By GREG BEACHAM
AP Sports Writer
Floyd Mayweather Jr. will fight Gilroy resident Robert Guerrero on May 4, and he’s changing television networks to do it.
The biggest star in boxing dropped a surprise Tuesday while announcing his long-rumored next bout: After several years on HBO, Mayweather is moving to Showtime with a lucrative multi-fight deal.
Mayweather’s move is a coup for Showtime, the CBS-owned network that has always trailed behind HBO in boxing prominence. Mayweather (43-0, 26 KOs) is the sport’s biggest moneymaker, and his new revenue-sharing deal with Showtime could include up to six pay-per-view fights over 30 months.
“They were extremely aggressive from the start, and they made it clear they want Floyd Mayweather to be the face of Showtime,” Mayweather adviser Leonard Ellerbe told The Associated Press. “It’s the ultimate compliment to a fighter like Floyd. They were aggressive, and the deal that they put on the table was essentially a deal that you can’t refuse.”
Mayweather’s first bout is against Guerrero (31-1-1, 18 KOs), the WBC’s interim welterweight champion. The fight likely will be at the MGM Grand Garden in Las Vegas, the site of Mayweather’s last six bouts.
Mayweather turns 36 on Sunday, but the unbeaten WBC 147-pound champion has shown few signs of advancing age in the ring. He hasn’t fought since beating Miguel Cotto last May 5, and he spent two months in jail last summer after his conviction in a misdemeanor domestic battery case.
With Showtime as his new showcase, Ellerbe said Mayweather’s fans will see much more in the next few years from the re-energized champion, who has fought just four times since December 2007.
“He has a renewed motivation to stay active and to take on everybody out there,” Ellerbe said. “When Floyd is more active, he’s going to be beyond untouchable. He’s proved he can stay sharp with those layoffs in the past, but he’s going to be more active now.”
Guerrero beat out several contenders to get the biggest payday of his career and a shot at his sport’s biggest name. Guerrero, from Gilroy, Calif., is a onetime featherweight champion who hasn’t lost since 2005, beating welterweight Andre Berto in a thrilling fight last November.
“On May 4th I’m going to shock the world,” Guerrero tweeted.
Ellerbe said Mayweather chose Guerrero as his next opponent because of his toughness and crowd-pleasing style.
“He definitely earned the right to fight Floyd,” Ellerbe said. “He won the Mayweather sweepstakes, so now he gets to see what the grand prize is, and when he opens up that grand prize, it’s going to be a can of (tail) whooping.”
Guerrero and Showtime Sports general manager Stephen Espinoza both felt lucky after Mayweather made his decision. Espinoza went after Mayweather before his last fight, but finally got his man after two weeks of negotiations.
“He is as compelling an entertaining a personality as there is in sports, and his performance is at the top of the sport as well,” Espinoza told the AP. “You don’t often see those things in combination. Everything he does, everything he says generates reaction and discussion. Those are the people you want. We’re thrilled to be working with Floyd.”
Mayweather has been on Time Warner-owned HBO for essentially his entire professional career, which began after the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.
Along with his peerless pay-per-view prowess, Mayweather starred in HBO’s popular “24/7” reality series before each of his past six bouts, further growing his celebrity with the four-episode showcases of his Vegas lifestyle and irrepressible personality.
Any boxing fans who are worried about missing Mayweather on “24/7” can rest easy: Espinoza is forming his own plans to showcase Mayweather outside the ring.
“It would be a major failure if we didn’t capture all that interesting stuff,” Espinoza said. “Literally within the next 24 hours, we’re going to have cameras on him. We’re going full speed ahead. What HBO has done is very impressive, and I respect their creative work. We have a slightly different approach, and we feel there’s a lot of the Floyd Mayweather story and the personality that has not been exposed. We’ve seen one facet of him repeatedly, and we think that’s only part of the story.”
Manny Pacquiao, another longtime HBO fixture, was Mayweather’s only rival for boxing supremacy in recent years before the Filipino congressman’s back-to-back losses last year. Top Rank promoter Bob Arum moved Pacquiao off HBO for one fight in 2011, beating Sugar Shane Mosley on Showtime, but returned to HBO for Pacquiao’s next bout.
HBO fought to keep Mayweather as well, but couldn’t top Showtime.
“We made an aggressive and responsible pay-per-view offer,” HBO said in a statement from spokesman Kevin Flaherty. “Now we move on. We are focused on the best boxing franchise in the television business. We are proud of the roster of superstar fighters and emerging stars who are scheduled to appear on the multiple HBO television platforms this year.”
Mayweather usually partners with Golden Boy Promotions to organize his fights, but the boxer essentially serves as his own promoter and cuts his own financial deals with help from adviser Al Haymon.
“All the fighters and promoters out there should be applauding Floyd,” Ellerbe said. “He’s elevating the sport and bringing more eyeballs to it. More importantly, he’s changing the pay structure in the sport. He’s setting that bar higher for everybody.”
Mayweather is making another big change for his next fight: He has hired his father, Floyd Sr., as his trainer. The younger Mayweather was estranged from his father for long stretches of the past several years while he trained under his uncle, Roger.
Golden Boy is working on a deal to put Mexican star Saul “Canelo” Alvarez on the undercard of Mayweather’s bout with Guerrero, possibly against Austin Trout. Alvarez, the WBC 154-pound champion, could be Mayweather’s next opponent in September.