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BOXING:

Statement match

Roger Mayweather not shy about touting nephew as world’s best fighter

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Steve Marcus

Floyd Mayweather Jr., right, works on his timing with uncle/trainer Roger Mayweather during a media workout Tuesday at the Mayweather Boxing Club. Roger Mayweather said Floyd Jr.’s two years away from boxing would not hamper him for his Sept. 19 match against Juan Manuel Marquez.

One for the "Money"

Floyd Mayweather Jr. talks with the media as he prepares to come back to boxing for the first time in two years. Mayweather Jr. fights Juan Manuel Marquez Saturday, September 19th at the MGM Grand.

Mayweather Training

Boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr., left, works on his timing with his uncle Roger Mayweather during a workout in his gym Thursday, June 11, 2009.  Launch slideshow »

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Floyd Mayweather Jr., the guest of honor, arrived fashionably late for a barbecue lunch outside his Chinatown boxing gym Wednesday.

His uncle and trainer, Roger Mayweather, got there in plenty of time to dig into a burger and hold court on his favorite topic: boxing and its finer points.

Taking on all comers, Roger Mayweather addressed topics ranging from the most talented all-around boxers past and present to the birthplaces of prominent heavyweights of the 1950s.

If he was displeased with an opinion or an answer to his line of questioning, Roger Mayweather would let you know.

“You don’t understand boxing,” he growled at more than one verbal sparring partner Wednesday. “Don’t talk to me about boxing.”

The scene was reminiscent of the Budd Schulberg essay in which Ernest Hemingway physically bullied Schulberg into spouting mini-biographies of various prizefighters of yesteryear, although the setting was a hot day in Las Vegas rather than winter in Key West.

Roger Mayweather, training Floyd Jr. for his Sept. 19 showdown with Juan Manuel Marquez at the MGM Grand, ranks Sugar Ray Robinson as the greatest boxer ever — “hands down” — and his nephew as the best active fighter.

He modestly rates himself the No. 1 trainer. In fact, it’s a trying task to prod Roger Mayweather into naming another trainer he respects. Finally, he comes up with George Gainford, the longtime trainer-manager of Robinson.

“As a trainer, you’ve got to know what you’re doing every step of the way,” Roger Mayweather said. “You’ve got to take the fighter who you know and teach him how to beat the other guy by adapting to the other guy. That’s what makes a great trainer.

“When you look at a tape, you’ve got to know what you’re looking at. If you don’t know what you’re looking at, how are you going to train somebody for a fight?”

After studying tapes of Marquez’s fights, Roger Mayweather said he spotted several weak points in Marquez’s game. He considers some of them trade secrets, but in general terms he thinks too many of Marquez’s punches lack speed and crispness, and that Marquez allows himself to get hit too often.

“When I watch a fight, I watch for a fighter’s weaknesses,” Roger Mayweather said. “I don’t watch for what a fighter does good. I watch for what he does bad. If you see him do it once, he’s going to do it all the time.

“I don’t even worry about watching tapes of Floyd. I watch tapes of the guy Floyd fights. I know what Floyd can do. All I’ve got to do is make him do it.”

The biggest questions surrounding the Sept. 19 fight concern Mayweather’s return to the ring after a layoff of nearly two years for a self-imposed temporary retirement from boxing.

Roger Mayweather speculated that perhaps the time away from boxing has rejuvenated his 32-year-old nephew and that Floyd Jr. will look stronger than ever upon his return.

“You’ve got to remember, Floyd’s been boxing since he was a baby,” he said. “He didn’t start boxing yesterday or five years ago. Floyd’s been boxing all his life. He knows what he needs to do. That’s why he came back, to prove to the world that he’s the best fighter in the world.

“After beating this guy, and then hopefully he and (Manny) Pacquiao will fight at some point in time, then everyone will see what he means to boxing, that he’s the best out there.”

Inside the gym, after the barbecue, Mayweather Jr. said he won’t know for sure how the layoff has affected him until the night of the fight, but he’s encouraged by his progress so far.

“Camp is going good,” he said. “My combinations are going good. I’m throwing a lot more combinations in the gym. I’m fast and I’m taking care of business every day.”

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