Spotlight on | Boxing

Floyd Mayweather Jr. shows no sign of ring rust


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•  Friday (10 p.m., ESPN2): Vernon Parris vs. Manuel Perez, 10, welterweights.

•  Friday (11 p.m., Showtime): Dierry Jean vs. Cleotis Pandarvis, 10, junior welterweights.

Special to The Miami Herald

Floyd Mayweather Jr. proudly and deservedly boasts that the grand stage now linked to his fights never feature a protagonist with equal billing.

True, there have been some fighters with Hall of Fame-worthy careers who faced Mayweather during his impressive run of pay-per-view supremacy the past six years. Yet the broad setting and Mayweather’s superb skills become a daunting task for opponents.

Robert Guerrero was the latest with the opportunity at tagging the first loss on Mayweather’s spotless professional record. Guerrero believed his relentless aggression, which earned him two world titles in lighter weight classes, would wear down Mayweather.

But Guerrero learned the same lesson of Mayweather’s previous 43 opponents. All the desire, pre-fight strategy and confidence are not enough at deciphering boxing’s most-difficult puzzle.

Mayweather successfully defended his World Boxing Council welterweight title with a convincing unanimous decision win over Guerrero late Saturday in Las Vegas.

“I’m truly blessed to be where I’m at,” Mayweather said in a post-fight news conference. “I was built for this.

“It’s different when it’s on this level. This is at the pinnacle of the sport. The pressure on this level is not like regular pressure when you fight on a regular network. When you’re at the pinnacle, you have to be prepared for this all the way around the board because mentally it can mess with you.”

Despite nearly a year’s absence, which also included a two-month prison sentence for a domestic assault incident, Mayweather, 36, again proved why he is recognized as the sport’s best fighter.

Mayweather (44-0), repeatedly tagged Guerrero with solid rights to the head during the fight’s distance.

Guerrero (31-2-1) futilely pursued Mayweather to negate his quickness. But Mayweather shook off any possible ring rust from his previous fight against Miguel Cotto in May 2012 as he effectively slipped Guerrero’s power shots either in the middle of the ring or ropes.

“They said I was losing my legs — I was 36 — I showed the world I can still box,” Mayweather said. “I showed them my defense is still there. I showed them I’m still fast.

“In the Miguel Cotto fight, I got hit with shots I felt I shouldn’t have been hit with. So I had to bring the defense back.”

The buildup of Mayweather’s lead rights opened a cut above Guerrero’s left eye at the start of the eighth round. Mayweather continued to score with the lead shot and later in the round another Mayweather right snapped Guerrero’s head back.

“He’s a great fighter, he’s slick, he’s quick,” Guerrero said. “I thought I was going to catch him. He was on his game tonight.”

Mayweather’s dominance was confirmed by the three judges, all of whom had him winning, 117-111.

“I knew Robert wasn’t going to lie down,” Mayweather said. “He’s a tough competitor. He kept bringing it.

“Tonight I was the better man. He’s still a champion. He should hold his head up tonight. He’s got the heart of a champion.”

Mayweather said he injured his right hand midway through the fight but didn’t tell his father and trainer, Floyd Sr. The injury might have prevented him from stopping Guerrero within the distance.

“I wasn’t going to tell him I hurt my right hand,” Mayweather said. “I kept using it the best way I could.”

Who’s next?

Saturday’s bout was Mayweather’s first of a six-fight deal over a 30-month period with Showtime. The immediate post-fight buzz centered on Mayweather’s next opponent being popular Mexican fighter Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, the reigning WBC super-welterweight champion. Mayweather has targeted his next bout for September.

“I just came off a solid victory tonight,” Mayweather said. “I’m closer to 40 than I am to 21, so I feel I’m in a position I can take some time off.

“Floyd Mayweather is not going to duck guys anywhere, but I’m at the pinnacle in my sport. I earned my stripes.”

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