By TIM DAHLBERG
AP Boxing Writer
LAS VEGAS — Floyd Mayweather Jr. did nothing to deserve the occasional boos that echoed through the MGM Grand arena during the later rounds of his fight with Robert Guerrero.
He didn’t deserve any blame for fans leaving early, either, though hundreds found their way to the exit even before the 12th round began.
If they were spending $1,000 and up for tickets to a brawl, they should have known better. Mayweather built a career on not getting hit, and there was no reason to think he was going to make the same mistakes as last year against Miguel Cotto against a fighter whose only hope of winning was to rough him up.
Instead of booing, they should have been applauding. Instead of leaving, they should have been on their feet cheering.
On the canvas where he does his best work, Mayweather painted a boxing masterpiece only he could produce.
“Everyone was saying at the age of 36 I don’t have it no more,” Mayweather said. “All I want to do is give fans exciting fights.”
This one wasn’t as much exciting as it was brilliant. Mayweather used defensive skills built up over a lifetime to take apart a very good fighter Saturday night and do it in such lopsided fashion that ringside judges seemed to be searching for a round to give to Guerrero.
He hit Guerrero with right hand leads all night and might have knocked him out had he not hurt his hand in the eighth round. When Guerrero tried to land big shots of his own, Mayweather was either smothering him on the ropes or had danced out of harm’s way.
It was a $32 million display of all that’s right about the sweet science. And if it didn’t satisfy all the fans at the MGM Grand or those who paid $69.95 for the pay-per-view, it kept Mayweather undefeated in 44 fights in what is becoming a remarkable boxing career.
“I showed the world I can still box,” Mayweather said. “I showed my defense is still there. I’m still fast.”
Most importantly, perhaps, it showed Mayweather himself that he still has it. After spending two months in jail and a year out of the ring, he returned with a performance that was vintage Mayweather.
His father was back in the corner and was put to good use. Both Floyd Sr. and Floyd Jr. thought the boxer got hit too much when he went toe-to-toe with Cotto last May and were determined to focus on defense against Guerrero, who tried his best for 12 rounds to turn the fight into a brawl, to no avail.
The plan was to hit and not get hit. It worked to perfection, with Guerrero landing only 19 percent of his punches to 41 percent for Mayweather.
“The less you get hit, the longer you last in boxing,” Mayweather said.
Mayweather has followed that creed so well that he has lasted 17 years in the sport, and he looks no worse for the wear. He’s managed to build a boxing empire on pay-per-view sales despite having a style that is less than crowd pleasing, and his $32 million payday for Guerrero shows he remains a huge attraction.
He wants to fight again in September, which would be the first time since 2007 he fought twice in a calendar year. That could be delayed by his injured right hand, though Mayweather insisted after the fight he would be ready to go.
The question now becomes who Mayweather will face. Upcoming Mexican star Canelo Alvarez would be the most attractive fight, but the short lead time to September virtually ensures that bout won’t happen until at least next May, at best.
Mayweather is in the unique position where he can handpick his opponents, and he’s been criticized for trying to find fighters he knows he can beat. Alvarez would be a risky fight, one Mayweather might want to save until late in the remaining five fights he has under a deal with Showtime that he says will be the last of his career.
“He’s a young guy,” Mayweather said of Alvarez. “Floyd Mayweather isn’t going to duck anybody. My job is to go out there, rack up victories and be the best Floyd Mayweather I can be.”
Whether that is good enough to make Mayweather among the all-time greats was a topic of questioning at the post-fight news conference. Mayweather may be a dominating fighter, but he hasn’t had a rivalry to get fight fans excited and he came up with excuse after excuse not to fight Manny Pacquiao when Pacquiao was still in his prime.
He also hasn’t fought regularly enough to press a claim for greatness, something that could change if he goes through on plans to fight every six months or so under the Showtime deal.
“I just do what I do,” Mayweather said. “I’ve given this sport my whole life.”