Mayweather or Guerrero? The experts dish out predictions
Windows of opportunity to beat Floyd Mayweather have been few and far between. (AP)
Programming note: Catch CSN Boxing Insider Ryan Maquiñana on “Chronicle Live” at 5 and 11 p.m. Wednesday. Also, watch the second and third parts of “The Ghost Rises,” our Floyd Mayweather vs. Robert Guerrero preview, on Thursday and Friday on “SportsNet Central” at 6 and 10:30 p.m.
Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Robert Guerrero will flaunt a combined 74 professional wins between them heading into next Saturday’s WBC/Ring Magazine welterweight title prizefight in Las Vegas (6 p.m., Showtime PPV).
However, the only blemishes on either record belong to Guerrero (31-1-1, 18 KOs). Nine years ago, the Gilroy native incurred a one-round technical draw when Julian Rodriguez was hit on the break and unable to continue; in 2005, he dropped a shocking 12-round split decision to Gamaliel Diaz that he would later avenge by knockout.
That’s not to say Mayweather (43-0, 26 KOs) has never come close to tasting defeat during a storied 17-year pro career. It’s just that such windows of opportunity have been few and far between for the Las Vegas resident.
With the defensive labyrinth he presents and uncanny ability to strike with venomous counter right hands and accurate left hooks from various linear planes, obtaining the meaning of Stonehenge or proving the Magic Bullet Theory, I’ve heard, carry better odds on the MGM Grand casino floor than a Mayweather loss.
Consequently, any brief flashes of vulnerability he’s shown over time have been magnified and dissected by boxing junkies in hopes of piecing together the ultimate anatomy of an upset.
So what has worked? Befitting his nickname, does Guerrero have a “Ghost” of a chance on Saturday? CSNBayArea.com gathered what little reconnaissance could be found on Floyd’s fallibility and recapitulated it into three key aspects.
1. PERPETUAL PRESSURE
To illustrate Mayweather’s dominance, every single win on his ledger has ended by either knockout or unanimous decision except one—a split decision against Oscar De La Hoya in 2007.
Mayweather ascended from the 147-pound welterweight limit to the 154-pound junior middleweight class for the first time, and the bigger but past-prime De La Hoya took advantage. He pumped left jabs early and often into Mayweather’s face and chest, following them up with nonstop pressure on the ropes.
“The jab is key to unlocking that Mayweather code. I was hitting Floyd with jabs all night,” De La Hoya told Showtime last month. “When you fight Floyd, you must bang the arms. Bang the elbows. Do everything it takes to take Floyd out of his comfort zone.”
Even if most of De La Hoya’s shots failed to land, the activity alone was designed to stunt his foe’s offense and punch output. Right or wrong, the judges rewarded him for it.
In fact, De La Hoya held an 86-85 lead on two of the three official scorecards heading into the 10th round before succumbing to fatigue over the final three frames. Guerrero is cognizant of this fact but has vowed a different outcome.
“Oscar gave him a run, but I can guarantee you that I’m not getting tired,” said Guerrero. “I’m working the jab, and I’m going to be on him throwing a thousand punches. He’s going to realize that pressure breaks pipes.”
Another close call for Mayweather occurred in 2002 when he outpointed Jose Luis Castillo even though the Mexican outlanded him 173-66 in power punches according to CompuBox. HBO unofficial ringside scorer Harold Lederman thought Castillo, who consistently came forward and worked the body, had won the fight 115-111 due to his effective engagement on the inside.
“I thought Castillo won that fight, too,” said Ruben Guerrero, Robert’s father and trainer. “I’m telling you, Floyd isn’t unbeatable.”
Guerrero must replicate his last performance against Andre Berto last November when he surprisingly mugged the former titleholder, lured him into a brawl, and forced him into fighting off his back foot over the full 12-round distance.
But as Mayweather told Guerrero in their now-infamous initial meeting, “This ain’t Berto.” If the fight gravitates to the center of the ring, Mayweather’s boxing skills, superior handspeed, and slight reach advantage could emerge like they did when he shut out Juan Manuel Marquez in 2009.
2. LEFT IS RIGHT
Geometry is an essential part of the sweet science, and there is no quicker punch to get from Point A to Point B than the straight line represented by a jab. Guerrero, unlike De La Hoya, fights out of a southpaw stance with his right foot in front, so he throws the shot with his right hand—a not-so-common occurrence for an orthodox pugilist like Mayweather.
“Everyone says Floyd has trouble with lefties, and I’m a 5’9’’ lefty with a 71-inch reach,” Guerrero said. “It’s going to be hard for him to use that shoulder-roll defense against me.”
Showtime’s Al Bernstein, who will call the fight ringside, elaborated on the matter with Chicago’s 670 The Score.
