Floyd Mayweather Jr. is back. Again.

He took almost 22 months off before fighting Juan Manuel Marquez in 2009. And when Mayweather steps into the boxing ring Sept. 17 against WBC welterweight champion Victor Ortiz, he will have gone 16 months since his last fight, a lopsided win over Shane Mosley.

This downtime could take a deeper toll because Mayweather, 34, has more than just boxing to worry about. He faces a three-felony-count domestic violence criminal case, with an October court date, and he is overdue to give a deposition in a defamation case filed by Manny Pacquiao after Mayweather alleged the Filipino star used performance-enhancing drugs.

As for Ortiz, the 24-year-old can be relentless, throws flurries of heavy punches from a southpaw stance and could be a problem for Mayweather — but also could give him a preview of Pacquiao.

Mayweather, 41-0 as a pro, has looked good in camp, and his trainers are happy with his progress.

Recently, at his Las Vegas gym, Mayweather went through a rugged workout, throwing thousands of punches at the heavy bag, doing one-armed medicine-ball lifts, straining through push-ups, then strengthening his neck by lifting a 25-pound weight. Afterward, he talked about Ortiz, Pacquiao and his plans.

What's running through your mind during this work?

Just being mentally strong. This stuff comes with the territory. I push myself to the limit. That's why I'm where I'm at. I'll show the fight fans I'm still capable of taking time off and performing, coming back again against a top pound-for-pound opponent.

Your layoffs have been long. How do they affect you?

The layoff won't hurt me. It helps me. I get mentally stronger, enjoying seeing my children get stronger, knowing even more about the sport. Self-preservation is an important thing to me. I'm staying sharp without getting beat up in there.

Ring rust is a great unknown until you're actually fighting. One of your assistants said you're not truly fit until you can hit that heavy bag 10,000 times in a session. How do you know if you've recovered all the skills you've had in the past?

He pushes me hard. I think being in the 7,000-8,000 range is pretty good, but they want me to break records in here. When I first got to the gym, I admit that I was not as sharp as I want to be. But everyone says now that I'm as sharp as a razor. I'm feeling fast, and I have some good sparring partners in here. They're not pushing me around, and I'm getting top-notch work. When I come to the gym now, I'm happy, enthused to get in here and work with my team. Everything's going as planned.

Victor Ortiz is younger, bigger, stronger. Your uncle, trainer Roger Mayweather, thinks you'll win by out-boxing Ortiz. What do you expect in this fight?

He's bigger, but is (Ortiz) the smarter, more disciplined fighter? I'm walking around at 150 (for the 147-pound fight), not (160-plus) like him. I'm responsible. I believe my speed remains, and we know how everyone describes me as a defensive fighter. I'm not in this sport to take punishment. I'll be fine.

You like it when doubters raise questions. You use that as fuel, right?

Everything people say I couldn't do, I've done. They said I'll never be a big pay-per-view star. I'm the biggest out there. They said that Marquez was too small, that Shane Mosley was too old. Mosley wasn't too old for Antonio Margarito. Look who Marquez is fighting (Pacquiao in December). I never get my just due, but I'm right where I want to be in this sport. To be in here almost 20 years as a pro and to be this sharp, that's truly amazing. I just want to be the best. I haven't been in an all-out war. That doesn't mean I'm not the best.

What about the outside distractions, such as the criminal case?

My thing is to worry about my job and leave it to my attorneys. I will ask, where's the pictures (showing abuse of the mother of his children)? My attorneys are dealing with it.

And Pacquiao's lawsuit?

I don't think about it. He's a congressman, right? But he has the worst contract in boxing history. How smart is he? I'm just going to be working hard.

lpugmire@tribune.com