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Saturday, May 4, 2013

Mayweather Stays Undefeated

LAS VEGAS — Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s latest boxing triumph followed a familiar pattern. For weeks, he toyed with Robert Guerrero, made him angry, made him jumpy, drew him right into the usual vortex of opponent overconfidence.

Guerrero insisted, over and over, that Mayweather would not get to him. By then, he already had. That is part of Mayweather’s ring brilliance, the mental part. He wants his opponents riled up, overaggressive, and then he turns their aggression into weakness. That is the other part of Mayweather’s ring brilliance, the physical part. 

Guerrero suffered from both, suffered from Mayweather’s mind games and from Mayweather’s right hands and right hooks. Early into this World Boxing Council welterweight title fight it became clear which boxer was undefeated — the one in the audacious yellow shorts, the best boxer of his generation, a candidate for one of the best boxers of all time. Mayweather won easily, handily, by a unanimous decision, scored 117-111 by all three judges. 

“What else can I say?” Mayweather said. “We did it again.” 

As Mayweather (44-0) stalked back to his corner after the 10th round, his eyes never left Guerrero (31-1-2), who refused to return the eye contact. He was long beaten, long bloodied. He fell in line with so many other Mayweather opponents in that he promised to pressure Mayweather, to make the fight a rugged one. In some ways, it was rugged, as evidenced by the damage to Guerrero’s face. 

Guerrero made his way into the ring first, clad in a “GOD is GREAT” T-shirt. Mayweather followed, the rapper Lil Wayne by his side, microphone in hand, performing “No Worries” before the action started. 

The opening bell rang, and Guerrero attacked Mayweather as promised. He shot in close and held and grappled. As the rounds wore on, though, Mayweather found his timing, and he tagged Guerrero from a safe distance, including with one right hand that sneaked between Guerrero’s gloves and snapped his head back. Most opponents who fight Mayweather believe they can wear him down, out-tough him, win by way of brawl. The more the fight wore on, the more Mayweather picked Guerrero apart, like in the fifth round, when he struck Guerrero with a series of right hooks. When Guerrero lunged back, Mayweather ducked punches and slipped out of corners. He always seemed a step ahead. 

Mayweather pocketed $32 million this week, which tied his own record for the highest single-fight purse in boxing history. He stood to earn millions more on the back end and land again near the top of Forbes’ list of highest-paid athletes, where he ranked first in 2012, despite virtually no income from endorsements. 

Mayweather remains aware of the money accumulated and spent lavishly, and the boxer who owns a $500 bill continues to refer to the MGM by his preferred term: Mayweather Gets Money. His face and torso adorned the side of the hotel this week, visible for miles, under the headline, “Home of the Champion.” 

That champion, though, turned 36 in February, a number in boxing that has proved more unlucky than 13. Muhammad Ali, Larry Holmes and Joe Louis all fell in unexpected defeats at almost the exact same age as Mayweather. Their vanquishers: Leon Spinks, Michael Spinks, Ezzard Charles. 

In his more recent bouts, Mayweather dodged and ducked less and engaged opponents more. This left him more exposed, if only slightly. Shane Mosley buckled him. Miguel Cotto bloodied him. 

Mayweather reasoned that he fought this way to engender himself to fans who long knocked him for his tactical brilliance, which translated at times to the more casual viewer as less exciting fights. 

Still, it seemed reasonable to wonder if age had played a role, perhaps even the most prominent one. Mayweather started this camp later than usual, and he took more days off and absorbed a high level of punishment in sparring. His face was noticeably puffy. 

At one point, he sustained a black eye. The line dropped as the fight approached, a sign of diminished confidence in Mayweather — or the usual wishful thinking. 

In the year since Mayweather’s last ring walk, he went to jail for more than two months, made peace with his father, Floyd Mayweather Sr.; watched both his father and his uncle and longtime trainer, Roger Mayweather, endure health issues; traded barbs with the rapper 50 Cent; and signed a three-year deal with Showtime that could be worth $250 million. If all this distracted Mayweather, he never showed it. 

He flashed his money, drove around in his expensive cars and allowed cameras to film him in a strip club. A regular day, it seems. 

In nine Pay-Per-View bouts for HBO, Mayweather generated more than half a billion dollars in total revenue, a total of 9.6 million buys. The lead-up to this fight, though, seemed quieter than normal, the buzz, if not stifled, then muffled somewhat. 

This being boxing, the promotion had its moments. Guerrero’s father, Ruben, went ballistic at the news conference, referring repeatedly to Mayweather as a “woman beater” for the incident that landed him in jail. This despite Guerrero’s own legal issues, which included a gun charge at the airport during a promotional tour through New York. At the weigh-in, the fathers continued to threaten each other and compare jail stints, and Mayweather Sr. made a slashing motion across his throat. In other words, another fight week.

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