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Mayweather to face welterweight champ


LAS VEGAS » The recluse has emerged.

Floyd Mayweather Jr., the unbeaten former multiple-weight-class world champion beset by criminal charges, controversy and no-comments since dominating Shane Mosley 13 months ago, announced Tuesday he’ll return to the ring Sept. 17 against welterweight champion Victor Ortiz of Oxnard.

“My fans have been waiting long enough,” Mayweather tweeted Tuesday morning.

Golden Boy Promotions is negotiating to place the bout at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, with HBO pay-per-view televising it.

“I am ready to return to the ring and give my fans a fantastic night of boxing by fighting the best out there, and for me, that is Victor Ortiz,” Mayweather said in a news release. “(Ortiz) is . . . an extremely talented fighter who showed amazing skills, and heart, in his last performance against Andre Berto.

“At this stage of my career, these are the challenges I look for — a young, strong, rising star looking to make his mark in boxing by beating me . . . but … Ortiz is just going to be another casualty, the 42nd one who tried and failed. Trust me, I will be ready.”

Ortiz (29-2-2, 22 knockouts) won his World Boxing Council belt in April in a rugged unanimous-decision victory over formerly unbeaten champ Berto, a fight in which both men were knocked down twice. Mayweather sat ringside as a guest of his, and Berto’s, manager Al Haymon.

“I knew sooner or later Floyd would fight, and when he saw the challenge of Victor . . . all the stars aligned,” Golden Boy Chief Executive Richard Schaefer said.

The most encouraging hint for boxing fans about the selection of the 24-year-old southpaw is that Mayweather could be using this bout to prepare for the mega-fight the sporting world has clamored for, a date against hard-hitting Filipino southpaw Manny Pacquiao.

“Floyd wants these last two fights, and to call it a day,” said Nate Jones, Mayweather’s assistant trainer and close friend. “I believe that with all my heart.”

After three failed negotiations, Pacquiao’s promoter Bob Arum is less upbeat: “I don’t know if Floyd’s planning a fight with Manny. He’ll let us know. Right now, there’s no dialogue.”

Until Tuesday’s tweet, the boxing world had gotten that same cold shoulder from Mayweather.

Efforts by The Los Angeles Times to interview him last week were met by responses of “Don’t ask me” and “Why ask a question you know the answer to?” by some of those closest to him.

Mayweather, 34, has been in virtual hiding and in legal trouble since he earned $25 million for the Mosley bout.

Mayweather has been charged in three criminal cases in Las Vegas in the last year.

The allegations involve domestic violence, and an accusation that he attacked security guards inside his lavish Las Vegas residential community. He has denied the charges.

Mayweather (41-0), the former top pound-for-pound boxer in the world, was also in an uncensored video rant against Pacquiao last year; he later apologized. And Mayweather has tweeted photos of winning bet stubs on NBA and boxing made at a casino near his home.

In addition, court records show Mayweather settled a $6-million-plus IRS tax lien last year, and that he owes a leasing company back rent on an office. Mayweather is also being sued by a nightclub employee who alleges he was roughed up by one of the boxer’s bodyguards Jan. 2.

He also has rejected numerous offers to box.

Everyone from Nelson Mandela’s daughter to a Singapore businessman has pitched Mayweather for the dream date against Pacquiao, and a small-time promoter who pushed for a lesser bout heard the same thing: No.

No one close to the Ortiz talks breathed easy until Mayweather tweeted his OK. Ortiz’s manager, Rolando Arellano, said his fighter did “four back flips” when he saw Mayweather’s confirmation.

“It’s obvious the return of Floyd Mayweather is very important to the sport of boxing,” HBO Sports President Ross Greenburg said last week. “The entire boxing community is looking forward to the time Floyd steps up and through those ropes again.

“He’s too charismatic, too special of an athlete. Love him or hate him, you have to watch him.”

Mayweather’s most serious legal case is a multi-felony domestic violence charge involving Josie Harris, the mother of three of his children. Mayweather is accused of hitting Harris and threatening the children; he is charged with coercion, battery and grand larceny.

One felony conviction would result in a year behind bars, and a law enforcement official involved in the case told The Times that Mayweather “will not plead.”

The next hearing in Mayweather’s domestic violence case is Oct. 20, a month after the Ortiz bout.

Jones said last week that Mayweather has been “hanging out, gambling, killing it at the gym.

“He’s constantly playing basketball, running on a treadmill — because at any time, he can make the decision to fight. I know he’s got a lot of stuff on his mind — the fight, the money, Pacquiao. You can say he’s got a lot of problems, but he’s still very marketable.”

Beyond the felony charges, Mayweather faces two separate misdemeanor battery cases for allegedly attacking security guards who ticketed some of his 29 vehicles.

According to court records, Mayweather warned a guard: “If you guys want problems, I’ll give you problems.”

Arum, who once promoted Mayweather, has monitored his former fighter.

“Preparing, training, fighting is no longer appealing to him. His lifestyle is what’s important to him. How long can he support his lifestyle without fighting?” Arum said.

“(When) he fights again, it will be for only one reason: M-O-N-E-Y.”

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