Mayweather notable in absence for title fight

They held a news conference at the MGM Grand on Wednesday to promote the Miguel Cotto-Antonio Margarito welterweight championship fight, but it was impossible not to be distracted by the 147-pound elephant in the ballroom. Bob Arum made sure of it. I’m guessing the top dog at Top Rank wasn’t a CIA operative in another life.

Floyd Mayweather Jr. wasn’t there in person, of course. Maybe he was hiring stronger bodyguards in case those rumors about former sparring partner Edner Cherry decking him in a local nightclub are true.

Maybe he was getting to the bottom of who parked his slick Mercedes in that handicapped parking spot out at the NBA Summer League, perhaps dressing down Uncle Roger or Turtle or Johnny Drama or other members of the Money entourage. (Or at least paying them to take the blame).

Boxing fans — mainstream and fanatical alike — would have preferred Mayweather be posing opposite Cotto. Instead, the undefeated WBA champion fights Margarito on Saturday night at the Grand Garden Arena.

It has the makings of a memorable bout, a matchup of two champions and one that renews a tradition of matching Puerto Rican fighters against Mexican fighters. You could do worse than paying a pay-per-view price tag to watch the slugfest Cotto and Margarito might offer.

You could also do better, but only if Mayweather’s heart suddenly beats faster again at the idea of more training sessions while trying to figure out what in the world Roger is saying.

If that happens, Floyd has no choice: He has to fight Cotto, assuming the latter can make his heavy-favorite status of minus-280 stand up Saturday. To engage anyone different would be a worthless endeavor and perceived as Mayweather avoiding the one opponent many in boxing feel would spoil his perfect career.

"Miguel would run him out of the ring," Arum said in precise promoter-speak. "He has nothing to hurt Miguel with. Miguel drove him into retirement."

I prefer to think the fact Mayweather made $42.7 million last year, or just enough to spend the rest of his life clubbing, gambling on basketball and paying parking tickets, had more to do with him leaving before his scheduled rematch with Oscar De La Hoya and earlier than a fight against Cotto could be made. But that’s me.

There could be more to it. Think back. When was the last time Mayweather was truly concerned about losing? Not against De La Hoya or Ricky Hatton. Those two sold their fights with Mayweather, but Floyd was always going to win them. Not against Zab Judah or Carlos Baldomir or Arturo Gatti. Maybe back before his second fight against Jose Luis Castillo in 2002, before Jose went to bed 29 and woke up 95.

Truth is, Mayweather hasn’t suffered many moments of doubt. Cotto would be one. There is great risk involved in that matchup for Mayweather, a chance 39-0 gets its first blemish.

"I can’t force anyone to fight," Cotto said. "He can choose whatever he wants, but in eight to 10 years, when the press and people see him and ask him to give them one reason why he wouldn’t fight Cotto, he will have to answer."

It might be as simple as the desire really is dead. Which is fine. Mayweather has every right to remain retired and satisfied with a legacy that places him at a table with the greatest in his sport’s history. He should.

But that notion didn’t stop Arum on Wednesday from continuing to stoke the fire of his former star in hopes he will agree to fight Arum’s current one.

Arum referred to Mayweather without using his name as often as he spoke about those actually fighting Saturday.

Shot No. 1: "(Cotto) is a true champion. There is no baloney, no nonsense, no going into nightclubs and making it rain money."

Shot No. 2: "I’m so proud of these two young men. There wasn’t one bit of trash-talking or endless promotion. I’m sick and tired of fighters trash-talking and then getting into the ring thinking they’re ‘Dancing with the Stars.’ "

Shot No. 3: "Other welterweights didn’t want to fight (Margarito). It was a no-win proposition. Name fighters. Marquee fighters did everything possible to avoid him. They ducked him." Gee, do you think he was referring to Mayweather turning down $8 million in 2005 to fight Margarito in favor of a fading opponent (Sharmba Mitchell) for less money?

Final shot: "I think Floyd will come back," said Arum, after naming the best welterweights in history but strangely omitting the guy who recently retired undefeated as the division’s champion. "But not against either of these guys, especially Cotto."

Disagree. If the heart beats again, Mayweather had to take that fight. No one else makes sense. No one else is more deserving.

Well, maybe Edner Cherry …

Ed Graney’s column is published Sunday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday. He can be reached at 702-383-4618 or egraney@reviewjournal.com.

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