Floyd Mayweather flexed his media muscles late Tuesday, sending the boxing world into a furious debate about the merits of Devon Alexander as a possible next opponent. Will it be Alexander, or will Robert Guerrero get the call we've been expecting?
Floyd Mayweather has us all right where he wants us. With his late night (by east coast time) tweet on Tuesday night, saying that Devon Alexander was the leading candidate to face him in his May 4 return to the ring, Mayweather ignited a sudden and surprising conversation about his upcoming fight, which had settled into a rather dull state over the last month.
It was going to be Robert Guerrero. Everyone was quite sure of it. Guerrero, the man whose press releases so routinely provoke hostility but are effective in keeping his name in the news, was himself laughed off as a potential Mayweather rival no more than a year ago, when he had the audacity to call out Floyd for a fight that would have seen him jump from a brief stint at lightweight up to welterweight.
Nobody wanted to see it. Twitter fans campaigned against the fight, in fact. Guerrero was either foolish or insane, but either way, he didn't belong in the ring with Floyd.
Fast forward a year, and Guerrero has changed some minds. He took that leap to welterweight without Floyd, showing an almost shocking amount of pure strength and grit in violent wins over Selcuk Aydin and Andre Berto, the latter considered a Fight of the Year candidate that saw two men with four healthy eyes enter the ring, and two men with one working eye between them leave the squared circle.
After his win over Berto in November, Guerrero (31-1-1, 18 KO) was suddenly a more serious challenger for Floyd, even though few if any believed he would really challenge Floyd, let alone have the ability to pull the upset. He'd done all anyone can ask: Fight legit welterweights, and beat them. He was the underdog against Berto, and brutalized his opponent over 12 rounds of nasty action. He earned his way into the discussion.
When Canelo Alvarez was eliminated as a potential opponent, and even the slight "hope" of a rematch with Miguel Cotto fell through when Cotto lost to Austin Trout in December, it pretty much had come down to Robert Guerrero. Mayweather wasn't going to fight anyone working at Top Rank, despite any rumors of Timothy Bradley getting the call, and even the "dream fight" with Manny Pacquiao basically died for good when Juan Manuel Marquez knocked out the Filipino icon.
For a month now, we've waited for the official confirmation that Mayweather and Guerrero would square off on May 4. Perhaps something is missing in that fight for Mayweather. Maybe his own interest in facing Guerrero just isn't there. Maybe, in his mind, Alexander is a more credible opponent, a full titlist at 147 pounds.
Or maybe it's all just a way to get people talking about what Floyd will do next. If he'd come out on Tuesday night and said that he was nearly done with a deal to face Guerrero, sure, it would have made headlines on every boxing web site there is, but it would have been expected. We would have all said, "As expected, Floyd Mayweather tweeted that he'll be facing Robert Guerrero on May 4. The fight will be at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas."
Instead, the boxing world is buzzing about Floyd's simple little tweet, and what it means. Is Alexander, who won't be able to hold on to his IBF title if he were to take this fight, really the lead candidate? Has Guerrero asked for too much ("sources" say he hasn't)? Is Floyd just screwing around with everyone?
Al Haymon manages the careers of both Mayweather and Alexander (24-1, 13 KO), and though it's rare that two Haymon fighters face one another, we do have Peter Quillin-Fernando Guerrero on the horizon, and anyway, if ever an exception were to be made, it would be for Floyd Mayweather, boxing's biggest star. Nobody's career is hurt by fighting and losing to Floyd Mayweather (43-0, 26 KO). It's what is expected of everyone he faces now: They're going to lose. If you can have any success against him, you can even get a boost, as Miguel Cotto experienced last year when reviews of their fight were positively glowing following Cotto actually hanging in with Mayweather and not getting completely blown out, as so many have been.
Right now, most insiders and journalists still expect that Guerrero will wind up being the opponent for Mayweather. Perhaps Floyd was feeling out the reaction that Alexander as an opponent would receive. And maybe -- just maybe -- he was doing a sly job of making everyone pine for the expected Mayweather-Guerrero matchup that was dismissed a year ago, and hadn't exactly built up much buzz over the last month and change.
Whichever opponent Mayweather chooses, the eyes of the boxing world will be on one man come May 4. Floyd knows that. And he's gotten a head start on stealing our focus.