It was a fight short on drama, one that prompted a smattering of boos among the throng gathered at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. And yet, there is a compliment buried in this criticism. For in so easily dismantling Robert Guerrero over twelve one-sided rounds on Saturday night, Floyd Mayweather, Jr., displayed a fighting prowess that, even at age 36, remains remarkable. One can take issue with some of the names on—and off—his ledger and disapprove of his preference for avoiding rather than delivering damage, but the drama of a Mayweather fight is most often lost in the yet-to-be traversed expanse between his competition’s ability and his own. And that, no matter how you look at it, is high praise.
Guerrero, to his credit, looked to cross that void in the early rounds. Mayweather began the fight planted directly in front of Guerrero, where he stung with lead and counter right hands. Regardless of the success of Mayweather’s volleys—and there was little in the early going—Guerrero countered each shot with a left uppercut to the body. This triggered response, even when it missed, kept Mayweather leery of opening up. Coming off of a vindictive bullying of Andre Berto, Guerrero was expected to try and hound Mayweather in close, nullifying his speed. In fact, he did the opposite: instead of swarming, Guerrero, Gilroy, California, looked to counter Mayweather, ostensibly forcing him to take the lead. The rationale seemed sound: a stationary Mayweather forced to lead would be a more available target. The Berto fight aside, Guerrero is most comfortable countering and boxing at range, and playing to his strengths—rather than Mayweather’s weaknesses—made for some tense moments early in the fight. Reduced to throwing little more than a jab and straight right, Mayweather still carried the action early; but Guerrero was getting dangerously close with his punches. It looked as though Mayweather had a fight on his hands.
Perhaps the only quality moment in those dreary hours of “All Access” and the scripted redundancies that are the personas of Mayweather and Guerrero occurred when the fighters first met before the cameras. Mayweather stuck his nose in Guerrero’s face while repeating the phrase, “This ain’t Berto,” dismissing the notion that Guerrero’s outmuscling of the pedestrian Berto—who was coming off an injury and experimenting with techniques too advanced for him—could serve as preparation for the Mayweather riddle. Despite a slow start, Mayweather, Grand Rapids, Michigan, would punctuate his mouth with his fists.
“This ain’t Berto.”
In the fourth round Mayweather, 146, abandoned his stationary approach and went on the offensive, darting in and out of range, slamming Guerrero with blistering right hands. His 36 year-old legs had betrayed signs of erosion in recent fights, but against Guerrero, Mayweather moved with a fluidity conspicuously absent in his last fight (an unexpectedly rough tussle with shopworn junior middleweight Miguel Cotto). No longer lingering within range, Mayweather’s increased movement forced Guerrero to check his output, lest he be punished for errors of timing or distance. Alternating between straight and looping right hands to the head and body, Mayweather kept Guerrero guessing defensively—and guessing incorrectly.
“This ain’t Berto.”
A thudding right hand opened a cut over Guerrero’s left eye in the eighth, a round that saw him do little but trudge forward, suffer and bleed. Undaunted, Guerrero, 147, tried to muscle Mayweather in close, and had some success strafing his momentarily corralled opponent. But it would be wrong to say that Guerrero won these cramped exchanges. Mayweather, unlike Berto—who has all the menace of a tortoise on its back when fighting along the ropes—either clamped down on Guerrero until referee Robert Byrd intervened, or worked free with stinging combinations. Blood streaming from his eye, getting far worse than he gave, Guerrero had been put in the stocks.
Mayweather’s onslaught, however, waned significantly over the remainder of the fight (which he later attributed to an injured right hand). Guerrero paid less dearly for those remaining minutes in the ring; this mitigated abuse perhaps constituting his greatest success as the fight neared its obvious conclusion. At the final bell, Guerrero thrust his arms triumphantly in the air while his father, Ruben, revisited his role as a vexing ignoramus. But the time for rabble rousing had passed. All three judges scored the bout 117-111 for Mayweather.
Prior to his fight with Guerrero, Mayweather, 44-0 (26), said he would return in September for the second fight of his Showtime deal. That deal calls for Mayweather—who has fought six times in six years—to fight six times in thirty months. Showtime might as well have asked for female bachelors and four-sided triangles. Even if Mayweather was genuine in his September intent, the hand injury could delay his return (which, really, would just allow him to keep the schedule he’s had since 2008). Many hope that when he returns, it will be against massively popular junior middleweight Saul Alvarez, whose credibility is peaking after his win over Austin Trout. When asked about future foes, and Alvarez in particular, however, Mayweather was typically noncommittal. Whomever Mayweather chooses to fight, it’s hard to see public demand being a factor. He has long dictated the terms of his career, and is unlikely to concede such control now.
With his ties to Golden Boy Promotions, Guerrero, 31-2-1 (18), has a number of options. He could fight Victor Ortiz, Keith Thurman, or the winner of the Paulie Malignaggi-Adrien Broner fight. If he is willing to hit the buffet, he might even have a chance at a fight with Alvarez, who, in an act of gamesmanship, could look to improve on Mayweather’s performance. Yes, Guerrero, durable, determined, still has options. But watching him leave the ring, a line from Sabbath’s Theater came to mind: “If only things had been different, everything would be otherwise.” Alas, he fought an aging yet indomitable fighter, one whose talent still casts a shadow over the welterweight division. No amount of inspiration, prayer, or public support could propel him over the expanse.
“This ain’t Berto.”