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Mayweather can't settle for second-best fights

Martin Rogers
Yahoo Sports

LAS VEGAS – The sleepless city was its usual brash and unapologetic self Saturday evening, but this was not the kind of super-charged fight night to electrify Las Vegas.

Floyd Mayweather Jr.'s comeback carnival was just one part of the weekend entertainment on the Strip, not the central calling point for the night's revelry.

Mayweather was clinical and crafty and showed there is no finer pugilist on the planet, dismantling the smaller and slower Juan Manuel Marquez over 12 one-sided rounds. But this was neither great theater nor a thrilling spectacle, more an event that went through the motions and followed a predictable outcome.

Indeed, while this fight had the marketing hook of being Mayweather's first bout in two years and featured two pound-for-pound stars, it will go down in Mayweather's career timeline as little more than a tuneup.

The boxing world hopes it was preparation for Manny Pacquiao, the matchup everyone with interest in this punishing sport wants to see. Instead, it could be "Sugar" Shane Mosley next, especially with the weight the Golden Boy promotional machine already setting the hype wheels in motion.

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Floyd Mayweather Jr. beat Juan Manuel Marquez by unanimous decision Saturday.
(Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

That's because Mosley provided arguably the most excitement Saturday with his postfight entry into the ring at the less-than-sold-out MGM Grand Garden Arena.

With grappler Triple H, who had accompanied Mayweather as he made his pre-fight entrance looking on, there was an element of pro wrestling's farce and spectacle to the way Mosley charged through the ropes, spitting fury and calling out the victor.

Only a cynic would dare suggest that the verbal jousting was all pre-planned. But wasn't that the hint of a smile dancing around Mosley's lips, barely suppressed?

"It was not planned," Mosley insisted afterward. "I am just hoping that the best will fight the best. I am the No. 1 welterweight champion and I want to clean up the division.

"Floyd has a big ego and if you want to have a big ego you have to prove yourself. He knows in his heart he has to come in the ring and fight me to be the best."

Oscar De La Hoya tried to talk up Mayweather-Mosley, but there was a hint of desperation about his words. Few were convinced by the shtick that such a fight would be the Super Bowl of boxing.

Mayweather is the finest in the business, as Yahoo! Sports' new pound-for-pound rankings this month may prove, but his comeback will only electrify the sport if he takes the fights the fans want. No one felt that special vibe here, as this night had curiosity but no real sparkle.

"I don't overlook nobody," Mayweather said. "To be the best you've got to beat the best in your era."

Mosley would be a decent fight and would generate some interest, but it would be a long way from "historic" as De La Hoya somewhat laughably suggested.

Mayweather is a true master of his craft, yet his style is clinical rather than explosive. And despite his theatrics and bravado for the public's benefit, he will always be most appreciated among boxing's purists.

There is none of the bloodthirstiness factor of Mike Tyson in his prime or the thrill-a-minute whirlwind of Pacquiao. Neither is there the sense of immortality associated with sports' other shining lights, like a Tiger Woods or LeBron James.

He simply takes the easy road too often.

Saturday night's fight was summed up by the seconds before the final round, when Mayweather sat on his stool, grinning with elbows perched on his knees, totally relaxed. Not a word of advice was passed into his ear because none was needed. His job was done.

But that kind of posing and ease is not what boxing wants from its modern great. It wants to see him extended to the point where he has to dig into his reservoir of talent, to see him sweating, panting, bleeding, hurting – and emerging from it with his reputation bolstered.

That is what can extend Mayweather's legacy and create a great 2010 for boxing. Committing to the truly biggest fights is the only way to show he is about more than mouth and money.