Boxing
Big "Money" return sets the agenda at welterweight
Lyle Fitzsimmons


By Lyle Fitzsimmons,
Contributing Boxing Editor


Ocala, FL (Sports Network) - Floyd Mayweather Jr. fights again this weekend.

Finally.

It's a welcome return -- at least in this space -- to the fighter who, as they used to say about Reggie Jackson in New York, is "the straw that stirs the drink."

Love him or hate him, and it seems clear there's a lot more of the latter, it is through Mayweather, with Mayweather and in Mayweather that the best fights at 147 pounds and its surroundings will be made until he decides to hang up the gloves permanently.

Assuming he defeats Juan Manuel Marquez -- which I see him doing in 10 rounds -- the "Pretty Boy" now known as "Money" takes a giant leap toward putting his name on a marquee against either Miguel Cotto or Manny Pacquiao in SuperFight 2010.

And don't think for a second that Bob Arum doesn't believe it, too.

In spite of the old promoter's blathering these days about his guys holding purse strings for future welterweight mega events, it's Mayweather who provides the caustic element that'll draw fans out in the fervent hope that he gets his head knocked off.

Cotto and Pacquiao are quality boxers and decent guys who'll put on a good fight in November, but without Floyd, that's all it is... a good fight.


Floyd Mayweather Jr. will fianlly fight again this weekend.
With him and his family and his antics and his persona... it's an event.

A must-see event that lovers, haters and undecideds will scrape together $55 to watch on PPV.

Because the guy works a crowd better than Hulk Hogan.

When he fought Diego Corrales, he was the white-hatted champion of battered women. When he fought Arturo Gatti, he was the black-hatted prince on the shoulders of regal henchmen. When he fought Carlos Baldomir, he was the sombrero-wearing irritant against a sentimental underdog.

And against Oscar De La Hoya -- in a show that, lest we forget, drew bigger on pay-per-view than any in history -- he was the scene-stealing punk teasing 24/7 viewers by "making it rain" and flitting with thug cohorts around a palatial estate.

It's the stuff that blockbusters are made of.

Oh, and let's not forget he can fight, too.

The aforementioned four matches resulted in two brutal KOs, one wide decision and one split verdict that -- sorry Oscar -- was far closer on paper than in the ring. As for his other 35, not only has he won them all, but he's done so while seldom dropping a round... let alone a scorecard.

And though some may argue that Cotto or Pacquiao -- or even Mosley and Margarito -- are better fighters, it's impossible to contend they or any others promote a more visceral sensory reaction than the man last seen knocking an unbeaten Ricky Hatton into oblivion two years ago.

The New York Yankees of professional prize-fighting, if you will.

Welcome back, Floyd.

* * * * * * * * * *

It's my favorite day of the year.

Well, OK... maybe other than my birthday, my son's birthday and Christmas... but still, it's pretty big.

September 16.

The date when, over the course of seven years back in the 1980s, my life changed forever.

First, it was September 16, 1981. Tommy Hearns. Ray Leonard. The "Showdown" at 147 pounds. Anyone of my age group remembers it like it was yesterday. And as I glanced at the calendar this week and realized it's now been 28 years since it happened... I'm amazed.

It was that fight more than any other that got me revved-up. I was a Tommy fan. Was sure he'd win. Couldn't wait until the next day, when I'd go to Edward Town Junior High School and lord it over all the "Sugar Ray" fans while collecting on a bevy of lunch money bets.

A quarter here. Fifty cents there. Enough funds to keep the Pac Man machine going for hours.

Ahhh... those were the days.

Needless to say, it didn't go how I wanted. Tommy is ahead, then in trouble, then ahead again, then stopped in what's still as dramatic a late rally as you'll ever see, and as compelling a message from trainer to fighter as has ever been delivered in any corner.

"You're blowin' it now, son. You're blowin' it."

Even thinking about it now gives me goose bumps.

Thank you, Angelo Dundee.

But it wasn't over for me on September 17. Not by a long shot.

Instead, a few weeks later, as part of the seventh-grade English class that occupied seventh period every day, our teacher -- Robert Rycombel -- gave us an assignment. Take one of the pre-determined titles that he'd scribbled on the board and write something. Short story. Poem. Fictional tale. Whatever.

I chose news story. And, armed with his title -- "It happened that day" -- I was off.

Six pages later, Mr. Rycombel had as thorough a wrap-up of the Leonard-Hearns fight as was possible from a 12-year-old pre-Internet kid whose hometown -- Niagara Falls, New York -- was every bit of 2,290 miles away from the Caesars Palace parking lot where the action actually took place.

And a day or two later, when I picked up the graded paper, saw the A+ and the accompanying note -- "You ought to do this as a career, buddy" -- I was hooked.

Seems only fitting that seven years later -- September 16, 1988 -- I walked up the stairs at the Niagara Gazette for my first day as a part-timer with my hometown paper, surrounded by the guys who, unknown to them, had taught me to read with years of box scores, columns and game stories.

Bill McGrath. Bill Wolcott. Tom McDonough. My small-town journalism heroes.

I remember them as if it were yesterday, too.

And when I clicked "return" on my first story -- the nightly recap of that year's Lake Ontario Fishing Derby -- I got the rush of adrenaline I still get today, each and every time I send one off to the editors and later to the dozens, hundreds or thousands who take the time to read.

To say I've been lucky since would be an understatement. I've covered fights in Las Vegas, New York and Atlantic City. I've interviewed Leonard, Hearns and Dundee. And I've been recognized for my work by an association I'd dreamed of joining long before I did.

It's been a great ride. And I've got September 16, 1981 to thank for all of it.

Because, for me anyway, "it happened that day."

Happy anniversary, guys.

* * * * * * * * * *

FRIDAY Vacant IBO flyweight title -- Juana Diaz, Puerto Rico Cesar Seda Jr. (No. 30 contender) vs. Omar Soto (No. 37 contender) Seda Jr. (16-0, 12 KO): First title fight; Seven straight wins by stoppage (6 KO, 1 DQ) Soto (18-5-1, 12 KO): Lost two title fights by KO; Five wins in last nine fights (5-4, 3 KO) FitzHitz says: Seda Jr. in 7

SATURDAY Vacant IBF middleweight title -- Neubrandenburg, Germany Giovanni Lorenzo (No. 1 contender) vs. Sebastian Sylvester (No. 2 contender) Lorenzo (27-1, 19 KO): First title fight; First fight outside North America Sylvester (31-3, 15 KO): Lost one previous title fight; Unbeaten at fight venue (2-0, 2 KO) FitzHitz says: Sylvester by decision

WBA featherweight title -- Las Vegas, Nevada Chris John (champion) vs. Rocky Juarez (No. 2 contender) John (42-0-2, 22 KO): Unbeaten in 11 title fights (9-0-2, 3 KO); First fight in Las Vegas Juarez (28-4-1, 20 KO): Winless in four title fights (0-3-1); Drew with John in February FitzHitz says: John by decision

Last week's picks: 6-2 Overall picks record: 130-48 (73.0 percent)

Lyle Fitzsimmons is an award-winning 20-year sports journalist, a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and a frequent contributor to Stone Cold Sports on the MVN Network (stonecoldsports.com) and several sports radio talk shows throughout the U.S. E-mail him at fitzbitz@msn.com or follow him at twitter.com/fitzbitz.

Jabs, hooks or knockouts, Lyle Fitzsimmons can be reached at fitzbitz@msn.com.