When pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather steps through the ropes on May 4 against Robert Guerrero he will be facing more challenges than at any time in his career.
He just recently turned 36-years-old, a tricky age for most boxers, and will enter the ring nearly one year to the day since his last fight.
In that bout, against Miguel Cotto, he was forced to engage more frequently than we are used to seeing. After the fight Mayweather attributed his newly aggressive style to a desire to please the fans.
Skeptics on the other hand have pointed to a possible slippage of skills that forced him to rely more on trading punches than utilizing his trademark speed and defense to coast towards victory.
Since then he has spent two months in jail, engaged in a highly publicized spat with former promotional partner 50 Cent, and increased his focus on the promotional and training aspects of the sport.
There was some legitimate question after his last fight whether he would ever step foot inside the ring as a competitor again. But a recently signed six fight mega-deal with Showtime put the exclamation point on that discussion and showed a renewed commitment to the sport.
In a career that has astonishingly spanned 17 years now we have gotten accustomed to certain things whenever Floyd Mayweather steps into the ring. He has rarely been hurt, almost never finds himself in trouble and has never lost a pro fight.
But yet for some reason, at least in the public eye, he appears more vulnerable than he has ever been.
Perhaps it's the age questions. But even at 36 he has never been in anything close to an in-ring war and has always kept his body in top physical condition.
There are few, if any, fighters in boxing who are as committed to the craft of boxing than Mayweather and even if his skills have slipped a bit he's still well ahead of the curve.
Then there are questions about a year layoff, especially given the circumstances surrounding it, and whether it will impact his performance in the ring.
But these type of layoffs, far from being uncommon, have been a trademark of Mayweather's career. Since 2009 he has only fought once a year and announced plans to fight twice this year for the first time since 2007.
He can only hope to replicate the success of that year, in which he defeated Oscar De La Hoya and Ricky Hatton, when he steps in with Guerrero and whoever comes next in the fall.
Robert Guerrero will come to fight on May 4 and has a difficult style. He's rough, some say borderline dirty, throws a high volume of punches from different angles and will not be intimidated. He's not going to be content just to be there and he might be the most mentally tough opponent of Money's illustrious career.
His victory over Andre Berto, who at one time was considered one of boxing's young stars, was extremely impressive and established his bonafides at welterweight. But Berto is no Mayweather and "The Ghost" will need to be at his very best, and then some, to score the upset.
In a certain respect much of this perception is tied into the polarizing nature of the figure that is Floyd "Money" Mayweather. His talent is undisputed but many fans are turned off by his flashy style and bravado.
You either love him or you love to hate him. There really is no middle ground. And all that is part of a carefully crafted public persona.
Over the years millions of people have bought his pay-per-views to watch one of the best pure boxers of all-time ply his craft. Still other millions have paid their money to sit on the couch in the hopes that they'll finally get to see a fighter land that perfect shot that shuts his mouth.
Whether you love him or hate him you have to respect his talent. And until another fighters proves he's vulnerable you have to give him the benefit of the doubt.
Believe it when you see it. Not before.
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