Published Friday, Feb. 22, 2013 | 1:11 p.m.
Updated Friday, Feb. 22, 2013 | 5:30 p.m.
Robert Guerrero has been calling out Floyd Mayweather Jr. since he was an obscure, skinny 135-pounder with no logical chance of getting a fight with boxing's pound-for-pound champion.
Guerrero finally landed the bout he craved this week, and he's already got plenty more to say about his chances.
Guerrero says Mayweather is declining, and he intends to exploit the flaws of the sport's top money-maker in their May 4 meeting at the MGM Grand Garden in Las Vegas.
"I see a lot of slippage," Guerrero said in a phone interview. "I see him slowing down, as far as his legs not being as quick as they used to be."
Bold words are no surprise from Guerrero (31-1-1, 18 KOs), the talkative former featherweight champion from Gilroy, Calif., who has even more old-school boxing bravado than Mayweather, whose interest in trash talk has faded in recent years.
When asked if Mayweather was the best fighter in boxing, Guerrero was blunt: "In my eyes, no."
"There's just so many fighters out there that he hasn't fought, and he was picking and choosing fights," Guerrero said. "That's why I'm excited that I'm in the position I'm in, earning the spot where he actually is going to fight somebody who's earned it."
Guerrero betrays no fear of Mayweather, who hand-picked the challenger for their welterweight title bout in his debut on Showtime. Guerrero thinks the champion doesn't realize what he's facing, and he also expects Mayweather to be fighting rust after a year away from the ring, including a two-month stint in jail.
"Definitely, he's ripe for the picking," Guerrero said. "You know, he's been out for a year. ... He is sharp in the ring. He puts more pressure on guys. I think that has to do with him not being able to move as good on his legs, where people think, 'Oh, he's changed his style.' But I just think that when you get older and your legs start to go, you have to change direction."
Guerrero realizes he's the presumptive victim for the first bout of Mayweather's lucrative six-fight contract with Showtime over the next 30 months. Mayweather opened as a heavy favorite in Las Vegas sports books.
"If people bet on me, they're going to make a lot of money, so I suggest they do," Guerrero said. "I was put in this position not only to humble the boxing world, but to humble Floyd Mayweather. I have a lot of faith that I'm going to go in there and dominate this fight."
Although Mayweather doesn't talk trash the way he once did, at least he finally has an opponent who won't rely on Mayweather to do most of the heavy lifting in promotion and pre-fight interest. Guerrero's confidence could play well on Showtime, which plans to showcase Mayweather and his upcoming opponents in behind-the-scenes programming.
Outside the ring, he's best known for his steadfast support of his wife, Casey, who survived a prolonged struggle with leukemia while Guerrero was an up-and-coming fighter.
Any doubts about Guerrero's ability to fight at welterweight evaporated when he returned from a 15-month ring absence following shoulder surgery last year. Guerrero jumped up two weight classes to 147 pounds to beat Selcuk Aydin last July — and in November, he won a decision over former welterweight champion Andre Berto in one of last year's most exciting fights.
"(Mayweather) is a way smarter fighter than Berto, than Aydin," Guerrero said. "Strength-wise, I feel he's not as strong as either one of them. I think Berto is a lot faster, but the one thing that carries Floyd Mayweather through is his elegance in the ring. His intelligence, being able to change angles. That's what gets him through the day."