LAS VEGAS >> Floyd Mayweather Jr. admitted this week what many have long suspected — that he hand picks every opponent who enters the ring with him.
He also decides how much they get paid and what the contract details will be. So Robert Guerrero was somewhat prepared when Mayweather picked him to be the opponent for his first fight in a year Saturday night at the MGM Grand hotel.
What he wasn’t prepared for was what Mayweather’s camp insisted on putting in the contract.
"He asked for a rematch clause. That was the very first thing," Guerrero said. "It just shows me where his head is at."
Where Mayweather’s head is at has, of course, been the topic of many conversations over the years. When he fought last May against Miguel Cotto the worry among his fans was that he would be distracted by an upcoming jail sentence, though that turned out to be unfounded.
Talk to Mayweather now, and his head seems to be fine. So, too, are his reflexes at the age of 36, at least judged by a sparring session last week where he practiced landing right hand leads against a fighter mimicking Guerrero’s southpaw style.
He has to lose sometime because nearly every fighter not named Rocky Marciano lost at some point in their career. But Mayweather has a new six-fight television deal that should cement his status as the world’s highest paid athlete, and he doesn’t seem terribly concerned about a loss or a possible rematch of their welterweight title fight.
"I’ve done this my whole life," Mayweather said. "This is what I love to do."
Though Mayweather sees Guerrero as just the latest opponent for yet another huge payday, Guerrero sees things quite differently. He believes he is the fighter who will be the first to beat Mayweather, and he’s eager to earn both the recognition and the money that would come with such a win.
At the final pre-fight press conference Wednesday he said Mayweather made a mistake by picking him as an opponent.
"They talk about this as Floyd Mayweather’s home," Guerrero said. "Well, this is a home invasion."
Oddsmakers don’t share Guerrero’s confidence, making the former champion in three weight classes a decided underdog in the biggest fight of his career. But the once-beaten (31-1-1) fighter from Gilroy, Calif., said he’s been underestimated his entire career.
"The only thing that means something is what you do in that ring," he said. "I just can’t wait to get in that ring."
Both fighters were on their best behavior at their final press conference, though their fathers almost mixed it up. Floyd Mayweather Sr. and Reuben Guerrero — who both train their sons — exchanged words after Reuben Guerrero went into a rant about Mayweather being a woman beater for the altercation with the mother of his children that got him jailed for 70 days last year.
There is an undercurrent of hostility between the fighters, too, with Mayweather suggesting Guerrero — who talks openly about his faith — is a hypocrite for getting busted in a New York gun charge while promoting the fight. Mayweather also said that Guerrero used his wife’s fight with leukemia — she is now healthy — to gain fans and sympathy for himself.
"It’s laughable," Guerrero said. "I don’t need sympathy, I come to fight. Sympathy doesn’t win fights."
Though Mayweather is unbeaten in 43 fights and has been a pay-per-view star since his 2007 win over Oscar De La Hoya, he has been fighting professionally for 17 years and is getting to an age that historically fighters have had trouble with. The fact he’s fought only four times since beating Ricky Hatton more than five years ago and has not fought in a year leads some in boxing to believe he may have as much trouble with ring rust as he has with Guerrero.
There are signs, too, that perhaps his appeal is fading, though Mayweather would argue that his fan base is bigger than ever. Seats are still readily available for the fight at the MGM arena, and the All Access shows promoting the fight on Showtime have generated little buzz.
A documentary on Mayweather’s life that aired last Saturday in primetime on Showtime’s sister network, CBS, also drew miserable ratings.
Still, Mayweather — who acts as his own promoter — insists the promotion is going well and people will tune in at home, even at a suggested retail price of $69.95. Mayweather’s win over Cotto last May drew 1.5 million pay-per-view buys, his biggest sales since he and De La Hoya combined for a record 2.5 million.
"I think everything is playing out like it should play out," Mayweather said. "I’m ready to go out there and perform.