For weeks the doors to the Mayweather Boxing Club in Las Vegas have been largely closed to outsiders, reporters' requests for extended access denied, any glimpse of the most flamboyant athlete in sports limited to the edited visuals from Showtime's All Access cameras. The deal Mayweather cut with Showtime—a six-fights-in-30-months agreement that guarantees him at least $200 million, including a minimum of $30 million for his WBC welterweight title defense against Robert Guerrero on Saturday night—afforded him the luxury to pick and choose his promotional duties. And so, after a year's layoff, which included his serving two months in jail after pleading guilty to misdemeanor domestic violence and no contest to a pair of harassment charges, Mayweather, at 36, is (uncharacteristically) something of an unknown in terms of how he looks in the ring.
Physically, he says, he is in "tip-top shape," though for an athlete used to training two or three times a day, jail was challenging. "The only thing you can do when you're locked up is do push-ups and read and write," said Mayweather. Still, he's no stranger to long breaks; after beating Ricky Hatton in 2007, he sat out for 21 months before returning to defeat Juan Manuel Marquez in '09. "The body needs time to heal," says Mayweather. "It needs rest."
In preparing for Guerrero, Mayweather turned to a familiar face: his father, Floyd Sr. Their relationship is famously dysfunctional; the drama—its profanely operatic glory manifested in a wild in-the-gym argument in 2011 that was captured by HBO's cameras—makes the Kardashians look like the Cosbys. But with his uncle and longtime trainer, Roger Mayweather, dealing with health problems, the fighter needed a voice he could trust. "I was surprised when he asked me," says Mayweather Sr. "But I think he wanted to bring the entire family together."
And, perhaps, Mayweather could use the help. In a win over Miguel Cotto last May, the usually elusive Mayweather took more punches than ever before. "His footwork was heavy," says Oscar De La Hoya, who lost to Mayweather in 2007. "That will change. Floyd Sr. is a master of defense." Indeed, it was Mayweather Sr. who taught his son the shoulder roll defense, who drilled into him the philosophy of hit and don't get hit. In camp, Floyd Sr. has prodded his son to use more head movement and feints while pushing him to jab more. "He has been blocking a lot of shots," says sparring partner Errol Spence, a 2012 U.S. Olympian. "His father is always yelling at him about moving from the corner."
Ultimately, even a reduced Mayweather should be enough. Boxing's hype machine has worked overtime to pump up Guerrero, a longtime 126-pounder who was tapped after he beat Andre Berto in only Guerrero's second bout at 147 pounds. Guerrero likes a physical fight, but his lack of power and speed will make beating even a sluggish Mayweather difficult. "If Floyd is half of what he was, it will be enough," says Mayweather Sr. "Because he is still the smartest fighter in boxing. There is no one who can outthink him."
In This Corner ...
Who's also on Floyd's radar?
Manny Pacquiao's loss to Juan Manuel Marquez in December trashed the long-dreamed-of superfight between Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr. So, assuming Mayweather gets by Guerrero, what big-bucks opponents are out there for Money? A few candidates:
43-0-1 (30 KOs)
Blossoming 154-pound superstar in the Oscar De La Hoya mold, Alvarez, 22, is coming off biggest win of career, a unanimous decision over Austin Trout in April.
Khan suffered back-to-back losses to Lamont Peterson and Danny Garcia but has rebounded with two straight W's. His international popularity makes him an appealing foe.
The unified 140-pound titleholder, Garcia is raw but has superb power. Last week he padded résumé with a unanimous decision over former Mayweather opponent Zab Judah.
Pre-Guerrero, Mayweather tweeted that Alexander, a slick 147-pound champ, was likely opponent. Like Floyd, Alexander has a May defense to get by.
BRYAN HARAWAY/GETTY IMAGES (MAYWEATHER)
GYM DANDY Mayweather insists he's in top shape, but even at less than his best he should bag Guerrero.
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AL BELLO/GETTY IMAGES FOR GOLDEN BOY PROMOTIONS (GARCIA)
ERIC JAMISON/AP (KHAN)
JAE C. HONG/AP (ALVAREZ)