Floyd Mayweather Jr showed little sign of ring-rust after a year out of the sport as he used sublime defense and a steady parade of right hands to dominate fellow American Robert Guerrero and retain his WBC welterweight championship on Saturday.
One day short of 12 months since his last bout, Mayweather, who also spent two months in jail last year for a domestic abuse offense, landed an astonishing 60 percent of his power punches en route to a unanimous 12-round decision.
All three judges scored the fight 117-111 in favor of the undefeated Mayweather, who said that a damaged hand had prevented him from ending the fight early.
“I really was looking for a knockout, but I hurt my right hand,” he said. “After that, I just had to box smart. Robert Guerrero was a tough warrior. He was trying to press the attack, but I got really good work in the gym and I felt comfortable in the ring. My defense was on point.”
After an opening two rounds in which the southpaw Guerrero (31-2-1, 18 KOs) had some success, Mayweather (44-0, 26 KOs) seemed to slip into his comfort zone from the third.
Although the challenger’s game plan seemed to be to back Mayweather to the ropes with his jab and then land punches to the body, the champion repeatedly slipped under his opponent’s left, landed one or more right hands and moved out of danger.
After being hit with several rights in the third, Guerrero appeared more hesitant to commit to his attack, giving Mayweather yet more time to slip in and out of range and land his key punches.
“I thought Floyd did an excellent job tonight,” said the 36-year-old’s father and trainer, Floyd Mayweather Sr. “There was nothing he couldn’t do in there tonight. I told him to steal it with the right hand. That was a punch [Guerrero] couldn’t see and wasn’t expecting each time he threw it.”
By the eighth round, Mayweather was stepping up his assault, landing right hands with greater force and mixing in left hooks as he opened up a cut over a clearly hurt Guerrero’s left eye.
At that stage, it appeared that Mayweather would stop Guerrero inside the distance and although he continued to paint his opponent with right hands and left hooks, the champion remained content to focus on coasting toward the finish.
“Floyd was tricky with his punches,” Guerrero said in a post-fight interview. “He’s a great fighter. He’s slick and he’s quick. He’s better than I thought. He was definitely on his game tonight.”
KLITSCHKO VS PIANETA
World heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko defended his WBA, WBO, IBF and IBO belts on Saturday as he out-classed challenger Francesco Pianeta with a sixth-round knock-out to register the 60th win of his career.
Although German-Italian Pianeta, who survived testicular cancer three years ago, came into the fight undefeated in his 29 previous fights, he was outclassed by the 37-year-old champion in Mannheim, Germany.
“I want to thank my opponent, there are a lot of challengers who talk a lot, but he got in the ring and fought bravely,” Klitschko said.
His comments were a thinly veiled dig at David Haye, who has constantly tried to lure Klitschko back in the ring, despite the British fighter’s one-sided points defeat to the Ukrainian in Hamburg in July 2011.
After Pianeta fought on, despite first hitting the canvas in the fourth round, the champion paid further tribute to the challenger’s courage.
“After the battle he has had against cancer, he deserves respect,” Klitschko said. “He tried everything to hit me. If he had landed one his big punches, I wouldn’t have got up.”
Pianeta made an ambitious start with one huge right hand coming over the top of Klitschko’s guard, but failing to connect, while the champion responded with two heavy jabs that found their target.
Klitschko relied on his jab in the opening three rounds as the challenger landed several heavy shots, but a big right from the Ukrainian put Pianenta on the floor in the fourth round.
From then on, the challenger was struggling to stay in the fight, and although he showed plenty of heart by fighting on, he was down again in the fifth, but managed to survive the referee’s count.
With his coordination clearly compromised, it was only a matter of time before the fight was brought to an end.
With his trainer ready to throw in the towel, Pianeta did not come up again after hitting the canvas 2 minutes, 52 seconds into the sixth round, after a brutal left-right combination floored him for the last time.
“I’m OK, just very disappointed and sad,” added Pianeta after receiving treatment in the ring.
Victory gave Klitschko the 51st knock-out of his career, while the last of his three defeats came nearly a decade ago. For his next fight, Klitschko has been ordered by the WBA to face Russia’s Alexander Povetkin in Moscow on Aug. 31.
Russian promoter Vladimir Hryunov won the purse bid to stage that bout with a staggering US$23.33 million bid last week.
The Ukrainian is entitled to 75 percent of that figure, which would give him a career-high US$17,250,000 purse.
Povetkin is the “regular” WBA champion and Klitschko the governing bodies’ “super” champion — an honor bestowed on him when he added the WBA belt to his three others with his points win over Haye in 2011.
Now Klitschko and Povetkin are obliged to fight to leave just a single WBA belt-holder.
The two former Olympic champions were due to clash twice before, but Povetkin pulled out in 2008 because of injury and then backed out a second time in 2010.