GILROY -- Robert Guerrero has a favorite theme park ride -- the "Top Gun" roller coaster at Great America.
He really should ride it about a million times before this weekend. It might prepare him for what lies ahead. No Bay Area athlete's life will change more over the next two months.
Guerrero, the boxing champ who has managed to win five different world championships without drawing much attention, is going to get all of it he wants between now and May 4. He recently signed a deal to fight Floyd Mayweather, the undefeated welterweight title holder as well as the largest attention-getting moneymaker in his sport.
The two will meet in Las Vegas, at the MGM Grand, on Cinco De Mayo weekend. Guerrero, of Mexican-American heritage, sees that as a plus.
"I expect the crowd to be on my side," Guerrero said. "There are so many fans who want to see Floyd lose."
That's probably true. Mayweather has a legendary big mouth full of insults and last year spent two months in jail for domestic abuse. He's not a warm and fuzzy fellow. But that's fine with Guerrero, who waited years to participate in a fight of this magnitude. He can't wait to discover what particular invective Mayweather might hurl at him.
"I don't know what he'll talk about," Guerrero said. "Maybe he'll make fun of my ears that stick out? He'll come up with something. You don't know what he'll ever say. One minute he's nice, the next he's not. Maybe he's a like a woman who gets mood swings."
Guerrero smiled impishly. He was eating lunch with some of his Gilroy pals at the Denny's restaurant near the city's outlet shopping center. Guerrero knows that in this matchup, he will be cast as the cowboy on the white horse. And deservedly so. He is the humble, religious son of Gilroy parents. As a husband, Guerrero once put his boxing career on hold for more than a year to be with wife Casey as she underwent a successful bone marrow transplant to treat her leukemia. She's doing well and remains cancer free.
Also, Guerrero doesn't have a large and flashy entourage.
"You're looking at it," Guerrero said with a nod at his buddies and co-manager Robert Santos. "Well, plus one. My dad."
You can expect that the good-vs.-evil storyline will be emphasized to the max between now and the May 4 bout, which will be a Showtime pay-per-view event. This is a very huge deal. Given the status of Mayweather, it's the biggest fight for any Bay Area pugilist since 1976, when Texas native George Foreman was based in the Bay Area and met fellow heavyweight Joe Frazier on Long Island. And if you're talking strictly about fighters born in Northern California, this could be the biggest bout since lightweight champ Willie Ritchie of San Francisco traveled to London in 1919 to confront challenger Freddie Welsh.
Back then, of course, there was no Twitter or YouTube to help pump up the gate. Guerrero is leaving soon for a promotional tour. There will be a cable television series leading up to fight. And because Showtime is a division of CBS, you can probably expect to see plenty of Mayweather-Guerrero references during NCAA March Madness telecasts.
Is Guerrero ready for all this? He says he is. Between promotional trips, he plans to train in Gilroy until mid-March before going to Las Vegas for his final prep work. He's still scouting out gyms there. But he is happiest here at home.
"I was born and raised in Gilroy," Guerrero said. "I stay here because . . . hey, I'm in the biggest fight of the year and I'm sitting here in Denny's with nobody bothering me. Everyone knows me here. They treat me like a normal person, not someone special. They know my family and make me feel comfortable. When you beat somebody like Floyd Mayweather, maybe that's when you've got to make a decision about that kind of stuff."
Notice that he said "when," not "if."
Guerrero will not be favored to beat Mayweather, who just agreed to a six-fight deal with Showtime that could pay him as much as $250 million. There's no way that Mayweather expects to lose the first of those six fights -- and no way that Showtime wants him to lose it. But there are many in boxing circles who believe Guerrero has a legitimate shot to win. Last November, he was very impressive in beating former welterweight champ Andre Berto. Guerrero, who will turn 30 next month, is also six years younger than Mayweather.
Interestingly, Guerrero's contract for the May 4 event also contains a rematch clause -- not typical for Mayweather.
"When he wanted a rematch clause," said Santos, "that's when I knew that he knew he was in for a tough fight."
So far, the two men have shaken hands just once. They met in person for the first and only time in 2006, when Guerrero was on the undercard of Mayweather's bout against Carlos Baldomir.
"He came up and congratulated me on my title," Guerrero said.
Then, Guerrero was fighting as a featherweight while Mayweather was defending his welterweight title. The two classes are more than 20 pounds apart. There didn't seem much likelihood the two would ever meet in the ring. But Guerrero has gradually beefed up and collected more championship belts along the way. None, however, were in the glamour weight categories with the glamour paydays. And so Guerrero began calling out Mayweather and asking for a fight.
"Pretty much, he didn't want to know me," Guerrero said. "Pretty much his whole career, he's stayed away from guys like me."
But for whatever reason, Mayweather (43-0, 26 knockouts) agreed to the matchup this time. He could well be ripe for a defeat. Mayweather didn't train during his jail time. And Guerrero (31-1-1, 18 KOs) has not been shy about mentioning the age difference and saying there has been "slippage" in his leg speed.
"I've been watching him his whole career," Guerrero said. "I remember first seeing him when he was at the Olympics in 1996 and I was 13 years old. I saw that and knew that's what I wanted to do, was box. Floyd is a very intelligent guy in the ring. That's why he's been able to get away with losing it a little bit."
He hasn't lost anything financially. According to Showtime's press release, Mayweather's latest agreement with the network is the "richest individual athlete deal in all of sports" -- even though the details are "contractually confidential." Guerrero's cut is also confidential. So it could all be typical boxing hooey. On the other hand, financial records of Mayweather's past fights do exist. And his fight with Miguel Cotto last year, also on Cinco De Mayo weekend, grossed more than $90 million. That's why, when Guerrero first saw one of Mayweather's wild rants, the initial reaction wasn't shock.
"It was more like, 'There goes another guy acting like a nutcase,' " Guerrero said. "But I give him this -- he sells it. That's why he's the highest paid athlete in the world."
Guerrero then stood up to leave the restaurant. But it should be noted that before he exited the Denny's front door, a local resident did indeed come up and bother him. Sort of.
"Do it for us in May, Guerrero," the man said.
Guerrero nodded and smiled. He looked more than ready to ride the roller coaster.