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Floyd Mayweather headed for fall?

MANILA, Philippines - How much of the old Floyd Mayweather Jr. is left in his bones? The unbeaten Money Man, with five world titles in different divisions tucked under his belt (a certain Filipino has eight), is 36, hasn’t fought in a year and is coming off a 70-day stay in a Las Vegas jail for striking Josie Harris, the mother of their two children. This morning (Manila time), Mayweather will try to show he still has what it takes to dominate in the ring as the flamboyant 1996 Olympic featherweight bronze medalist battles the unpredictable Robert (The Ghost) Guerrero in a 12-round WBC welterweight title fight at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.

The fight will be shown on the Solar Sports channel at 10 a.m. and on the GMA-7 network at 9:30 a.m. According to Solar’s Tek Major, the feed from Las Vegas will come in at around 6:30-7 a.m. with the actual fight set at 8:30-9 a.m. so the delay in the free-to-air telecast isn’t expected to be too long. The fight is also available on live pay-per-view without commercial interruptions on Skycable and Cignal. Replays on Solar Sports are scheduled tomorrow at 1 p.m., Wednesday at 3 p.m. and Friday at 1 p.m.

It won’t be the same Mayweather out there as the brash, shoulder-rolling stylist who totally outclassed Juan Manuel Marquez in 2009 and humiliated Sugar Shane Mosley in 2010. Mayweather left prison last August and will definitely show some ring rust against Guerrero. He took a lot more punishment than usual in beating Miguel Cotto last May even if the Puerto Rican connected on only 21 percent of his shots. Guerrero, however, is a lot less shop-worn than Cotto and may pack the tools that could expose Mayweather’s fading legs. Mayweather insisted on a return clause in the fight contract in case he loses, a shocking admission of the possibility.

Mayweather will be the first to insist he’s not in the twilight of his boxing career. He just signed a six-fight deal with Showtime to run 2 1/2 years, meaning the intention is to keep busy – something that the fighter hasn’t been in the last five years where he has logged only four bouts. The talk is Mayweather’s guarantee for each fight is over $30 Million. Since Mayweather is self-promoted, he doesn’t share a major cut of the fight revenues with a third party. For the Cotto outing, Mayweather took in a guaranteed $32 Million – the largest ever for a fighter. The bout generated $94 Million in 1.5 million pay-per-view sales with Mayweather pocketing half of the amount, pushing his total earnings for the fight to nearly $80 Million.

Against Guerrero, Mayweather will show up with corner issues. His long-time trainer and uncle Roger won’t be around as he has serious health problems stemming from diabetes. Mayweather reactivated his father Floyd Sr. to take Roger’s place as chief trainer and tapped business adviser Leonard Ellerbe to join his corner team with cutman Rafael Garcia. Floyd Sr. has openly criticized his son for picking Ellerbe but nobody really listens to the father except for reporters. How that intriguing situation will impact on Mayweather’s performance is a question mark.

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Guerrero, 30, is no slouch. He’s a lefty and Mayweather is known to be wary of southpaws. Mayweather was dropped by Zab Judah, a lefthander, although the knockdown was wrongly ruled a slip and stunned at least twice by another southpaw DeMarcus Corley. Guerrero is the eighth southpaw Mayweather will have encountered. On record, Mayweather has been decked only once – by Carlos Hernandez in 2001.

Guerrero’s father Ruben will be in his son’s corner as chief trainer like Floyd Sr. Ruben recently went crazy in blasting Mayweather as “a woman beater (who) beat up his wife in front of their kids.” Ruben called Mayweather “chicken” and said the fighter will get a whipping from “a real man” this morning. The word war was far from one-sided as Mayweather cruelly accused Guerrero of using his wife Casey, a leukemia survivor, as a prop to create public sympathy. Casey was diagnosed with leukemia in 2007 and had a bone marrow transplant to beat the disease.

Guerrero has lost only once to Gamaliel Diaz on a split decision in 2005 but six months later, he knocked him out in six in a rematch. In 2006, he lost a unanimous decision to Orlando Salido but the outcome was ruled a no-contest after Salido tested positive for steroids. Last November, Guerrero dropped Andre Berto twice en route to scoring a unanimous decision in his career-defining fight. Guerrero, a two-time world champion as a featherweight and superfeatherweight, displayed his rugged style by battling Berto from close quarters and using “dirty” tricks to accentuate the mauling.

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For Mayweather to win, he’s got to show dazzling speed to escape Guerrero’s crowding tactics. It must be Mayweather’s jab, not Guerrero’s, that will dictate the pace of the fight. Mayweather will counter and use the right-hand lead to throw off Guerrero’s rhythm.  Three of Mayweather’s last four fights went the distance with his sucker-punch knockout of Victor Ortiz the exception so his ability to land power shots leading to an abbreviated ending is suspect.

For Guerrero to win, he’s got to smother Mayweather with punches from all angles. The key is to force Mayweather into thinking defense more than offense. Guerrero must pressure Mayweather to cover up, to fight from a defensive shell. Using the overhand right will be critical to keep Mayweather guessing as to which side to protect, realizing Guerrero’s best shot is the left.

If Mayweather shows signs of slowing down, he will be extremely vulnerable. Guerrero is pumped up to win. Will he become the first fighter to pin a loss on the Money Man?

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