Unbeaten welterweight Floyd Mayweather Jr. announced his retirement again Friday, with boxing’s unofficial pound-for-pound king saying he no longer has the passion necessary to fight.
Mayweather, an Olympic bronze medalist who has won belts in five weight classes, made the abrupt announcement in a letter to select media members Friday. The 31-year-old WBC welterweight champ (39-0, 25 KOs) hasn’t fought since beating Ricky Hatton last December, but was widely expected to take on Oscar De La Hoya in September in a rematch of the richest fight in boxing history.
“This decision was not an easy one for me to make, as boxing is all I have done since I was a child,” said Mayweather, the son and nephew of three of the sport’s top trainers. “However, these past few years have been extremely difficult for me to find the desire and joy to continue in the sport.”
Mayweather also said he was done fighting after each of his last two bouts, but his letter somberly described the reasons for his decision to “permanently retire from boxing.”
“I loved competing and winning and also wanted to continue my career for the fans, knowing they were there for me and enjoyed watching me fight,” Mayweather said. “However, after many sleepless nights and intense soul-searching, I realized I could no longer base my decision on anything but my own personal happiness, which I no longer could find.”
Though Mayweather reportedly earned more than $50 million combined for his split-decision win over De La Hoya and a knockout of Hatton last year, he has seemed much more interested in being a celebrity and a mogul than a fighter over the past 18 months, perhaps best evidenced by his self-proclaimed nickname change from “Pretty Boy” to “Money.”
In the past year alone, he has appeared on “Dancing With the Stars,” worked on his record label, served as the honorary starter at the Indianapolis 500 and entered the wrestling ring for a choreographed tussle with the 440-pound “Big Show” at WrestleMania in Orlando, winning that bout with a set of brass knuckles.
“Floyd was a very talented fighter, no question about it, but he got to a particular point where it was just for the money,” said Bob Arum, Mayweather’s longtime promoter with Top Rank before the boxer began promoting his own career. “Which is all right, it’s a professional sport, but there’s nothing wrong with his decision. It’s a rational decision.”
Though fans and promoters have clamored for Mayweather to take on unbeaten welterweight Miguel Cotto or another top competitor in perhaps boxing’s deepest division, Mayweather had repeatedly dismissed the idea. Instead, his representatives were in discussions for another fight with De La Hoya, whose own plans for a three-bout arc to end his career will be altered by Mayweather’s decision.
De La Hoya, who beat Steve Forbes in a tuneup last month, had hoped to fight Mayweather and perhaps Cotto this year before turning full-time to his lucrative career in charge of Golden Boy Promotions.
“I am surprised a bit about the timing of it, but if he decides he wants to retire, that is his right,” Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer told The Associated Press. “We did not announce that fight (between Mayweather and De La Hoya), so I can’t really say that something fell apart. Floyd was certainly the name that we were focusing on for a September fight, so now we will go down the list and find, I’m sure, other names that will ensure a megafight.”
Schaefer confirmed De La Hoya still intends to fight Sept. 20. Several welterweights will jockey for the chance to meet him in a guaranteed big payday, while every big name in boxing’s middle weight classes from Hatton to Manny Pacquiao also could get in the mix.
“I am sorry I have to leave the sport at this time, knowing I still have my God-given abilities to succeed and future multi-million dollar paydays ahead, including the one right around the corner,” Mayweather said. “But there comes a time when money doesn’t matter. I just can’t do it anymore. I have found a peace with my decision that I have not felt in a long time.”
Mayweather gave no indication of what he plans to do next, though it probably involves increasing his fame. He gained a broader measure of fans through two short-run reality shows on HBO leading up to his last two fights, detailing the wacky family dynamics of the Mayweather clan.
Mayweather’s father, Floyd Sr., is estranged from his son. He is De La Hoya’s longtime trainer, and though he sat out De La Hoya’s first fight with Floyd Jr., he planned to train De La Hoya for the rematch. Floyd Jr. is trained by his uncle, Roger, and another uncle, Jeff, also is emerging as a respected trainer.
Floyd Sr. and Leonard Ellerbe, Mayweather’s adviser, didn’t immediately return phone calls seeking comment.
Arum, who fostered Mayweather’s development into a dominant champion before their professional split, knows many fans still won’t believe Mayweather is truly finished.
“You never know, but I will say the language was different this time,” Arum said. “This time the language sounds like he might be done for good. … I can hardly blame him (for retiring). We should commend him for what he’s done. He’s retiring at the height. Is there anything greater than that?”
AP Sports Writer Dave Skretta in Atlantic City, N.J., contributed to this report.