LAS VEGAS – Those waiting for Floyd Mayweather Jr. to show significant signs of deterioration are going to have to be patient. He remains king.
Mayweather did on Saturday night at the MGM Grand what he has done so many times in his career – dominate a good opponent, this time Robert Guerrero, who simply didn’t have the skills or speed to hang with the master.
Mayweather picked Guerrero apart at will and was barely touched himself, giving him a one-sided decision – 117-111 on all three cards — and the vacant RING welterweight championship in a packed arena.
The fans, equally divided between the fighters, seemed to be disappointed in the end – they began to boo when it became clear that Guerrero had no chance — but no one can say that Mayweather, who also retained the WBC 147-pound belt, wasn’t brilliant.
That wasn’t the case a year ago, when Mayweather took more punches from Miguel Cotto than we’re used to seeing. That fight led many to believe that Mayweather might be in the midst of an inevitable decline.
And Guerrero provided some hope early that he could pick up where Cotto left off, roughing up Mayweather to a degree in the first two rounds.
However, by the third round, any rust from his hiatus – including a few months in jail – fell away and Mayweather became the wizard of old, particularly on defense.
Guerrero tried to corner Mayweather but the champion, his feet as quick as ever, would slip away unharmed. Guerrero stood in the center of the ring, hoping to score with counter punches, but he had no meaningful answer to Mayweather’s still-quick, hard right hands.
Round after round, it was the same story – all Mayweather, who at 36 clearly has retained more than enough of his remarkable ability to destroy even the most worthy challengers.
The numbers bolster that argument. Mayweather (44-0, 26 knockouts) landed an incredible 60 percent of his power punches, 153 of 254, according to Compubox. That puts to rest any questions about his hand speed and timing.
The defense? Guerrero landed a paltry 19 percent of his punches overall (113 of 581). Mayweather credits the return of his father, Floyd Mayweather Sr., to his corner. The elder Mayweather taught his son how not to get hit.
“I’m happy to be back with my father,” said Mayweather, who has had uncle Roger Mayweather in his corner for years. “I know now that the older I get, the better it is that I should get hit less. I needed my father. I felt that after the Cotto fight, my defense wasn’t as good as it should be. So I asked him to come back, and he always says the less that you get hit the better.
“I just wanted to go out there and to box smart, and if the knockout came, it would come. I tried for the knockout but I hurt my right hand midway through the fight.”
Mayweather did in fact try to score a knockout, which would’ve been a perfect ending to a near-perfect night. In the final rounds, with Guerrero (31-2-1, 18 KOs) clearly beaten, he stood his ground a number of times and unloaded mean-spirited punches.
A clubbing right in the eighth hurt Guerrero but it came late in the round, which gave Guerrero time to recover. That was the closest Mayweather came to ending the fight early.
“I take my hat off to Robert Guerrero. He’s a true warrior,” Mayweather said.
Of course, Guerrero has nothing to be ashamed of. He joins a long list of capable fighters who fared no better than him. The first one to come to mind is Juan Manuel Marquez, who lost to Mayweather by a larger margin in 2009.
And Guerrero was guaranteed his career-best payday, a healthy $3 million. That helps ease any pain.
However, the demoralizing setback put a halt to his considerable momentum. He had made an impressive run from featherweight to welterweight over a five-year period, capping the streak with a rousing victory over Andre Berto last year that earned him a shot at the pound-for-pound king.
Mayweather sent him crashing back to earth.
“Maywether was a tricky fighter, especially with the body shots,” Guerrero said. “That’s why he’s still undefeated. God has a plan for me, but today, it wasn’t to beat Floyd Mayweather. It was to be here to inspire people and all of my fans. He’s slick, he’s quick, and he’s better than I thought.
“He was definitely on his game tonight.”
That he was.
Photos: Al Bello-Gettyimages