Wednesday May 20th, 2009

The retirement is over. Floyd Mayweather is back. The question is why?

Is it because he missed fighting? It's possible. Mayweather wasn't exactly a staple on the shuffleboard courts during his brief hiatus. He was working in the gym daily, usually at odd hours, and put in countless hours of road work. The fire in Mayweather never burned out; his body did. It's believed that in 2007 Mayweather's fragile frame was starting to fail him, particularly his brittle hands, which needed constant therapy. At a press conference at the Empire State Building on Tuesday, Mayweather acknowledged that his body needed to be "recharged" and that the 15-month layoff has him feeling fresh and eager to get back into the ring.

GALLERY: Athletes who just couldn't stay retired

But did he return because his ego couldn't stand being out of the spotlight? That's possible, too. On Tuesday, Mayweather went out of his way to point out that Manny Pacquiao, who assumed the title of the world's No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter, has been knocked out twice in his career while Mayweather remained undefeated during his reign.

Mayweather praised Pacquiao several times during a 20-minute conversation with the assembled press, but each and every time he did, there was a subtle dig attached to it. Later, Mayweather informed members of his team that he would no longer give a magazine access unless it promised to put him on the cover.

Could Mayweather's return be about money? His advisor, Leonard Ellerbe, downplays any financial issues and points to the multi-million dollar house Mayweather purchased a few weeks ago as a sign of Floyd's financial buoyancy. "He's fine," said Ellerbe. "Money isn't an issue and it never will be."

But Mayweather reportedly owes the IRS as much as $6 million in back taxes, and last year his Las Vegas home was broken into and $7.1 million in jewelry was taken. Lump in a free-falling stock market and the fact that Nevada, where Mayweather owns several properties, has been called ground zero for home foreclosures by some financial analysts, and you can see how he might need the payday.

The answer to why Mayweather is back could be any one of those reasons. But none seem to really matter.

It doesn't matter if the sight of Pacquiao becoming a global star sent "Money May"scrounging for his gloves, or if it was the federal government nipping at his heels. All that matters is that he's back. A sport with Mayweather's quick wit and even quicker hands is far more watchable than one without it.

Go ahead, find someone who disagrees. Ask the scores of media who crammed themselves into elevators and made the ear-popping trip up to the 80th floor on Tuesday.

Ask Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer, Mayweather's former rival, who was practically giggling as he introduced boxing's returning star. Ask HBO execs Ross Greenburg, Kery Davis and Mark Taffet. Think they aren't happy Mayweather's back? Mayweather's two pay-per-view fights in 2007 (against Oscar De La Hoya and Ricky Hatton) made more money than all of HBO's '08 and '09 events combined.

It doesn't sound like he's going anywhere anytime soon, either. "We have a hit list," said Ellerbe. "We know who the best fighters in the world are and we are going to knock them off, one by one."

At the top of that list has to be Pacquiao. Shane Mosley and Miguel Cotto, too. When Mayweather retired there were questions as to how good he really was, if he was worthy of a spot on the all-time pound-for-pound list or if he was just a talented champion whose success was a product of well-produced reality shows and wins over aging (De La Hoya), undersized (Hatton) and inferior (Carlos Baldomir) opponents.

If Mayweather succeeds in wiping each name off that list, those questions will vanish. He can retire (again) as a true champion and probably the richest fighter who ever lived.

So welcome back, Floyd. We -- the fans, the media and the sport -- are glad to have you.

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