Saturday marks Floyd Mayweather's return to the ring after a one-year hiatus. For his WBC title defense, he selected interim welterweight titlist Robert Guerrero, who successfully moved up to 147 lbs. in 2012 with victories over Selcuk Aydin and Andre Berto. For Mayweather (43-0, 26 KOs), does he still have the same package of elite skills at 36? Does Guerrero (31-1-1, 18 KOs) have enough internal fortitude to press Mayweather hard for 12 rounds? Will there be an upset at the MGM Grand? Below are the keys to the fight. My prediction will be at the end of the article.
One guy has it and one guy doesn’t. And ultimately, however Robert Guerrero decides to fight Floyd Mayweather, this problem will manifest. I don’t doubt that Guerrero has the ability to make the fight exciting by being aggressive and taking it to Mayweather along the ropes. However, I believe that too much is made about Guerrero’s offensive versatility and far less is brought up regarding his poor defense. Everyone can touch him, whether it’s deliberate punchers like Selcuk Aydin or Michael Katsidis or more athletic fighters like Andre Berto.
Guerrero just isn’t responsible enough defensively. It’s not a question of will or focus; he’s never had the defensive foundation. He's gotten to this point in his career on offense, but his ability to withstand incoming fire from the most precise surgeon in the sport will be a major challenge for him.
Floyd’s Age, Inactivity and Conditioning.
During the Mayweather-Guerrero All Access show, there was an interesting sequence where Floyd asked his father if he should do more pushups after a workout. The elder Floyd said no and suggested that Floyd needed to save his body. No one has ever questioned Mayweather's dedication in the gym. In fact, it’s quite possible that he over-trained for the Cotto bout, peaking too early and not being at his best on fight night. It’s also possible with Floyd’s advancing age and inactive fight schedule over the last few years that his reflexes aren't what they used to be. He might be in tremendous shape, but that's a different proposition from being in optimal boxing condition. I'm sure that his body will look excellent on fight night, but for him, it's all about reflexes, quick, subtle movements and pulling the trigger.
Floyd has prospered throughout his career by outlasting his opponents’ early outbursts to dominate the second half of fights. Obviously, conditioning plays a huge role in this. However, if Floyd can’t train like he used to, if his body can no longer take the same type of grind in the gym or in the ring, perhaps this will be a different Floyd in the ring on Saturday. If Floyd can't condition himself as well as he could in his vintage fights, the back end of Saturday's bout could be very competitive.
I’m not taking Floyd’s jail time into consideration for this matchup. He’s been out for many months and whatever degradation he had as a result of his prison routine, I’m sure he’s returned to his civilian training regimen. I’m more concerned about his overall age and inactivity than his time in prison, specifically.
Guerrero’s Punch Volume.
Everyone always asks, “How do you beat Floyd,” as if there is one magical panacea, one solution that is so glaringly obvious that no one else has thought of it yet. Obviously Floyd has beaten some great talents over the years (to say nothing of some of the best trainers in the sport). Fighters have tried to best him with the jab, pressure or with massive power shots. To this point, you could count on one hand the number of truly competitive fights that Mayweather has had throughout his career.
My suggestion is this: You cannot beat Mayweather unless you throw, and throw a lot. Too many of Mayweather's opponents stare at him from midrange, afraid to pull the trigger, waiting for the perfect opening. In the meantime, Floyd unloads punishing single right hands. Fighters who wait on Floyd lose. The answer for Floyd’s opponents is to scrap any notion of perfection.
Guerrero needs to throw and throw and throw. He can’t worry about not landing cleanly. He has to hit what’s available to him. Hit the shoulders, arms, sides, anything that is in play. The one issue with Floyd’s shell defense is that his posture and temperament aren't set up to throw 60 punches a round. Guerrero must capitalize on this. He often will throw 80+ punches a frame. If he can do that against Floyd, he'll win some rounds based on activity alone. Think of it in another context; Floyd’s opponents usually land 15-20% of their shots. If Guerrero throws 800 punches in the fight, he’ll connect with 120-160 blows. That volume is enough to cause some damage.
The flip side of this equation is for Guerrero to realize that he will get hit and he will look bad. This is the area of psychological gamesmanship that Floyd has mastered over the years. He’ll embarrass fighters. He’ll get them completely out of position; he’ll hit them with shots they don’t see coming. Naturally, fighters will clam up and instinctively protect themselves in these circumstances. For Guerrero to have a chance, he must have the temperament (not necessarily the style) of a true pressure fighter. He has to stay offensive despite getting hit cleanly. He must trust his chin and continue with his game plan.
Guerrero has gotten cut frequently in fights, and gruesomely in his last bout against Andre Berto. In addition, there are a number of concerns that I have about Guerrero in this bout regarding cuts: 1. Infighting against Mayweather, who uses his shoulders, arms and elbows 2. Typical southpaw vs. orthodox fighter concerns, leading to clashes of heads. 3. Guerrero will definitely get hit very cleanly.
These elements do not favor Guerrero in the fight. I wouldn’t advise him to do anything differently, but cuts may be an inevitable outcome. Thus, it’s very important for him to start fast and win rounds early in the fight in case of an accidental cut.
Guerrero’s Punch Variety.
Guerrero must feature as much of his entire offensive arsenal as possible against Mayweather. Now, if he’s fighting from close range, he won’t be able to strafe Mayweather from distance with his straight left hand. Still, he’s going to have to feature his uppercuts, right hook and jab. In addition, he’ll have to mix up how he initiates offense. Mayweather is a master at timing, making adjustments and anticipating his opponents' actions. For Guerrero this means, starting combinations with his jab, right hook or lead left hand. In addition, he can’t get into predictable patterns on the ropes. If he’s just looking to land a short left hand, Mayweather will counter with a straight right or a left hook.
Guerrero’s effectiveness in this area will improve if he doesn’t smother himself along the ropes. Against Berto, he limited his ability to land his uppercuts because he got way too close to him. Even in close, he must ensure that he leaves enough room to land a variety of power shots.
Also, mixing up strategy will really help. Although Guerrero most likely wants to win this fight on the inside, I’d like to see him box from the outside through stretches of rounds and use movement to create different angles. The more dimensions Guerrero can show the better he will fare in the fight.
To me, it all comes down to defense. Guerrero gets hit too cleanly and too often. Floyd will probably be able to land close to 50% of his power shots and while Mayweather isn’t a one-punch knockout artist at welterweight, his power is strong in the division. More importantly, his accuracy will be able to thwart Guerrero’s steady advancement.
I do think that the fight will be competitive early and that Guerrero will bring some excitement to the MGM Grand with his pressure and offensive activity. Ultimately, Mayweather breaks him down as the fight progresses. I don’t think that Guerrero will have an answer for Mayweather’s straight right hand or uppercuts (left or right). Eventually, Mayweather will bust up Guerrero’s face and the fight will end on cuts.
Floyd Mayweather TKO 9 Robert Guerrero.
Adam Abramowitz is the head writer and founder of saturdaynightboxing.com.
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