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Mind over matter: Robert Guerrero has instincts to give Floyd Mayweather tough fight

Kevin Iole
Yahoo Sports

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Floyd Mayweather will fight Robert Guerrero on May 4 in Las Vegas. (AP)

The wristwatch Floyd Mayweather wore Thursday to a Detroit news conference was probably worth more than Robert Guerrero's Gilroy, Calif., home.

Mayweather probably made 25 times more money in 2012 – a conservative estimate – than Guerrero has made in his nearly 12-year career. When they meet on May 4 in Las Vegas on Showtime pay-per-view for Mayweather's welterweight title, the income disparity between them will only widen.

On many levels, the differences between the men are vast. Mayweather is an iconic figure headed for the Hall of Fame. Guerrero is a largely anonymous fighter best known for the grace he showed while caring for a seriously ill wife.

But there is one striking similarity between them that at least gives Guerrero a fighting chance to become the first man in 44 tries to defeat Mayweather.

Guerrero has the sharp, analytical mind that long has been Mayweather's greatest asset. For all of his physical skills, Mayweather's ability to outthink his opponents is what has set him apart from his peers.

[Related: Floyd Mayweather leaves HBO for Showtime; to fight Robert Guerrero on May 4]

Mayweather frequently knows what his opponents will do before they do. He might be the most shrewd fighter since Muhammad Ali.

Mayweather's brilliance is due, in large part, to great timing, incredible quickness, brilliant defense, flawless conditioning and an ability to see the bout unfold as if he's sitting in the upper deck.

That last element is perhaps the only area of the game in which, on paper, Mayweather doesn't have a decided advantage.

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Robert Guerrero has a 30-1-1 record with 18 knockouts. (AP)

"I see a little decline in him, but that comes with age," Guerrero said of Mayweather, who turns 36 on Sunday. "But his mind is growing. He's a very intelligent fighter. Not enough people give him credit for that. As he's getting a little older, he's relying more on his intelligence in the ring and not on his God-given talents."

Guerrero's more gifted physically than many want to give him credit for – You don't get to 30-1-1 with 18 knockouts against the competition he's faced without being highly skilled – but it's also his intelligence inside the ring that has set him apart.

Along with his father, Ruben, it was Guerrero who perfected the game plan that throttled Andre Berto when they met in Ontario, Calif., in November.

Berto was a highly regarded fighter, though he'd actually accomplished very little. He was set up with easy fights and hadn't ever been pushed.

Still, Berto presented a significant challenge to Guerrero, because Berto does have fast hands and can punch hard.

Guerrero, though, recognized that Berto had a long windup and needed plenty of room to get off his punches. In addition, Berto didn't do well when bullied.

[Also: Possible dream matchup for Floyd Mayweather]

And so, Guerrero came up with the plan to rush Berto at the start of their bout and turn it into an alley fight. It showed a side of Guerrero that fans hadn't really seen, but mostly, it stunned Berto.

Guerrero pulled out to a massive lead before Berto could steady himself. And when Berto adjusted, Guerrero instantly adjusted himself.

That ability to adapt on the fly will serve him well against a boxing savant like Mayweather. It's going to be a high-speed chess match, and that's the kind of game Guerrero can win.

"You need to come up with a good plan, first of all," Guerrero said. "But you also have to be ready for a lot of different things. I throw punches in bunches, I punch hard, I'm fast and I have power in both hands, but it's all about executing.

"Floyd destroys guys because he's so much smarter in there than just about anyone else. They're one-dimensional and they're not able to adjust to what they need to do. I can make an adjustment halfway through a fight or halfway through a round."

[Also: Ishe Smith hopes to become first native Las Vegas champ]

He clearly believes he'll be able to match up physically with Mayweather better than people think.

But if he gets in there and finds out that he was wrong, that Mayweather indeed is faster and stronger, Guerrero won't panic.

Guerrero understands timing. As the late, great Vernon Forrest showed 11 years ago against Shane Mosley, a good jab and perfect timing can negate a massive speed disadvantage.

An avid hunter, Guerrero used his success in hunting pheasants as an example of what he'll be able to do with Mayweather. Like an NFL quarterback who throws to a spot before the receiver turns, Guerrero will need to be able to anticipate an opening and throw, confident it will land.

"Anybody who knows boxing knows that the thing that [neutralizes] speed is timing," he said. "When I am out there hunting pheasants, they can get moving really quickly. I just can time them and pop them off."

No matter how impressive a feat it may be, an ability to time and shoot a pheasant isn't going to help Guerrero beat Floyd Mayweather Jr.

The things that he does well, though, are precisely what one needs to do to beat Mayweather.

It's easier said than done, as 43 previous boxers, at least five of whom will wind up in the International Boxing Hall of Fame, can attest.

If Guerrero does it, though, don't be shocked. It won't be the biggest upset of all-time.

It never is when a boxer is as savvy inside the ring as Robert Guerrero.

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