Against Robert "The Ghost" Guerrero Saturday night, Floyd Mayweather was the boxer exuding the qualities of a spectre. Whenever the lanky, rugged Guerrero thought he had something going on offense, poof! It was gone in an instant.
In his inaugural 2013 effort, Mayweather once again showed he has the best footwork and defense in the sport of boxing today.
Sure, his offense was brilliant as usual. Our friends at Compubox told us he connected on an astounding 60 percent of his power shots.
And yes, Mayweather's astoundingly fast hands were on full display. So were his long right-hand leads followed by artfully responsible dodges.
It really was vintage stuff from the pound-for-pound king, but anyone who follows the fight game closely will tell you Mayweather's tremendously puzzling style—the one that baffles opponents who catch nothing but air while the champion lands at will with laser-like precision—starts with his patented defense and deft footwork.
It's amazing stuff.
Mayweather was right in front of Guerrero for most of the 36-minute encounter Saturday night. To the surprise of many, the welterweight came out of his corner seemingly stationary.
But Mayweather only appeared to be a target to Guerrero. He wanted it that way. It gave Guerrero courage when he should have had fear, and it put Mayweather in perfect position to land punches when and where he wanted to.
Mayweather's incredible footwork hinges on one thing: balance. His feet are wide enough to allow him to punch with real power but never too wide for him to become immobile. Even when he's standing right in front of you, he's almost impossible to hit square.
Guerrero had some success landing in the early rounds, but he probably barely won even one of them. He landed several good counter shots on Mayweather in the first two rounds and appeared to be on his way to a competitive encounter.
But Mayweather's footwork and defense were what they always are: impeccable. He stayed in front of Guerrero as much as he wanted. Guerrero would swing and swing and swing; Mayweather would duck, dodge and parry. Guerrero would come forward; Mayweather would retreat or move to the side or hit him twice before he knew it.
Mayweather's punches were sharp and clean. He would move just enough for Guerrero's punches to whiz by harmlessly while strafing the brave challenger with real force.
Perhaps the most succinct way to say it is simply this: Mayweather was wherever he wanted to be, whenever he wanted to be there.
When he wanted to be in front of Guerrero, there he was. When he wanted to be around him, to the side or across the ring from him, there he was again. When he wanted to hit Guerrero with a right hand or a left hook, he was in perfect position to do it.
It was only for a moment. As soon as Guerrero could react to what was happening on the chess board, Mayweather's feet had already put him in position for the next two moves.
It was a perfect example of how great the enigmatic champion truly is. Mayweather doesn't just have talent. He's more than that. He's a brilliant tactician who uses impeccable timing and scholarly technical expertise.
Talent can get you far—ask Roy Jones Jr.—but Mayweather's self-professed hard work and dedication are tangible commodities. He's worked tremendously hard to become great at almost all facets of the sweet science, and it's no more apparent than in what he does with his footwork and defense.
It carried the day for the 36-year-old superstar who remains unbeaten in 44 professional prizefights. Once again, Mayweather showed why he is considered by many punch pundits the premiere fighter in the sport.
He's the best defender in the game, and he knows it—now Guerrero does, too.