“A lefty, when [Floyd] does that shoulder roll, can use his own right hook to kind of push him into the punch that he now can deliver straight, as an uppercut as a straight punch,” Bernstein said. “So when Floyd turns in that way, a lefty is able to deliver the punch better, quicker, and faster.”
Any theory surrounding Mayweather’s so-called issues with southpaws begins with DeMarcus Corley, who temporarily stunned him in their 2004 bout with a looping left hand in the third round, and later, a sweeping right hand.
Two years later, another lefty, Zab Judah, took an early lead that could have been even wider when he floored Mayweather with a counter right hook in the first round that was erroneously ruled a slip.
Ironically, the same conventional wisdom used to battle Mayweather eventually worked against his foes. In another display of his endless repertoire, he adjusted by periodically going southpaw to blunt Corley’s attack, while some uncharacteristic pressure from Mayweather overwhelmed Judah.
“[Floyd] abandoned the left hand down and the little head shake,” Joe Goossen, one of Guerrero’s first trainers in the pros, told MaxBoxing.com. “He put his earmuffs on. He put his gloves up to his face and started marching [Zab] down…In other words, he abandoned the high-tech stuff and kind of went Neanderthal on him.”
Is this knowledge relevant to Guerrero? Corley himself thinks so, but he doubts the South Bay star can apply it.
“He’s not a puncher, first of all, like me,” Corley told ESNewsReporting.com. “[The] only way he can hurt Floyd is if he’s a puncher and exchanges with Floyd.”
In many cases, the fight is won before the combatants have even stepped inside the squared circle. A lax work ethic did Mike Tyson in against massive underdog Buster Douglas, but aside from the occasional foray to Taco Bell, Mayweather’s vices of consumption are few. As a teetotaler who abstains from drinking, his mythical workouts include waking up at odd hours at night to run for the sake of running.
Combined with a relatively safety-first approach to fighting, Father Time has found it just as difficult to shave years off Mayweather’s shelf life as his opponents. But perhaps the last 12 months have revealed clues that his prime might be reaching an end. For instance, in his last win over Miguel Cotto, he chose to exchange more often than expected, and the rare sight of a bruised and bleeding Mayweather pulled into view.
“He doesn’t have the same legs,” De La Hoya said. “He can't run or glide the way he does in the ring to make you look silly. He has to stand and trade.”
Still, Guerrero is preparing for the best version of Mayweather.
“You can’t underestimate him and you can’t look past anything he brings, because, like I said, if he is slowing down, his ‘slower’ is faster than almost every other fighter out there,” he said in a media conference call last week.
Outside the ring, Mayweather served two months in a Las Vegas jail cell for a domestic violence conviction, and partially due to self-imposed dietary restrictions stemming from his displeasure with the food and water, he came out noticeably lighter before working his way back into fighting shape.
“The only thing you can do when you’re locked up is just do push-ups and read and write—write your fans and write to your loved ones,” Mayweather said about the life-altering experience. “There’s nothing more important than freedom. Once you lose your freedom, you understand that.”
In addition, Mayweather’s corner will take on a different composition due to his uncle Roger’s complications stemming from diabetes. For the first time since dismissing his father as head trainer 13 years ago, Floyd Sr. will return to the post. Despite his less-than-perfect relationship with his son, as exemplified by a well-documented screaming match two years ago, Floyd Jr. insisted that the two have made amends.
“The argument we had in the past or the differences my dad and my uncle had in the past, that’s the past,” Mayweather added. “That’s why we call it the past because we try to leave that in the past and focus on the future…and at this point in time, everything is going the way it should go.”
Trends have served Mayweather well over the past four years. Each of his past four fights has garnered over a million pay-per-view buys, numbers that likely influenced Showtime to ink him to a 30-month deal reportedly worth a minimum of $30 million per fight.
The deal also includes an executive producer title on the network’s “All Access” documentary show, which is yet another job duty for Mayweather’s increasing plate; he has also become more actively involved in promoting his own stable of fighters, such as newly crowned IBF junior middleweight titleholder Ishe Smith.
Every pound-for-pound king’s reign must come to an end one day. Manny Pacquiao found out the hard way last December against Marquez. At age 36, can Mayweather continue to balance his extracurriculars while continuing to perform at the highest level in the sport? Or are these aforementioned ingredients enough to compose an elixir strong enough to brew one of the biggest stunners in boxing history?
We’ll find out Saturday night, but on the surface, he looks to be facing a man undeterred by mind games and supremely confident in his ability to turn the world upside down.
“This is the moment, with a guy that nobody thinks that can’t be beat, where everybody’s talking like, ‘Oh, he’s unstoppable. He’s the best ever, blah, blah, blah, this and that,'" Guerrero said. “It’s time. It’s time. God’s putting me in this position for a reason, and God’s groomed me and prepped me for this time to take over boxing.”