By Graham Houston
Floyd Mayweather Jr. shook the boxing world in February by announcing he was leaving the HBO fold to sign a six-fight deal with HBO’s rival subscription network, Showtime. The first of these PPV attractions takes place at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas tonight, when Mayweather defends his WBC welterweight title against the interim champion, Robert Guerrero.
Considered the best fighter in the world at any weight, Mayweather is widely expected to defeat Guerrero decisively to start off the new Showtime contact in compelling fashion. There’s something about Guerrero, though, that makes me think he has a real chance of pulling off one of the biggest upsets in years.
Guerrero, the “Ghost” from Gilroy, California, has been seeking a Mayweather fight for at least two years. He comes into this fight after giving an impressive display of relentless, two-handed fighting to outpunch and overpower Andre Berto on his way to a widely scored victory on the scorecards.
Mayweather is wonderfully talented, of course, and after 43 consecutive wins (26 KOs) he looks as close to being unbeatable as a boxer can be. Yet even the greatest fighters in ring history tasted defeat.
Guerrero, 29, has an unmistakable confidence. However, Mayweather, 36, is like a well-oiled machine. He keeps himself in tiptop physical trim year-round: A two-month stint in a Las Vegas jail last year on a domestic battery charge proved inconvenient but Mayweather soon clicked back into gear. Before the brief incarceration, Mayweather showed his customary technical skills and outstanding fitness-level in outpointing Miguel Cotto in his last fight, even hurting Cotto in the last round.
Still, Mayweather has been boxing at the top level for a long time. There were signs in the Cotto fight that indicated there is at least the possibility that Mayweather can be beaten. Cotto had moments of success when he backed up Mayweather on the ropes and let his hands go. Cotto bloodied Mayweather’s nose and he had a couple of big rounds, the sixth and the eighth. Mayweather came back with stiff jabbing to body and head and solid scoring with a variety of punches, regaining control of the contest and punishing Cotto with pinpoint accuracy. Guerrero, though, is younger, faster and fresher than Cotto — and he’s a southpaw.
Like Mayweather, Guerrero has moved up through the weight classes — he captured his first world title in the featherweight division, in 2006.
I wasn’t sure if Guerrero could be as effective as a welterweight as he was at lighter weights, but he comfortably outpointed the Turkish slugger Selcuk Aydin and then practically ran Berto out of the ring.
While Guerrero doesn’t have Mayweather’s musculature he looks thick in the body and strong as a welter — he certainly out-strengthed Berto. Guerrero has boxing ability and he maintains a high workrate. He has carried his punch-authority up in weight with him, as he demonstrated when he knocked down Berto in the first and second rounds. Guerrero also has an excellent chin — he stood up to some big right-handers when Berto rallied.
Although Mayweather has greater big-occasion experience, Guerrero carries himself like a man who is comfortable under pressure. Guerrero has come through a trying personal ordeal with his wife’s struggle with — and victory over — cancer, which I believed has strengthened Guerrero. I believe that Guerrero sees the fight with Mayweather as a fight he is destined to win, and I feel that he is going to be tough to beat.
Mayweather should win, of course. His jabs and laser-like right hands are likely to penetrate Guerrero’s defence and do damage. If, though, Guerrero employs some ring savvy with straight-ahead aggression, if he goes to the jab and the straight left hand from his southpaw stance to change things up a bit, and attacks in bursts — if he can avoid being predictable, really — I think he can make this a long, hard night for Mayweather.
As a straight pick obviously I would go with Mayweather, but for those of the sporting persuasion a modest investment in Guerrero might not be a bad idea.
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Graham’s betting tip has been emailed to subscribers along with previews and wagering suggestions on Klitschko vs Pianeta, Christina Hammer vs Zita Zatyko, Mike Perez vs Travis Walker, De Leon vs Mares, Love vs Rosado, Santa Cruz vs Munoz and Shibata vs Fuchigami. Visit fightwriter.com