When Floyd Mayweather and Robert Guerrero step into the ring later this evening on Showtime pay-per-view, few will give Guerrero a chance to pull off the win. That isn't a knock on Guerrero's skills, he's proven himself a top-tier fighter in multiple divisions over his career. It's simply that Mayweather is going to have to either lose or start looking very bad due to age before the expectation isn't a comfortable win for the 43-0 pound-for-pound champion.
Mayweather is a rare talent, a once in a generation type of fighter with reflexes, speed and underrated power. Those natural abilities combined with a strong work ethic in the gym have pushed Floyd to his perfect 43-0 record.
It's not just that Floyd has never lost that leaves one wondering if Guerrero has a shot, but the relative ease with which Mayweather has stayed perfect throughout his career. It was a shock that Miguel Cotto, one of the best fighters of his generation, was able to win three rounds against Mayweather the last time Floyd stepped into the ring. That's how dominant "Money" has been over his career.
The one opponent who came close to beating Floyd was Jose Luis Castillo. Many felt that Castillo won their first meeting and the rematch was competitive, with two judges giving Floyd a 7-to-5 edge in rounds, though a more clear victory for Mayweather.
Erik Raskin discussed how Castillo had success against Mayweather in a post at Grantland:
If you’re willing to eat some punches, including the counters that you open yourself up to when you focus on banging Mayweather’s body, you can get things done against him — even in the center of the ring, where Mayweather theoretically wants to be at all times. You have to get close, which Mayweather will allow because he’s confident in his defensive skills, keep punching, and not worry about landing everything.
But like every element of a strategic guide to being competitive against Mayweather, this comes with an "easier said than done" disclaimer. The defense is just so hard to crack, and you can forget about doing it with an economic approach. Mayweather’s left arm protects his body, his left shoulder protects his chin from the opponent’s right hand, and his right glove protects his chin from the opponent’s left hand (while sometimes crossing the chin to protect on the other side). What remains are small windows of opportunity under Mayweather’s right elbow and on his left temple.
Mayweather has also historically had problems -- or what pass for problems when you're Floyd Mayweather -- against southpaws. Something that Kory Kitchen examined over at Bad Left Hook:
However, there is one punch from an orthodox stance that has, on occasion, given Mayweather some problems. It is the most basic, yet most important punch of any: the jab. The jab is different because it has no angle. There is usually no warning for it, and leaning back can just cause one to still absorb the blow. Two boxers have had some legitimate success against him with their jabs: Oscar de la Hoya and Miguel Cotto. Each man was able to land some flush jabs, especially Cotto who was able to draw blood from Mayweather’s nose by the middle of their bout. It should be noted that both Cotto and De la Hoya are naturally left-handed men who fought out of the orthodox stance.
Now, let’s translate that to a southpaw’s punching angle, which is how Guerrero will be fighting. The jab that a right-handed boxer throws comes out at a very similar angle to that of a straight left hand from a southpaw boxer. In other words, Guerrero’s best punch will come to Mayweather at a similar angle that a jab from an orthodox fighter would. That can’t be anything but good news for ‘The Ghost".
Mayweather’s defense is not tailor-made to stop southpaws the same way it is when it comes to neutralizing right-handers. His posture leaves him open up the middle for the straight left, and somewhat also for the right hook (I’m using the term "open" loosely here. I don’t mean this to sound like he suddenly becomes Brandon Rios or anything.). Holding his arm at a 90 degree angle next to his face does not block the straight left, and the shoulder-roll/counter move is generally not as open for the taking.
Southpaws Zab Judah and DeMarcus "Chop-Chop" Corley hurt Mayweather in their fights. Victor Ortiz, also a southpaw, was finding a touch of success as well before the headbutt that led to the bizarre ending of their meeting.
Guerrero is a southpaw and does have the ability to be relentless in his attack. In that way, he has some of the key aspects one needs to be competitive with Mayweather. And, make no mistake, this is a legitimate fight in every way. Floyd being a heavy favorite isn't a knock on Guerrero but an acknowledgement of who Floyd is.
Guerrero previously wanted a fight with Mayweather but many fans and media members as Guerrero had never fought above lightweight and had been off more than a year due to a shoulder injury. Guerrero addressed those concerns by moving up to welterweight to take on Selcuk Aydin. The Aydin bout was a battle with Guerrero fighting mean and Aydin responding in kind. Guerrero got the nod on all three cards, but a case could be made for a draw, which is how it was scored at Bad Left Hook.
After beating Aydin, Guerrero called out Mayweather again. But a bout with Andre Berto was up next and it was a stunning battle. Guerrero dropped Berto twice early in the fight and continued his new style of fighting with a certain kind of nastiness, but Berto fought back, making for a brutal fight of the year candidate that left both men's faces battered and swollen.
Those two performances severed as proof that Guerrero was going to be able to fight as a "true welterweight" and also provided two high level wins that made Guerrero more than an opponent of convenience and gave proof that he does have the skills to potentially test Mayweather in the ring.
The question is if Guerrero's newly embraced mean streak in the ring and being a southpaw will combine with potential Mayweather ring rust after a jail stint and age catching up to him to provide the opportunity for the upset.
I see this looking similar to the Cotto bout. Guerrero will have some success early on, pressuring Floyd and winning a few early rounds. It may even look a little worse for Floyd than the early Cotto rounds, with Guerrero looking like he's hurting Floyd. But talent will win out in the end as Mayweather adjusts from about round four onward.
Still, I'm going with a closer than expected decision, something like 116-112.
Mayweather by unanimous decision.