Thursday March 26th, 2009

The word is out -- Floyd Mayweather Jr. wants back in.

With rumors swirling about Mayweather's pending return -- which, according to sources, is expected to be July 11 on an HBO-produced card -- it raises the question of who should be his first opponent. Conventional wisdom says Mayweather, who hasn't fought since knocking out Ricky Hatton in December 2007, should choose a lesser-quality opponent, someone with whom he can get rounds in, but one who doesn't pose much of a threat in beating him (at least, not of beating the old Mayweather).

Who might Mayweather be considering?Well, with a mega-fight looming against Manny Pacquiao, Hatton or Juan Manuel Marquez later this year, four guys stand out as potential comeback opponents:

1. Nate Campbell

Credentials: Former lightweight titlist

Skinny: At 37, Campbell is a seasoned veteran who brings just enough cache (he held the WBA, IBF and WBO lightweight titles before vacating the first and being stripped of the latter two for failing to make weight against Ali Funeka) to satisfy a major network. And while Campbell has had some success, fighting Mayweather would be a major step up in competition. Campbell would have to jump up two weight classes -- don't expect to see Floyd return to the ring as anything less than a 147-pound welterweight -- but he would jump at the chance for such a lucrative payday.

2. Ricardo Mayorga

Credentials: Former welterweight titlist

Skinny: Come on, you know you thought about it. Mayorga has become the ultimate stepping-stone opponent. Oscar De La Hoya, Felix Trinidad and Shane Mosley have tuned up on Mayorga before a high-profile showdown. The reasons are simple: Mayorga is brash (which makes for a good promotion), is willing to stand toe-to-toe with opponents and has a suspect chin that makes him more likely to be knocked out in the later rounds. Any fight with Mayorga, who is scheduled to fight Daniel Santos for a version of the junior middleweight title, would have to be at 154 pounds, but Mayweather is comfortable at that weight and would have no trouble handling the free-swinging Mayorga.

3. Carlos Quintana

Credentials: Former welterweight titlist

Skinny: Quintana put his name on the map when he claimed the WBO welterweight crown by battering Paul Williams in 2007. He gave it right back in a first-round knockout to Williams four months later, but that one performance could be enough to convince Mayweather's camp that he is the right opponent to shake the rust off against. Quintana hasn't fought since knocking out Joshua Onyango in October, so he is available.

4. Luis Collazo

Credentials: Former welterweight titlist

Skinny: Collazo has fought a lot of big names -- Hatton, Mosley, Andre Berto -- but he hasn't beaten any of them. He did go the distance in each fight and has just enough skill (though nowhere near enough power) to give Mayweather occasional fits. Collazo has also bounced between welterweight and junior middleweight the past few years, so he would be available to fight at whatever weight Mayweather is most comfortable.

Pavlik-Abraham closer to completion

Sources tell that Top Rank and Sauerland Event are in serious negotiations to make a middleweight unification fight between Kelly Pavlik and Arthur Abraham. Abraham recently successfully defended his IBF title against Lajuan Simon, while Pavlik is planning to defend his WBC and WBO belts against former junior middleweight titlist Sergio Mora later this spring. Top Rank promoter Bob Arum told reporters this week that Pavlik-Abraham is "going to happen," but one source involved in the negotiations cautioned that no deal has been completed. Both sides would like Abraham to increase his profile by taking a tune-up fight in the U.S. this summer.

Junior middleweight champion Vernon Forrest has been mentioned as a possible candidate to face Abraham (the two sides have been in negotiations for a fight that would likely be on Showtime), but Forrest recently signed an agreement to face interim junior middleweight title holder Sergio Martinez this summer. Martinez's manager, Sampson Lewkowicz, told that they would be willing to let Forrest out of the agreement -- if he relinquishes his WBC title.

Wladimir Klitschko's next move

Indications are that Wladimir Klitschko is moving closer to finalizing a deal to defend his heavyweight titles against British cruiserweight-turned-heavyweight David Haye. Klitschko's manager, Bernd Boente, told in an e-mail on Wednesday that the negotiations "look good" and a June 20 meeting between Klitschko and Haye could be finalized by the end of the week. Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer, who has been representing Haye in the negotiations, concurred, telling that the fight will likely take place in Germany instead of London.

"David wasn't that happy with the terms," said Schaefer. "But he's motivated and he's excited for this fight. This is what he wanted." Klitschko, who has been frustrated by the slow negotiations, told that he has told his handlers that they have until the end of the week to make a deal or else he will move on. Klitschko said that if the deal with Haye falls apart, he will push to fight the winner of Friday night's matchup between former titleholder Samuel Peter and American heavyweight Eddie Chambers.

A no-go for B-Hop

The proposed fight between Bernard Hopkins and Tomasz Adamek is off the table, Schaefer told "We were so far apart on terms, it just didn't make sense." Schaefer indicated that Hopkins could retire, but left the door open for an "overwhelming offer" that might lure the 44-year-old champion back into the ring.

Jones continues to fall

Roy Jones Jr. continues to drag his once proud career to unimaginable depths. Four months after he was demolished by Joe Calzaghe, the 40-year-old Jones returned to the ring last weekend to win a one-sided decision over former super middleweight contender Omar Sheika. Now, Jones has set his sights on another shot fighter: former super middleweight champ Jeff Lacy. Lacy, who has ended his relationship with Golden Boy and will face Otis Griffin on April 10 in Tampa, said he would welcome a fight with Jones. Jones said he is willing to drop to the 168-pound super middleweight limit for the fight. If Jones does, it will be his first appearance in the division in more than 12 years.

Diaz finds an opponent

Julio Diaz has found a new opponent for Golden Boy's April 4 all-lightweight card. After a weeklong search for someone to replace Joel Casamayor, who withdrew from the bout last week due to an acute lumbar spine sprain, Diaz has settled on Rolando "Pochito" Reyes. He's a decent prospect who holds wins over former titleholders Stevie Johnston and John Brown.

Another ring return

Former super bantamweight champion Rafael Marquez is planning to return this May, Marquez's co-promoter, Jaime Quintana, told that Marquez hasn't fought since losing a narrow decision to Israel Vazquez in a fight that was named Fight of the Year by the Boxing Writers Association of America. Marquez had been trying to set up a fourth fight with Vazquez, but Vazquez is still recovering from eye surgery. Quintana said that Marquez is planning to move up to the 126-pound featherweight division sometime within the first two weeks of May on a card that will likely be held in Mexico City.

Arreola accepts offer

On Tuesday, Vitali Klitschko told that he would like his next opponent to be American heavyweight Chris Arreola, who is scheduled to face journeyman Jameel McLine on April 11. That seems to suit Arreola just fine. "We have been after Wladimir Klitschko for a while," said Arreola's promoter, Dan Goosen. "So of course we would be interested in Vitali. A lot of people consider Chris to be the American heavyweight champion. Chris is a guy who doesn't get intimidated by guys 6-foot-6 or 6-7, or guys who wear belts around their waists. He just wants to knock people out." Both sides agree that the fight should take place in Los Angeles, where Arreola has a huge Mexican fan base.

Waiting game for Juan

Juan Manuel Marquez has targeted Sept. 12 for his return. Schaefer told that he is still waiting to hear back from Mayweather's camp on their offer to match Marquez and Mayweather. Ricky Hatton's father, Ray, recently told Schaefer that if Hatton defeated Pacquiao, he would welcome a fight with Marquez. That fight would take place later this year in London.

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