he or she would be guaranteed $100 million or more for another fight, as Mayweather surely would.

So by that standard, it’s hardly a stunner to see him suggest he’s coming out of retirement in 2020, when he’ll turn 43 on Feb. 24. With the right opponent, he could sell five million or more pay-per-views for a fight next year, from which he’d make somewhere in the range of the GDP of Bolivia.

But even by Mayweather’s often zany standards, this one is difficult to understand, given the timing. On Tuesday, in an interview with Reuters, Mayweather said he was done with boxing because it’s a brutal sport.

“I’ve got calls to get back into the ring, but my health is my wealth,” Mayweather told Reuters. “Boxing is a very, very brutal sport. In the last few years a lot of fighters have died inside that squared circle. You have got to know when to hang it up. I had a great career.”

Those are wise words, but Mayweather has spoken similarly many times before and continued to fight.

Once his posts circulated, and were retweeted by White and the UFC’s official Twitter account, speculation began to mount that Mayweather is in financial difficulty. It’s not surprising why that speculation begins, because Mayweather lives a lavish lifestyle and it costs a lot of money just to turn on that private jet he travels the world in, let alone fly it from one corner of the globe to the other.

On top of that, financial difficulties are the reason that about 98.9 percent of all fighters — with UFC Hall of Famer Urijah Faber being one of the rare notable exceptions — come back to the sport.

Mayweather made about a half-billion in his last three fights alone, wins over Manny Pacquiao and Andre Berto in 2015 and Conor McGregor in 2017. And that’s not even taking into account what he made in the 47 fights prior to that, when he was by far the largest earner in the sport.

So while it’s possible he needs the money, it’s unlikely.

He did a lot of great things for his sport, but the one bad thing he did was cause his fans to put too much of an emphasis on a perfect record. Fans don’t mind a boxer who loses, as long as he or she regularly puts on compelling and entertaining bouts. But Mayweather made it seem like a fighter who lost once was a bum, and that’s just wrong.

There is no doubt how proud he is of that perfect record he fashioned, and rightfully so. It’s a monumental achievement, particularly given the number of elite opponents he’s faced. He hasn’t faced a boxer since defeating Berto in 2015, back when he was only 38.

He came out of retirement — I think that was his second at that point, but it’s hard to keep track — in 2017 to fight McGregor, but McGregor was a mixed martial arts star who was making his pro boxing debut. It was almost like a con pulled on the public, where the two conspired to make each other obscene amounts of money in a fight that was never on any planet going to be remotely competitive.

There’s no logical opponent for him to fight if he comes back. At his age, and without facing an elite boxer in more than four years, it would be difficult to imagine him facing a top 147- or 154-pounder at this point.

He’s spoken on and off about a rematch with Manny Pacquiao, but given his time away from the sport, would he be willing to give his old rival that kind of an edge, particularly considering Pacquiao is coming off impressive wins over Keith Thurman and Adrien Broner?

For those who think he might fight an MMA bout, please stop and proceed to the nearest doctor’s office. The only way he’ll fight in MMA is if Bob Arum challenges him. Otherwise, there is zero chance of that happening.

He could face another UFC fighter who wants to box, but if the opponent isn’t McGregor, how intense would the interest be? There was briefly talk of a boxing match with UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, and perhaps there is someone with money to burn in the Middle East who wants to see that fight and is offering big bucks to put it on.

But again, would the boxing public, having seen how a UFC fighter looks against a boxer, take it that seriously?

The bottom line is that Mayweather may just be pulling strings and getting a kick out of watching everyone dance. His posts guarantee he’ll be the center of attention when he’s the last person to walk to his seat on Saturday at the MGM Grand just before Wilder defends his WBC heavyweight title against Ortiz.

That he’s bidding for attention seems like the most plausible scenario.

But in more than 24 years of covering this man, going back to his amateur days, I’ve learned one thing: Never put anything past him. Everything is always possible.

So stay tuned.

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