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Bernard Fernandez: This time, Mayweather's exit seems to be for real

FLOYD MAYWEATHER Jr.'s most recent retirement had scarcely been made public on Friday when cynics began to question the "real" motive behind boxing's best pound-for-pound performer's stepping away from the sport at age 31.

FLOYD MAYWEATHER Jr.'s most recent retirement had scarcely been made public on Friday when cynics began to question the "real" motive behind boxing's best pound-for-pound performer's stepping away from the sport at age 31.

Most boxing retirement announcements are written in wet sand, not fast-drying concrete, but it isn't often that the new retiree's own father disputes the legitimacy of such an announcement.

Mayweather's estranged father, Floyd Mayweather Sr., said he believed his son, the WBC welterweight champion, backed out of a $20 million payday for his now-scratched Sept. 20 with Oscar De La Hoya because it gave him leverage to sweeten the deal.

But the elder Mayweather - who trains De La Hoya - acknowledged, "I don't even know [Floyd Jr.] anymore," so it's clear he and "Money" haven't shared many heart-to-heart conversations recently.

Others float the theory that Mayweather (39-0, 25 KOs), who won six world titles in five weight classes, is running scared of WBA welterweight titlist Miguel Cotto (32-0, 26 KOs), who defends against Antonio Margarito (36-5, 26 KOs) July 26 at the MGM Grand Garden in Las Vegas.

Personally, I don't think Mayweather is looking to squeeze a couple of million dollars more out of Oscar or is fearful of Cotto, who probably would represent his sternest test ever.

Remember, Mayweather nearly broke down in tears in announcing his retirement after he lifted Carlos Baldomir's WBC welterweight title on a unanimous decision on Nov. 4, 2006. Sure, Mayweather fought twice more after that, but, to many, the joy seemed to have gone out of boxing for him.

I presented Mayweather with his 2007 Fighter of the Year award on May 1 at the 83rd annual Boxing Writers Association of America Awards Dinner in Los Angeles, and my impression was that he was looser and happier than he'd been for some time. Was he contemplating this step even then? He'd branched out with celebrity gigs on "Dancing With the Stars" and World Wrestling Entertainment, which, if nothing else, allowed him to have some fun.

Truth be told, Mayweather has fought with tender hands throughout his career. Dealing with that pain, and the emotional duress of going off to training camp for extended periods, which separated him from his children, had chipped away at his resolve to keep on keeping on.

Most fighters who quit the ring while at or near the top can't resist the urge to attempt comeback after comeback. For Mayweather - the only world champion to walk away from boxing with an unblemished record since Rocky Marciano in 1956 - walking away now was about finding happiness in his personal life.

It's hard to knock anyone for that.

Pryor commitment

Aaron Pryor, who twice stopped Alexis Arguello in two of the most bitterly contested fights of the 1980s, was in Canastota, N.Y., over the weekend for the 19th annual International Boxing Hall of Fame induction. "The Hawk" said he will travel to Managua, Nicaragua, this fall to lend his support to his fellow Hall of Famer in his bid to become that city's mayor. Pryor had endorsed Arguello in his winning bid to be elected vice mayor of Managua in 2004.

"He is better outside the ring than he was in it, and he was a truly great fighter," Pryor, 52, said of Arguello, 58. "Alexis is a gentleman and a class act. I'm proud to be his friend."

Pryor and Arguello weren't always friendly. After he was stopped in the 14th round of their Nov. 12, 1982, bout in Miami's Orange Bowl, Arguello all but accused Pryor of cheating after videotapes of the fight revealed that Pryor's trainer, Panama Lewis, had asked for a special "black bottle" before the decisive round.

Given Lewis' notorious reputation - he was banned from boxing for his role in doctoring Luis Resto's gloves in a 1983 upset of "Irish" Billy Collins - and Pryor's rejuvenation after partaking of the mystery bottle's contents, it was widely assumed that the WBA super lightweight champion had somehow benefited from a performance-enhancing drug.

That the bottle mysteriously disappeared, and Pryor was never administered a urine test afterward, seemingly lent credence to the notion he fought that 14th round while on some sort of stimulant.

Pryor (39-1, 35 KOs), who won the Sept. 9, 1983, rematch in Las Vegas on a 10th-round knockout, said Arguello (82-8, 65 KOs) later asked him whether the first fight had been on the up-and-up.

"I told him it was, and he's never asked about it again," said Pryor, who still lives in his native Cincinnati.

Arguello said he has come to accept that he and Pryor share the sort of "bond" that forever links two fighters destined to march through history together.

"There are 24 rounds between us that I can never forget," Arguello said. "From the first round of the first fight, when the bell rang, we gave 100 percent of ourselves."

And the bottle controversy?

"I did my best," Arguello said with a shrug. "The other guy did better. That's simple enough to understand."

Modest proposal

Welsh challenger Gary "The Rocket" Lockett (30-2, 21 KOs) took a knee so often in Saturday's bout against Kelly Pavlik (34-0, 30 KOs) in Atlantic City Boardwalk Hall, you would have thought he was proposing marriage instead of trying to take Pavlik's WBC/WBO middleweight championship.

Pavlik's third-round technical knockout victory probably was assured from the time the contracts were signed, but at least this mismatch affords me the opportunity to confer upon Lockett a new nickname.

"The Genuflector" sounds about right, don't you think? *

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