So continues our marathon coverage of one of the biggest fights of 2013, Floyd Mayweather vs. Robert Guerrero on Showtime pay-per-view May 4. Previously: putting Mayweather-Guerrero in context; the undercard, previewed; keys to the fight. Next: a staff roundtable.
Ultimately, while Floyd Mayweather-Robert Guerrero is a big event because Mayweather is the biggest pay-per-view attraction there is and arguably the best fighter in the world; and is a big event because of what it means for the business of boxing and a shift in the landscape from HBO to Showtime; and is a legitimate fight between two top-5 welterweights; it feels like something smaller, like something in-between other things. Some of that is because Guerrero is the least broadly recognizable or popular Mayweather opponent of the past six years. (If the promotion was meant to elevate Guerrero, it hasn't gone as planned, in part because Guerrero hasn't fully donned the "good guy" hat he was meant to wear, in part because all the documentary/marketing material has emphasized Mayweather so heavily.) Some of that is because he figures to be the least competitive opponent since then, or maybe since Juan Manuel Marquez in 2009.
Yet I don't see Guerrero as quite the 5-1 underdog he is in some books. Maybe he's got a better chance — 4-1, at most 3-1. It's not because Guerrero is faster or stronger or bigger or smarter or better in any conceivable way than Mayweather, that he has any kind of advantage he can exploit. If Guerrero can win, it comes down to a style match-up, and how that coincides with the 36-year-old Mayweather's advancing age.
Mayweather might not struggle with southpaws as badly as is popularly conceived, but he doesn't handle them as well as he does right-handers. Zab Judah, DeMarcus Corley and maybe even Victor Ortiz (although some will dispute the last man's name) caused Mayweather some grief. Guerrero isn't as fast as any of those fellow southpaws, however, and speed was a big element in the success of Judah and Ortiz in particular. Still, it's a start.
Guerrero, againt Selcuk Aydin and Andre Berto — both harder hitters, but less accurate ones, than Mayweather — showed he could withstand welterweight power. If he can withstand Mayweather's power, we could have the beginnings of a fight. Mayweather hasn't fought a boxer who has displayed the kind of bullying style Guerrero has used in his last couple bouts since Ricky Hatton, and if not for some over-officiating from referee Joe Cortez, Hatton might've had more success than the spots he did.
Guerrero is not as accomplished or experienced as Hatton, but Mayweather isn't as mobile these days as he was when he faced Hatton. (Guerrero appears better suited for welterweight than Hatton, but Hatton was probably a better practitioner of bullying and mauling techniques.) Mayweather is a defensive master who's hard to hit even when he's got his feet planted, yet if Guerrero can get close to him and fire off combinations something like how Miguel Cotto did, then it just got competitive.
At least for a while, that's how I see it going. It's one thing to corner Berto, another thing to corner a craftsman and defensive dynamo like Mayweather — who also is physically stronger and has a better feel for leverage than Berto — but I think Guerrero will be able to do enough of it to make things competitive early. And I think, at least at first, Guerrero will be willing and able to take the return fire he'll endure from Mayweather. They might swap rounds through as many as the first six rounds, or else Mayweather will win most-to-all of them yet will still know he's in a real fight.
But after that, Mayweather will adjust. And from there, one of two things will happen. He'll get in a groove and begin coasting and staying out of harm's way enough to win all the rest of the rounds easily; or he'll start doing the kind of damage that will make Guerrero back off or get knocked out. I expect the damage to accumulate more than I expect Mayweather to be able to evade Guerrero. From round 7 or so on, Guerrero will begin backing off some, then he'll make a decision to stay on his feet or go for it and probably get knocked out. I think he'll last to the final bell, but it will be close.
Originally, this bout was named "Mayday," the signal an airplane or boat might send when it is in trouble. Realizing that's not exactly what the promoters meant, they renamed it "May Day," because it's happening on a day in May and because it's the first part of Mayweather's name. On Saturday, it will be Mayweather's day.