By Cliff Rold
In recent years, boxing has largely played out in two different stratospheres in the U.S. There is the larger sport, with varied attendance, fight quality, and attention largely paid by devoted fans.
Then there have been Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao pay-per-view events. These have been the weekends where the sport stands still, mainstream press comes back, and the revenue pops off the charts. It remains to be seen, following his knockout loss to Juan Manuel Marquez last year, how strong the Pacquiao event fever will be for the rest of his career.
Mayweather remains as he has been: the undisputed cash king of boxing. Even as attention seems, in comparison to some of his last few fights, slightly less than the norm, Mayweather remains the main event of boxing.
No Mayweather fight has done less than one million pay-per-view buys in the U.S. since his showdown with Ricky Hatton (though that did close to two million combined with overseas pay-pre-view revenues). His long awaited battle with Miguel Cotto last year ended up the second highest buyrate ever for a non-Heavyweight bout.
Perhaps the biggest question of the weekend, business wise, is will his first bout under a new deal with Showtime keep the streak alive? Does he top one million again?
That’s all about the Mayweather brand.
What about Mayweather in the ring? Does he have the opponent in front of him this weekend who might finally be able to erase the “0” he’s held onto since turning professional in 1996?
Let’s go the report card.
Titles: Lineal World Welterweight Champion (2010-Present, 1 Defense); WBC Welterweight (2011-Present, 1st Attempted Defense); WBA “Super” Super Welterweight (2012-Present, 0 Defenses)
Previous Titles: Lineal/WBC Jr. Lightweight (1998-2002, 8 Defenses); Lineal/Ring/WBC Lightweight (2002-04, 3 Defenses); WBC Jr. Welterweight (2005); IBF Welterweight (2006); Lineal/Ring/WBC Welterweight (2006-08, 1 Defense); WBC Jr. Middleweight (2007);
Weight: 146 lbs.
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 147.3 lbs.
Hails from: Grand Rapids, Michigan
Record: 43-0, 26 KO
Record in Major Title Fights: 21-0, 10 KO including lineal title contests
Current/Former World Champions Faced: 17 (Genaro Hernandez RTD8; Gregorio Vargas UD12; Diego Corrales TKO10; Carlos Hernandez UD12; Jesus Chavez TKO9; Jose Luis Castillo UD12, UD12; DeMarcus Corley UD12; Arturo Gatti RTD6; Sharmba Mitchell TKO6; Zab Judah UD12; Carlos Baldomir UD12; Oscar De La Hoya SD12; Ricky Hatton TKO10; Juan Manuel Marquez UD12; Shane Mosley UD12; Victor Ortiz KO4; Miguel Cotto UD12)
Previous Titles: IBF Featherweight (2006; 2007-09, 2 Defenses); IBF Super Featherweight (2009)
Weight: 147 lbs.
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 139.45 lbs.
Hails from: Gilroy, California
Record: 31-1-1, 18 KO, 1 No Contest
Rankings: #3 (Ring, SecondsOut); #4 (BoxingScene, BoxRec) #5 (ESPN, TBRB)
Record in Major Title Fights: 6-0, 4 KO, 1 NC (8-0, 4 KO, 1 NC including interim title fights)
Current/Former World Champions Faced: 6 (Gamaliel Diaz L12, KO6; Eric Aiken RTD8; Orlando Salido NC; Malcolm Klassen UD12; Joel Casamayor UD10; Andre Berto UD12)
Pre-Fight: Speed – Mayweather A-; Guerrero B+
Pre-Fight: Power – Mayweather B+; Guerrero B
Pre-Fight: Defense – Mayweather A; Guerrero B-
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Mayweather A; Guerrero A
A couple of years ago, the idea of Mayweather-Guerrero drew scoffs. Guerrero’s jump from Lightweight to Welterweight, and subsequent wins over Selcuk Aydin and Andre Berto, quieted most of that. He proved he could be viable at Welterweight.
Now he’s earned a shot at the lineal king of the class. It could be fun. Mayweather, in fights versus Ortiz and Cotto, was getting touched with more single hard shots than has sometimes been the case. He took them fine, but it adds an air of intrigue to this contest. Guerrero is a volume puncher who has shown the ability to fight nasty inside and box at range.
