Claressa Shields has fuelled talk of a serious comeback from Floyd Mayweather after claiming the unbeaten, five-weight world champion is looking menacing in sparring.
'The Money' Mayweather, the richest boxer in the world, officially retired in 2017 after beating Conor McGregor in Las Vegas.
Mayweather moved ahead of Rocky Marciano with a 50-0 record after stopping McGregor in the 10th round via TKO and he has not been seen in the ring since in an official capacity.
He has been part of two exhibition bouts since. He brutally disposed of Tenshin Nasukawa within a round of their bout on New Years' Eve in 2018.
He floored the kickboxer three times before the fight was stopped. But he was not able to get the better of YouTube star Logan Paul.
With a 35lb went difference Mayweather was unable to get into his rhythm in Florida June 2021 and with no judges scoring at ringside the fight ended with no winner declared.
Mayweather is due to step into the ring for another exhibition later this month. And he announced the February 20 event at a press conference on New Years Eve in Dubai that he would fight on the helipad of the Burj Al Arab Jumeirah hotel.
He also refused to rule out YouTube star 'Money Kicks' as the opponent before the 20-year-old confirmed a deal was close.
Mayweather exhibition 'off'
However, now the Daily Mirror claims 'Money Kicks' - real name Rashed Belhasa - will not meet Mayweather after talks broke down. Instead Belhasa will likely fight on Tam Khan's Knockout promotion later in the year.
It leaves Mayweather, 44, looking for an opponent at short notice. But in the longer term, could the (50-0, 27 KOs) star be considering a serious return?
Mayweather has been training under Gerald Tucker in Miami and Las Vegas for his date later this month.
Tucker, who was pals with Mayweather in their 1996 Olympic days, is also the assistant trainer of IBF, WBA and WBC middleweight title holder Shields.
Shields, who defended those belts in Cardiff last weekend against Ema Kozin, says Mayweather is looking ominous in the ring.
Shields said told The Sun: "Floyd's in great shape. He was sparring a 21-year-old for eight rounds and he wasn't even always taking breaks between rounds.
"He can still do whatever he wants to do inside that ring. If he wanted to, he'd give all those guys problems at 147 and 154.
"From what I saw, his legs and his motor are still working."
Mayweather, who saw off Marcos Maidana, Manny Pacquiao and Andre Berto in his last three fights before he took on Conor McGregor in 2017, has been lifted by fellow Michigan fighter Shields.
Watching Shields in training in Las Vegas has given Mayweather a spark.
Tucker told Vegas Insider: "Floyd also was motivated by Claressa's work.
"He told me several times while watching her train with me that, 'That girl can fight, She can fight'.
"And I felt the energy it gave him as we trained right after her gym session and Floyd was fired up tremendously from watching his mentee train with so much passion.
"Floyd was more than happy to have Claressa in camp with him.
"Floyd mentioned coming to the fight at the gym while Claressa was working on the bag.
"He asked us if we wanted him there, and of course we said, 'Hell yeah'.
"He's gonna try his best to come and support Claressa and get some more training while here to prepare for his upcoming fight later this month in Dubai."
Shields meanwhile was confronted by Hartlepool boxer Savannah Marshall after her points win over Kozin on her U.K. debut last weekend.
Marshall, 30, jokingly yawned to the camera during her rival's "bore-fest" victory.
"You can't come over, burn everyone's skull out all week calling yourself the greatest, slander me in interviews and on Twitter and then when it comes to it give me a fist-pump after performing like that," Marshall told Sky Sports.
"Somebody had to tell her, she really underperformed. You can't call yourself the greatest and then go 10 rounds with somebody who is fresh out the womb.
"Taking nothing away from Ema, she's a tough girl and I'm sure in time she'll mature and she'll come back stronger.
"But from rounds seven to 10 Ema didn't throw a punch and the best thing about it is she stood in front of Claressa and she subjected all them people in Cardiff to 10 rounds of a bore-fest."