The world's self-proclaimed greatest boxer returned to the stage on Saturday night and utterly dismantled a woefully overmatched challenger in twelve banal rounds en route to another unanimous decision victory. Floyd Mayweather Jr. had a harder time giving up Fiji water during his brief jail term than solving the riddle of Robert Guerrero, an earnest, hard-working pug who was simply not in the same league in terms of speed, skills, or any other attribute one might draw upon to win a prize-fight.
Guerrero proved durable enough to take punishment until the final bell, and that's about the only positive takeaway on his end. After a relatively even opening two rounds, Guerrero soon found himself on the receiving end of Mayweather's lightning-quick lead right hands with alarming regularity. What Guerrero was doing was not working. What Guerrero brought to the table was not enough. Mayweather dispatched him with his trademark brand of economical precision, the outcome never in doubt after the initial feeling-out process. On the undercard, a faded and undersized former titlist in Alexander Munoz managed to go five rounds before succumbing to the hard-punching, frenetic activity of his youthful conqueror, up-and-coming Leo Santa Cruz. The drama of the main event lasted about as long as Munoz did, though unfortunately seven more rounds were required to make it official.
In some ways, it is fair to criticize the match-making and question Guerrero's validity as a legitimate challenger for the so-called "pound-for-pound" king. Guerrero's résumé from featherweight to lightweight was decent, but no one was confusing his run through the likes of an elderly Joel Cassamayor and Michael Katsidis for Manny Pacquiao blasting Marco Antonio Barrera and Erik Morales. At welterweight, Guerrero's credentials were dubious, at best. He beat straightforward, limited Selcuk Aydin, who showed his true colors in his next fight, a sound beat-down at the hands of rugged journeyman Jesus Soto-Karass. Guerrero followed that up with a tough points win over under-achieving Andre Berto. Guerrero, not known as a power-puncher, had Berto down twice in the opening two rounds and even appeared on the verge of a stoppage, which would have been an impressive feat considering Berto had never been stopped. But Berto roared back, and the two waged an ugly, inside brawl for most of the night.
Guerrero walked away with a clear decision win, showed he could bang and take shots from a full-fledged welterweight, but he couldn't blow Berto away after hurting him early, and ended up engaging in a war of attrition that left both men swollen, bruised and bloodied. This is the same Berto who lost handily to Victor Ortiz. The same Berto who went life-and-death with modest Jan Zaveck for five rounds before stopping him on cuts. Yet somehow, the Aydin and Berto wins propelled Guerrero into the most desirable opponent role in the sport, a career-high payday and the chance for eternal glory.
From a business perspective, it's tough to criticize Mayweather for making an absurd amount of money in what amounted to a one-sided exhibition. Should this fight turn out to be underwhelming at the box office, with what would be a shockingly low pay-per-view buy-rate in the ballpark of 800,000, that's still an astonishing amount of people willing to chip into the coffer of the world's highest paid athlete for what was never expected to be a particularly competitive contest. Mayweather's status as a prohibitive 7-1 favorite with odds-makers was a lot more revealing than any pre-fight media bluster suggesting Guerrero a more credible threat. The only opponent that posed any danger to Mayweather was Father Time, and Saturday's evidence suggests that bell has yet to toll.
Mayweather is not the same at 36 as 26, but whatever erosion may have occurred, the hand-speed and reflexes were still indicative of a world-class athlete in his physical prime. People may continue to tune in, anticipating the day when that's no longer the case and Mayweather finally succumbs to the ravages of the hourglass. Those waiting for an opponent who can match him without some kind of rapid physical decay might want to get comfortable, for as long as he can make the type of income he does fighting the Guerreros of the world, there's no reason to put his health and legacy on the line against someone who might genuinely stand a chance of winning.
Boxing is a violent sport. Even a defensive guru like Mayweather puts himself, his body, his mental capacity, and his livelihood on the line every time he laces them up. While in an ideal world, we demand our greatest athletes aspire to test themselves against the staunchest challenge, in the real world of a dangerous combat-sport, the reward must outweigh the risks. It would be colossal for Mayweather to jump up in weight and take on even a diminished version of Sergio Martinez for the legitimate middleweight championship. It would be commendable for Mayweather to face off with a young star like Canelo Alvarez, a guy with genuine skills, a built-in size advantage, and plenty of street cred coming off a win over a highly regarded boxer in Austin Trout. But what's his real motivation to do so? Glory? Prestige? Respect? When Mayweather can make 30-40 million fighting Devon Alexander, Amir Khan, or Marcos Maidana, what's another 10 million to take on a more compelling opponent, someone with a real chance of not just taking Mayweather's treasured zero, but the ability to actually hurt him, and inflict the type of damage he has worked so hard, and rightfully so, to avoid.
It is entirely fair to look back on Mayweather's record and raise some questions about the quality of opposition, judge him unfavorably against other great champions from the past who more consistently challenged themselves against elite rivals. Mayweather may be the hardest-working fighter in the sport. He has honed and refined his craft for twenty-plus years, turning his combination of physical gifts and impeccable technique into the most unsolvable puzzle in boxing. He put himself in position to achieve crossover success with a boisterous villain persona and a virtuoso performance against Oscar De La Hoya in the highest-grossing fight of all time. He has earned near-universal respect as a great fighter, with even his toughest critics generally acknowledging his profound abilities. And he's made an ungodly amount of money in the process.
It would be great to see Mayweather take more difficult fights and chase even greater acclaim as he winds down his career. Based on the track record, don't bet on it. Either way, it's tough to look at the Mayweather story as anything other than a resounding success.
* Showtime was kind enough to provide a taste of the folksy wisdom of Victor Ortiz: "At the end of the day, it is what is." He later added, off-camera, "It's neither here nor there, let's call a spade a spade, and that's literally, quote-unquote, how the cookie crumbles."
* Apparently there's a maximum height limit to fill 50 Cent's vacancy in Mayweather's ring-walk entourage. First the diminutive Justin Bieber, now pint-sized Lil Wayne. For his next fight, I'm hearing Billy Barty and Herve Villechaize are the front-runners to rap Floyd into the ring.
* Ruben Guerrero's signature black-and-white shirt made its' third appearance in three days on fight night. Who knew Z. Cavaricci was still in business?
* Very classy of Showtime to debut their "human suffering" cam, a split-screen of Robert Guerrero getting punched in the face juxtaposed with his wife and young son looking on in apparent agony. What more do you expect from the company that employs Jim Gray?
* Note to Stephen Espinoza: please replace the human suffering cam with the Miss Jackson side-boob cam for Floyd's next fight.
* You think your upbringing was rough? Ponce De Leon was raised by feral wolves in a dank cave on the side of a mountain, subsisting on a diet of vulture carcasses and mineral sediment.
* Abner Mares is a bona-fide stud. Nothing snarky or snide there, the dude can fight. Too bad all his best potential opponents play for the other team.
* I'm late to the party here but apparently Adrien Broner's brush has its own Twitter account and was even interviewed by the venerable Al Bernstein. What's next, the bowl they use to cut Angel Garcia's hair getting its own documentary?