Mayweather Jr. retires, cancels rematch with De La Hoya

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. -- After Floyd Mayweather Jr. easily outpointed Carlos Baldomir to win the welterweight championship in November 2006, he stood at the podium at the post-fight news conference and broke down in tears as he stunningly announced his retirement from boxing.

Despite the emotional outpouring, few believed Mayweather was serious, rather that he had simply been overcome by the moment.

As it turned out, he had been.

Less than two months later, Mayweather agreed to face Oscar De La Hoya. In May 2007, Mayweather outpointed him in a fight that shattered all boxing revenue and pay-per-view records. After beating Ricky Hatton in December, plans were in motion for Mayweather-De La Hoya II to take place Sept. 20.

But cross it off the schedule.

Mayweather, 31, announced his retirement from boxing again on Friday in a move that appears much more serious than his impromptu declaration two years ago.

The rematch with De La Hoya has been canceled and Mayweather will forego the accompanying $20-plus million payday.

"It is with a heavy heart that I write you this message today," Mayweather said in a statement. "I have decided to permanently retire from boxing. This decision was not an easy one for me to make as boxing is all I have done since I was a child. However, these past few years have been extremely difficult for me to find the desire and joy to continue in the sport.

"I have said numerous times and after several of my fights over the past two years that I might not fight again. At the same time, 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. 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. So I have finally made up my mind, spoken to my family, particularly my mother, and made my decision."

Mayweather was born into a boxing family and taught to fight when he could barely walk by his father, Floyd Mayweather Sr., a welterweight contender in the 1980s and now one of the game's top trainers. They have been estranged for years and, after sitting out the first De La Hoya-Mayweather fight, Mayweather Sr. was set to return to train De La Hoya to defeat his son. That storyline was one of the major selling points of the rematch.

His uncle and longtime trainer, Roger Mayweather, is a former world champion and another uncle, Jeff Mayweather, also fought professionally and now trains boxers.

Mayweather Jr. (39-0, 25 KOs) turned out to be the best of them all. He won an Olympic bronze medal in 1996 and has been flawless as a professional, winning six world titles in five divisions -- junior lightweight, lightweight, junior welterweight, welterweight and junior middleweight.

And for the past several years, he has been widely regarded as the No. 1 fighter in the world pound-for-pound.

In October 1998, in just his 18th pro fight, Mayweather earned the junior lightweight title by stopping respected veteran champion Genaro Hernandez in the eighth round of a lopsided fight.

After eight defenses, including a dominant 10th-round TKO of the late Diego "Chico" Corrales in January 2001, Mayweather moved up to the 135-pound lightweight division and claimed the title via decision against Jose Luis Castillo in the most competitive fight of his career.

He notched three defenses before moving to junior welterweight, where he ravaged Arturo Gatti over six lopsided rounds to claim a belt in June 2005 in his first pay-per-view headline fight.

Mayweather never defended that title, opting to move up again to welterweight, where he scored a major victory against Zab Judah for a belt and then defeated Baldomir for the recognized world title.

"He's been contemplating this for some time," Leonard Ellerbe, Mayweather's adviser and best friend, told ESPN.com. "He's been boxing since he was a kid, well over 20 years, and he has accomplished everything he wanted to do in the sport and I support him 100 percent in his decision. What better way to go out than to go out on top?"

It is, of course, unusual for any athlete to leave at the top of his game, but Mayweather insisted that he was done for good.

"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," he said of the now-canceled De La Hoya rematch. "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.

"Finally, I want to personally thank all of my fans for their loyalty and dedication as my career comes to a close. I always believed that their enthusiasm and support helped carry me to victory with every fight I ever had. It was a great joy to have fought for all of you. Now I hope you understand my decision and wish me well with the rest of my life."

Even though some will speculate that Mayweather will soon return, Ellerbe said the retirement was "legit, forever. He made up his mind."

He also said the retirement was not a ploy to sweeten his deal for the De La Hoya rematch, which had not been signed.

"When you have been doing this ever since you're a little kid -- his father started him out from the crib and he never worked a job before -- you get tired," Ellerbe said. "It's enough. You know what we were getting ready to do in September. Now that is off. If he is getting ready to fight the biggest fight in the sport and it's a ton of money and now he's not doing it, it tells you he is serious about this. It has nothing to do with none of that stuff. This isn't about money."

Boxing had been becoming increasingly secondary in Mayweather's life. He starred in a pair of HBO's "24/7" reality shows showing the buildup to the De La Hoya and Hatton fights. He gained even more international fame with his appearance on the hit reality series "Dancing with the Stars" last year followed by a heavily publicized wrestling match against "Big Show" at World Wrestling Entertainment's WrestleMania 24 in March.

Mayweather has also branched out into concert promoting and has been looking into promoting mixed marital arts with Dallas Mavericks owner and fellow "Dancing with the Stars" competitor Mark Cuban, who also owns an MMA company.

Reaction from the boxing community was swift.

"Floyd has been a sensational competitor and we've been honored and privileged to telecast all of his significant fights on HBO," said Ross Greenburg, the president of HBO Sports. "We wish him well and appreciate his loyalty and integrity."

Richard Schaefer, the CEO of De La Hoya's Golden Boy Promotions, was surprised by Mayweather's decision and said he will look for another fall fight for De La Hoya.

"I have been informed of Floyd's decision and I wish him good luck in retirement," said Schaefer, who was informed of the decision earlier Friday. "We will move on. Sometime next week, I will announce a big fight for Oscar. There are different names out there and I will be working diligently to announce in the coming days Oscar's next fight."

Bob Arum, in Atlantic City promoting Kelly Pavlik's middleweight championship defense against Gary Lockett on Saturday night, signed Mayweather out of the Olympics and promoted him for most of his career until an acrimonious split in 2006.

Still, Arum also wished him well in retirement.

"I commend Floyd Mayweather for being so forthright," Arum said. "He's had a wonderful career He's decided to retire and to announce publicly his intention. I think we should all applaud him for his candor and his forthrightness. Boxing is a very dangerous sport and it involves serious risk of injury every time a person steps into the ring. Floyd has a accumulated a large nest egg through his fighting and promotional abilities the past couple of years and I, for one, see no reason why he should subject himself to additional risk when he appears to be set financially."

In retiring, Mayweather leaves behind several potential major fights, including one against the winner of next month's welterweight title bout between Miguel Cotto and Antonio Margarito, both of whom are promoted by Arum.

"If you don't want to take the risk and you don't have to take the risk why would you want to fight a Cotto or a Margarito and subject yourself to risk when you don't have to do that?" said Arum, who has often ripped Mayweather for his reluctance to face either man.

Ellerbe said Mayweather came to his decision over the past few days and was leaving for a vacation with his kids on Friday after making the announcement.

"He just told me he was retiring and I said, 'OK.' He had already made up his mind. He did it his way, not everybody else's way," Ellerbe said. "Floyd is extremely happy with his decision."

Dan Rafael is ESPN.com's boxing writer.