Boxing isn't like other sports with regular schedules and events. It is up to a boxer and his management team to decide when and where they will fight. Most trainers, though, don't like to see their fighters go more than 6 months without a fight for fear of losing carefully honed skills.
Boxing requires timing, reflexes, footwork and agility - skills that can degrade when not used for long periods of time. In boxing, it is "use it or lose it".
While the era of the forties and fifties -- when fighters climbed in the ring every month -- are gone forever, fighters at the top level of the sport usually try to fight at least every six months. To go longer risks the dreaded "ring rust" in the return bout.
Four of the men on our list are returning after layoffs beyond six months while three have exceeded that time with no new fight in sight.
Since his last fight against Shane Mosley in May 2010, Floyd Mayweather has made more headlines for his legal issues outside the ring than for his activity in the sport. Previously ranked #1 or #2 on nearly every pound-for-pound list, Mayweather fell off of most lists after a year of inactivity while his rival Manny Pacquiao continued to fight every six months.
Floyd returns on September 17th against Welterweight title holder Vicotr Ortiz. Ortiz took his belt in a Fight of the Year candidate bout against Andre Berto in April. Give Mayweather credit -- he chose to end his layoff against a dangerous fighter whose power makes him a threat against any opponent.
Floyd is no stranger to long layoffs. After beating Ricky Hatton in December 2007, Floyd was out of the ring until his September 2009 match with Juan Manuel Marquez. He won the Marquez fight easily.
While Mayweather remains unbeaten within the ring, even he can not beat advancing age. He's 34 and it will be interesting to see if the once-in-a-lifetime skills have survived both the long layoff and relentless march of time.
The last time we saw Paul "The Punisher" Williams, he was out cold on the canvas in Atlantic City, the recipient of a devastating blow by Sergio Martinez. Martinez left with the Middleweight title while Williams left with what must have been a recurring nightmare.
It isn't surprising that Williams took a little more time off between fights after a crushing knockout. At 29, Williams has plenty of time to put his career back on track and contend for another title. He's coming back at 154 pounds, rather than 160, and should be a challenger in that wide open division fairly quickly.
It is pretty clear that Williams' team wanted a fairly easy bout in his return to the ring and, given the Martinez result, it is understandable. No matter what he says, a KO like that has to shake a fighter's confidence and returning against someone who is less of a threat makes perfect sense.
Originally, he wanted to fight Nobuhro Ishida, the light-throwing upset winner over James Kirkland but HBO withdrew their approval of the fight. Lara doesn't represent much more of a threat than Ishida but, with HBO's approval, Williams returns to Atlantic City against Lara to resume his career.
Dereck Chisora, the undefeated British heavyweight, has been out of action since September of 2010. It is fairly unusual to have a layoff of this length for a 27 year old fighter with only 14 professional bouts but Chisora has been the victim of circumstances rather than choice when it comes to the length of his absence.
Chisora was scheduled to take a shot at the Heavyweight title last year on December 11th but Wlad Klitschko pulled out of the fight with an injury. The fight was rescheduled for April but Klitschko once again pulled out of the fight, this time so he could match up with David Haye.
In the end, Chisora spent most of the past year waiting around for a fight against Klitschko that never materialized. He's getting back into the ring with another undefeated British heavyweight, Tyson Fury, and it is likely that the winner of this fight will get a shot at one of the Klitschko brothers some time in 2012.
Sometimes a long layoff is a fighters choice, sometimes the business of boxing forces it and sometimes it is just a requirement to recover from a savage beating. By the time Antonio Margarito squares off with Miguel Cotto in December, it will be have been 13 months since he faced Manny Pacquiao. Much of that time has been devoted to recovering from the beating that Pacquiao delivered.
Referee Laurence Cole probably should have stopped that fight and Margarito's corner certainly should have. Neither did and Margarito's face paid the price.
Margarito's return in December will be a revenge match for opponent Miguel Cotto. Cotto took an undefeated record into the ring against Margarito in July 2008 and was winning the fight on the judge's scorecards when Margarito stopped him in the 11th round.
In Margarito's next fight against Shane Mosley, Margarito was found to have illegally wrapped hands and most of the boxing world wonders if that was also the key to his victory over Cotto. Miguel Cotto certainly questions whether it was a "fair fight".
Pacquiao delivered a beating last year. Cotto is looking to deliver revenge in December.
Former middleweight title holder Ronald "Winky" Wright has competed just two times since December 2006 but he continues to make noises about returning to the ring.
He was scheduled for the undercard of the Maidana-Morales fight in April but pulled out due to injury. His last fight was a loss to Paul Williams in 2009 and it remains to be seen whether we will ever see Winky in the ring again.
Troy Ross lost a crusierweight title fight to Steve Cunningham in June of 2010 when the fight was stopped in Round 5 for a cut. Ross had knocked down Cunningham in Round 4 so it is no surprise that Ross tried repeatedly to get a rematch with Cunningham.
So far, Cunningham has not been interested.
Ross returned in October of last year for an easy win against non-contender Carl Handy but has not fought since. He was scheduled to fight June 24 but withdrew due to abdominal pains.
Alfredo Angulo is one of the most dangerous men in the 154 weight division but the 28-year-old hasn't been seen in the ring since last July.
He's been inactive because of immigration issues, having been forced out of the United States when it was found that his visa had expired.
He has a bout "scheduled" for August 20 in Mexico but the opponent is "TBA" and there is little information available about the promotion.
Until at least an opponent is named, Angulo remains on the MIA list.