The worst kept secret in boxing was just made official. As first reported by Dan Rafael of ESPN, current welterweight and junior middleweight titlist Floyd Mayweather will return to action to face Robert Guerrero on May 4, 2013 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada. Mayweather, though his right-hand man, Leonard Ellerbe, previously announced that he would fight on that date but did not disclose an opponent. Those rumored to be on the list of potential Mayweather foes, other than Guerrero, included Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and Timothy Bradley.
The most obvious question: why Robert Guerrero? There are a few reasons. First, Guerrero is coming off an excellent and highly publicized 2012 campaign. In July of last year, Guerrero returned from a 15 month layoff caused by a shoulder injury and surgery, to soundly outpoint Turkish welterweight contender Selcuk Aydin. Aydin was a strong natural welterweight who conventional wisdom said could possibly be too big and strong for Guerrero who was moving up to welterweight from the lightweight division and never fought higher than 138 pounds. Guerrero, himself a former titlist at featherweight and junior lightweight (and an interim titlist at lightweight), was not overpowered. He used a high work rate and a number of clean punches to keep Aydin off of him. When Aydin did land power punches Guerrero took them well. Guerrero won the interim WBC welterweight title with that fight, which was broadcast on Showtime, and he received great national exposure for two reasons: he was in a main event and had the opportunity to be billed as a titlist in Mayweather’s weight class. In November, 2012 Guerrero squared off against former two-time welterweight titlist Andre Berto.
Guerrero scored two knockdowns, displayed excellent strength and in-fighting skills (called by “roughouse” by some, “dirty” by others, mostly Berto fans) and secured a unanimous decision win in a “fight of the year” candidate. Again, Guerrero obtained great exposure as the fight was on Showtime.
Past Mayweather opponents such as Miguel Cotto, Victor Ortiz and Juan Manuel Marquez have been rather bland on the show (and the segments involving Cotto and Marquez were often in subtitles); there has been a lot of commentary suggesting that 24/7 has become stale. Guerrero could shut some of that criticism down. There are numerous storylines surrounding Guerrero: his recovery from a serious shoulder injury, his relationship with his father/trainer, his team’s tireless efforts to land the Mayweather fight which commenced well prior to the Aydin fight and a comparison of his career with fellow Northern California standouts Andre Ward and Nonito Donaire. More importantly from a promotional standpoint, the show will likely focus on Guerrero’s wife, Casey, who is a leukemia survivor and how Guerrero has taken time out of his career and has cancelled fights to care for his wife and children.
His record and his appeal to Mexican and Mexican-American fight fans seem to suggest that Mayweather’s selection of him as an opponent will ensure another pay-per-view with over one million sales. At this point, it seems that Guerrero provides a better avenue to better sales than Alvarez, even though “Canelo” is a superstar in Mexico and has had some exposure here in the United States. Alvarez has not been in any “fight of the year” type fights; nor does he have a significant victory over a top opponent like Berto. If you dismiss Alvarez’ victory over Shane Mosley because “Sugar” had one and a half feet in retirement at that point, you can argue that the best name on Alvarez’ resume is current lightweight titlist Miguel Vasquez.
Alvarez beat in his third professional fight (and Vasquez’ debut) at 141 pounds and again at 148 pounds in 2008.
Additionally, “Canelo” has only headlined on HBO three times and Showtime once (all against overmatched foes) giving him essentially the same amount of exposure in the United States as Guerrero. Add to that the subtitle necessity for Alvarez and his team/family and one could understand why Mayweather would take Guerrero now and let a showdown with Alvarez “marinate” until later in 2013 when it could be even more profitable. It should also be noted that word from Mayweather’s camp was that he preferred a 147 pound bout (as mentioned, Guerrero is a welterweight who once weighed as low as 122 pounds) to a junior middleweight (where Canelo campaigns, potentially not for long as he eyes the talent rich middleweight division) contest.
By fighting Guerrero now Mayweather has the chance to raise his profile after a year out of the ring in a potentially exciting fight while again marketing himself to key demographics. Mayweather appeals to general sports fans as well as hardcore boxing freaks alongside his core fans. Throw in what could be a prolific Mexican and Mexican-American audience and the payday could be remarkable for both men.
Mayweather also could get a victory over a southpaw to lessen the talks that he has problems with southpaw fighters. He continues to build demand for a bout with Alvarez which could be the most lucrative in boxing now that a megafight with Manny Pacquiao is off the table. With a potential $50 to $75 million dollar Pacquiao payday off the table, Mayweather has no “pot of gold at the end of the rainbow” to build to anymore as that super-fight doesn’t mean what it did. By fighting Guerrero now he allows Alvarez to develop into a superstar to fill the void left by Pacquiao and build to a lucrative super-fight in late 2013 or early 2014. This schedule could allow Mayweather to make as much as $100 million as well as a championship in a sixth weight division.