The first Saturday in May might colloquially refer to the Kentucky Derby, but the hype surrounding Saturday's sports calendar almost wholly rests at the feet of Floyd Mayweather's welterweight title bout versus Robert Guerrero.
May 4 will mark the return of boxing's pound-for-pound great after almost an entire calendar year away from the ring. This will be the fourth time since 2007 that Mayweather has fought on the first Saturday in May, including three of the last four.
Last year, Mayweather defeated Miguel Cotto via unanimous decision to bring his record to 43-0 (26 KOs). But this layoff has been unlike any other, as Mayweather spent two months in jail as part of a plea deal in a domestic violence case from 2010.
For most in the mainstream world, the choice of Guerrero was underwhelming. The Ghost is beloved among boxing diehards, but he arguably carries the least external clout of any Mayweather opponent since Carlos Baldomir.
Though Guerrero has staunchly maintained his confidence that he'll end Mayweather's undefeated run, most will feel like they're tuning into another anointment for Money. That Mayweather's victory on Saturday is as big of a guarantee as Modern Family winning Most Outstanding Comedy Series at next year's Emmys.
Those who have seen Guerrero fight would beg to differ. They'll say that Mayweather's year-long absence and jail stint caused his skills to atrophy just enough that Guerrero could become the perfect spoiler for Money May's undefeated jackpot.
With that in mind, here is a complete breakdown of the biggest strength and biggest weakness of each fighter.
Biggest Strength: In-Ring Intelligence
Calling Mayweather anything other than a master technician in the ring would be a disservice. His in-ring brilliance is vast, as Mayweather’s physical gifts rival any fighter in history on a pound-for-pound level.
But ask anyone in the sport, and they’ll tell you Floyd Mayweather isn’t solely undefeated because of his quick jabs or his elusive, fast feet. He walks into Saturday’s fight without a blemish on his record in large part because he’s arguably the smartest in-fight boxer in history.
Over the course of his career, Mayweather has developed a reputation as someone you have to get in the early rounds—if you can even do that. He rarely comes out a whirling dervish of punches in the first quarter of a fight, instead using those rounds to read his opponent.
It seems obvious to say that he knows there are 12 rounds in a fight. But Mayweather is one of the few who truly take advantage of that fact; he’s not throwing every punch as if it’s his last.
Instead, he’s almost like a robot and the first couple rounds are his coding. Once he gets a read for his opponent’s strategy, Mayweather’s fights tend to devolve into games of pugilistic cat and mouse.
And that will be critical against Guerrero, whose southpaw stance has tended to give Mayweather a bit of trouble. It’s very possible Mayweather loses a round or two on the early cards, but that won’t be a problem. Guerrero is not known around the sport as a great adjuster of strategy, and he’s not nearly quick enough to recover from his own mistakes.
So once Mayweather gets a true read on Guerrero, this fight could be over. Mayweather can then pick his less-touted opponent apart, landing flurries of counterpunches and quick-strike crosses against Guerrero’s jaw.
Mayweather has never been one for the spectacular knockout. It’s been his Harvard-level knowledge of the sport that’s led him this far in his career and will serve him well again on Saturday.
Biggest Weakness: Defense vs. Power Punches (Especially Early On)
Let’s make one thing clear: Any weakness pointed out about Mayweather is only in the most relative sense. He is the best boxer in the world for a reason.
A “weakness” for Mayweather is equivalent to a “weakness” for LeBron James. They exist—just, well, kinda.
But for Mayweather, power-punching has always been the one thing that could supposedly take him down. It’s the reason so many folks inside and outside boxing desperately wanted a fight with Manny Pacquiao. If Mayweather could have defeated Pacquiao at his peak, then boxing’s Mount Rushmore might need a new etching.
While Guerrero is no Pacquiao—even at this stage in Pac-Man’s career—he is a tough, powerful puncher who could give Mayweather real problems if he’s judicious picking his spots.
Miguel Cotto gave Mayweather one of the best tests of his life, forcing an unforeseen level of late-career aggressiveness from Money. Guerrero wouldn’t even be on the same playing field as Cotto for most. But Cotto’s strategy of getting inside to disrupt Mayweather’s spacing for jabs and hooks could have given Guerrero a blueprint.
Guerrero isn’t winning a 12-round fight against Mayweather. He’s going to have to land that one punch, the one kill shot that sends Money sprawling into the canvas and leaves the MGM Grand shocked.
He has the power to do it. It will just be up to Mayweather to stop it from happening.
Biggest Strength: Aggressiveness and Southpaw Style
While there are many positives about Guerrero’s particular brand of boxing, he’s not going to beat Mayweather from a skills perspective. Even if the Mayweather we saw a year ago isn’t quite there anymore, Pretty Boy Floyd has advantages in just about every area of the ring.
Defeating Mayweather is all about making him uncomfortable. The closest fights of his career have come against fighters who take early advantage of Money while he adjusts to his opponent.
Like a skilled surgeon, Mayweather works with precision and his cuts only come deeper the longer the fight goes.
However, it might take Mayweather longer to adjust this time around—thanks mostly to his relative inexperience fighting southpaws. He has only fought six southpaws during his career, struggling against DeMarcus Corley and Zab Juda before coming back to beat both by unanimous decision.
This is mostly due to Mayweather’s defensive style. His in-ring moves are tailor-made to slip a right hook and then counter with a quick jab. But when he drops that same shoulder against a lefty, it leaves him open to be popped.
And the great thing—though some might call it dirty—is that Guerrero will use any advantage possible in his arsenal. He’s been known to throw subtle elbows and punches that are borderline legal at best.
Former welterweight champ DeMarcus Corley spoke with RingTV and denounced Guerrero’s fighting style.
“All he has is winning any way he can, dirty punches, rabbit punches,” Corley said. “He’s just a dirty tactics fighter…I don’t see why Floyd is fighting him.”
Corley might not understand the selection by Mayweather, but Guerrero’s aggressive style and his southpaw advantage could be huge. If he strikes a few big blows—even if some are questionable in nature—he could take a few rounds early and put Mayweather in a bind.
Biggest Weakness: Sloppy Technique
While being aggressive is the only way Guerrero is even going to get this fight to the judges’ scorecards, it may also prove to be his downfall.
In his last fight against Andre Berto, fight fans saw almost the apex of who Guerrero could be as a fighter. He showed he could go blow-for-blow in the middle of the ring against a top opponent and more than hold his own.
But the past hasn’t been kind to Guerrero when he gets overly aggressive. He tends to push the button a little far, sometimes leading to sloppy punches that leave him open for counters. Mayweather’s entire empire was built on being smarter than other fighters, reading them and landing quick pops to the jaw.
And Guerrero isn’t an especially quick fighter—at least not on Mayweather’s level. His hands aren’t as quick and his feet aren’t anywhere near as fast, which could be a major problem if he overextends himself too far.
Money isn’t exactly known as a power puncher, but Guerrero will taste canvas if he starts spraying punches all over the place.
There’s a difference between being an aggressive boxer and being little else but a puncher. Guerrero needs to be on the recovery as little as humanly possible on Saturday.
Everything has to run tightly. Guerrero’s combinations have to be crisp, his counters quick and his times for aggression smartly chosen.
It’s very questionable whether he’ll be able to do that for 12 rounds.