Floyd Mayweather Jr. may have plucked Robert Guerrero out of mainstream obscurity for a May 4 bout, but don't expect the interim WBC welterweight champion to thank Money May for his ascent to national fame.
Guerrero has long been one of Mayweather's harshest public critics—even before he became a championship contender. But now that the fight is set and each barb thrown will get magnified, it seems like Guerrero is wasting little time getting in the first blows.
In a phone interview with the Associated Press (h/t Sports Illustrated), Guerrero (31-1-1, 18 KOs) accused Mayweather of "picking and choosing" his opponents and made it clear he's noticed a declining skill set.
"I see a lot of slippage,'' Guerrero said. "I see him slowing down, as far as his legs not being as quick as they used to be.''
At first, that sounds like an astute observation. Mayweather turns 36 on Sunday. If his quickness had not subsided from his prime, then a blood test may have been in order. So, of course, he's slipped a bit. It's only logical.
But Guerrero wasn't finished. After calling Mayweather "ripe for the picking," Guerrero advised fans they would make a whole lot of money wagering on his victory. (Guerrero is currently at +800 odds to win the fight, per Vegas Insider.)
If people bet on me, they're going to make a lot of money, so I suggest they do. I was put in this position not only to humble the boxing world, but to humble Floyd Mayweather. I have a lot of faith that I'm going to go in there and dominate this fight.
Tantalizing quotes aside, Guerrero may have picked the perfect time to pounce on Money May. It will have been nearly a year since Mayweather's last fight by the time the two set foot in the MGM Grand.
As most who follow Mayweather's career know, that isn't a strange occurrence. Mayweather has only fought once in each of the past four years, though he reportedly plans on breaking that trend in 2013.
What's notable is how Mayweather spent his time off this time around. The most newsworthy events have gone as follows: a two-month jail sentence, a Twitter beef with 50 Cent created simply to keep his name in the tabloids and signing a massive pay-per-view deal with Showtime.
He's also seemingly spent more time self-congratulating and gloating over the demise of Manny Pacquiao than anything else. With his bitter rival having fallen from grace, Mayweather was once again non-committal about a possible fight with Pacquiao in a recent ESPN interview.
Here is what Mayweather said (transcription courtesy of BoxingNews24.com):
First, Manny Pacquiao has to get past Marquez, a fighter I beat with ease. I mean, that was one of my easiest fights. Manny Pacquiao still has Tim Bradley problems, he still has Marquez problems. First, Manny Pacquiao has to get past those guys, then he can step inside the lion’s den with Floyd Mayweather.
Mayweather is a man at the top of his confidence level. He knows he's considered the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world and has 43 unblemished fights to prove it.
But the thing about boxing, the thing his imaginary rival Pacquiao has learned the hard way, is that you have to bring it every single time out. No one expected Pacquiao to lose to Timothy Bradley. Fewer people thought a "motivated" Pacquiao would get knocked out by Juan Manuel Marquez.
Both happened, as did Buster Douglas, Leon Spinks and Hasim Rahman in the past. Guerrero is far more talented and well-respected than any of those fighters were prior to their victories, but the result would be no less shocking. Mayweather losing would shake the foundation of boxing just as Mike Tyson, Muhammad Ali and Lennox Lewis going down did in the past.
As cliched as it sounds in a time where everyone is calling for the sport's demise, boxing needs Mayweather to stay undefeated. After Pacquiao's losses in 2012, Mayweather is the only active boxer who can draw a huge audience no matter who he faces.
Mayweather knows this, as does Showtime, as does Guerrero. The challenger's quote was to put everyone on notice. Guerrero isn't going to be satisfied taking a hefty check and an "attaboy" as the Mayweather money train keeps rampaging its way through the boxing world.
He sees Mayweather "slipping" and he plans on taking full advantage of it. The pressure has been planted at Mayweather's feet, as it has been so many times before. We'll just have to wait until May 4 to see whether he's still capable of shouldering it.