At age 36, Floyd Mayweather has slowed down. Tonight against Robert Guerrero, it wasn't hard to see, even though he diced a credible challenger, and by the end of the fight, was smacking him around in near-defiant arrogance.
"Look what I can do to you, if I want to," he said to Guerrero with every chopping shot to the side of the head, every right hand down the pipe he landed at will, and every time he slipped one of the "Ghost's" comparatively feeble attacks.
That Guerrero (30-2-1, 18 KO) was really no match for Mayweather (44-0, 26 KO) surprised only those who believed that last year's version of Floyd, who got pushed to the ropes by an aged Miguel Cotto, was a sure sign that Floyd's legs were going, going, gone. Or, perhaps, those who bought the hype, that wins over Selcuk Aydin and Andre Berto were near the same league as a fight with Floyd Mayweather.
But about the slowing and the aging: Yes, it's happening. Little by little, it's happening. It's fashionable after a performance like this to say that the fighter looked as good as ever, but this Mayweather is not on the level of the Mayweather from years past. Does this Mayweather really stack up, pound-for-pound, to the Floyd who punished Diego Corrales and Arturo Gatti? Is today's Floyd really as good as the one who beat Zab Judah, Oscar De La Hoya, and Ricky Hatton?
No, he's not. And that's OK, really, because Mayweather remains the top of the class, anyway. Other fighters are less catching up to him than he is very slightly slipping closer to their level, and that includes current "boxing-head' darling Andre Ward, whose rise is legitimate, whose talent is elite, and whose work ethic rivals -- well, it rivals Mayweather's, by all accounts.
Floyd is still the king of the sport. The day will come when that ends, either because someone finally beats him, or simply because he walks away for good. For now, though, he remains The Man.
Mayweather is always going to be criticized heavily. For one thing, he's a polarizing figure, without question. His outside the ring antics and misdeeds will always turn off people who just aren't attracted to that sort of "persona," "character," or, you know, human being.
And he will always be criticized for not fighting Manny Pacquiao, though my gut feeling is time will be kinder to Floyd than many expect on that count. We might be amazed how, in 20 years time, the entire Mayweather-Pacquiao saga is a mere footnote that new fans are barely aware even (never) happened.
Over time, too, Mayweather's record will likely be looked upon more fondly. Time is a forgiving thing, and the older we all get, the more heavily we lean on the familiar, the fighters and ballplayers and actors and musicians of "our" time, who surely were better than what's out there today.
Someday, if you're around my age, you're probably going to complain that there's nobody in the modern game who could hang with Floyd Mayweather. Of course, right now, there's really nobody out there, at least at welterweight, who can hang with Floyd, either.
Mayweather will even be beloved someday, most likely. Mike Tyson is a cheap pop cameo movie star, and has a touring one-man show these days.
Can he do enough with whatever is left of his career to go out universally revered? Probably not. The only real task for him, it seems, might be a trip north to 154 for a third time, where he could face rising superstar Canelo Alvarez. If Mayweather were to take Alvarez to school, we'd hear, in the short-term, that Alvarez wasn't ready, that Floyd cherry-picked a young, flawed fighter, who hadn't really beaten anyone. (We'll forget the high praise for the Canelo-Trout fight.)
Not everyone will be that way, of course, but the most opinionated, the biggest naysayers, are usually the loudest in the room.
This isn't about "love him or hate him." Forget how you feel, and the facts are clear: Mayweather is a brilliant boxer, and though he is not the greatest of all-time, it's his insistence that he is that drives him to maintain the near-lunatic level of focus and "hard work, dedication" that keeps him the fighter he is.
Robert Guerrero never had a chance. The next guy might not, either. In fact, we may never see Floyd "humbled," as so many so greatly desire.
Floyd Mayweather will get older, and thus slower, physically weaker, and less mentally sharp. The question is, will he be here long enough to get old enough to make up for the natural, indisputable gap between himself and his potential opponents?