No, he’s not outboxing Floyd from the outside, but that ability to do both could allow his to disguise some attacks early in the fight. He’s a more diverse, technically skilled fighter than the pre-fight hype has suggested. When Floyd was at his peak in terms of speed, it wouldn’t have mattered.
He’s not anymore and it might.
That said, Floyd has maintained more than enough reflexes and as much skilled anticipation in the ring as anyone alive. He often moves before shots get thrown, exhibiting a ring knowledge that is equaled in the last fifteen years by, maybe, Bernard Hopkins.
Mayweather also maintains keen punching accuracy. Even if he gets hit a little more in this fight, he’s going to find a target to hit back. Mayweather has been susceptible occasionally to southpaw bursts in the first half of fights, but it’s never been more than fleeting moments and he’s always rebounded, defensively and offensively. Guerrero closed both of Berto’s eyes and Berto didn’t have much trouble finding him in an excellent battle. If a blind Berto could touch him consistently, what will Floyd do?
In terms of intangibles, this fight has a lot going for it. Both men have proven whiskers and are proven winners. Guerrero, learning on the job, has grown tremendously from his days at Featherweight and shown the ability to elevate his game as his opposition has gotten both bigger and better. Mayweather hasn’t come close to losing since his first fight with Jose Luis Castillo over ten years ago. If Guerrero does drag him into a fight early, if he lands some wicked stuff, he might find out what DeMarcus Corley, Zab Judah, and Shane Mosley all did.
When wounded, Mayweather gets better, meaner, and fights with the sort of uncommon fire that keeps a man unbeaten for what is going on twenty years.
Guerrero has improved as much as any fighter in the last decade from where he started. That said, it's hard to imagine a guy who ever dropped decisions to Gamaliel Diaz and Orlando Salido (later erased of course when Salido tested positive for PEDs) beating Mayweather. Even a somewhat slowed, more exciting version of Mayweather appears to be a bit too much. This should have some hot spots in the first six rounds. Guerrero’s punch output could test him but Mayweather’s movement and elusiveness might be more likely to bring the output down. Mayweather is still slippery, still accurate, and still quick. Guerrero will surely make Mayweather work and earn his win this weekend but win Mayweather should. The pick is Mayweather on points.
Report Card Picks 2013: 12-13
There are some other fights of note this weekend, both on the Mayweather undercard as well as overseas…A lot of folks think former 118 and 122 lb. titlist Abner Mares (25-0-1, 13 KO) will end up in the fight of the night as he moves up again to challenge WBC 126 lb. titlist Daniel Ponce De Leon (44-4, 35 KO). As a co-feature, it's okay but, well, when was the last really good Ponce De Leon fight? He's had some fights that are tricky to score, he's had some monster knockouts, but most of his fights are just sort of there. Mares is of course almost always in good fights so who knows? The biggest point of intrigue here is that Mares isn't a big puncher and fights at close range, meaning De Leon's power is a factor for all twelve rounds. Mares has beaten much better fighters, if at lighter weights, and should be able to handle the puncher's chance just fine. Mares by decision…Also intriguing on the Mayweather undercard, former 118 lb. titlist Leo Santa Cruz (23-0-1, 13 KO) faces aging former 115 lb. titlist Alexander Munoz (36-4, 28 KO). Munoz was out for close to two years after dropping a competitive decision to Koki Kameda for a 118 lb. belt in 2010. Now returned, he comes in with a decent punchers chance against a fighter who will bring the fight to him. This could actually end up being the most action-packed affair but Santa Cruz is too good and too young to lose to Munoz right now. Look for a Santa Cruz stoppage, though maybe with some early drama…Finally, at 37, World Heavyweight Champion Wladimir Klitschko (59-3, 51 KO) remains in his zone. Francisco Pianeta (28-0-1, 15 KO) has size and youth and should make for a solid few rounds, but he's never eaten a right hand like Klitschko's and, at some point, he's going to sleep. This should be a solid start to the fistic day on Epix.
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, and a member the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel, and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org