YOU can fool some of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time. Floyd Mayweather Jnr should remember that next time he says something ridiculous like, “I’m the greatest athlete in the world.”

Not only is Mayweather Jnr not great, he turned in a dreadful performance in outpointing huge underdog Carlos “Famoso” Hernandez, though damaged his hands in the process.

The scores were unanimous and one-sided: 119-110 (Bobby Watson), 117-110 (Marty Sammon) and 116-112 (Peter Trematera), but the performance was so bad that it was like going to a Luciano Pavarotti concert and Vanilla Ice shows up instead.

“It was a rough night,” admitted the jaded WBC super-featherweight champion. “I hurt my left hand, then the right. I came into the fight with two messed-up hands, but I wanted to put on a good show.”

Since this isn’t kickboxing, that was not possible.

Mayweather’s hands didn’t appear particularly swollen when he removed his gloves, though he added: “My hands felt good – halfway. Then I hit him on top of the head.”

That was in the sixth round and Mayweather flinched so badly he nearly twisted to the deck. One glove touched the canvas and referee Dale Grable ruled a knockdown, even if Mayweather had not been hit.

“I tried to run and pitty-pat my way to a decision,” said Floyd. But this doesn’t explain why he stumbled around as he constantly switched stance, nor why he looked bad before his injuries occurred.

The most honest comment he made was to admit: “I’m still learning.”

Maybe he is, but Mayweather has signed a multi-million dollar deal with HBO and is earning $2m per fight (to Hernandez’s $210,000) – hardly apprenticeship money.

Five years after the Olympics and despite the absurd hype, Mayweather is not the fighter he is supposed to be.

Promoter Bob Arum can crank out press releases and HBO’s Jim Lampley can make excuses for him, but the homecoming crowd of 9,160 at the Van Andel Arena knew what they saw and showered Floyd with boos.

“HBO thought they bought a Rolex,” said one hardened promoter, “but what they got is Timex.”

Five years after Muhammad Ali won the 1960 Olympics, he was unquestionably the best fighter in the world. Five years after Sugar Ray Leonard’s brilliance was on display at the 1976 Olympics, he gave dazzling performances routinely before he battled back from the brink to stop Thomas Hearns.

Maybe Mayweather Jnr looked outstanding as he vanquished Diego Corrales in January, but when you have looked bad in two of your last three fights, that is hardly qualification for being better than Roy Jones, Shane Mosley and Felix Trinidad.

At 24, with 26 pro fights under his belt, how long is Mayweather supposed to be a “prospect”?

From the first bell, Floyd boxed a very tight, cautious fight. He has never learned how to fully relax. You can’t be a great boxer until you do.

Sugar Ray Robinson’s punches just flowed. So did Leonard’s and Ali’s. Roy Jones’ shots came in wide, hellish bursts, but if Mayweather’s blows seemed laser-like in the earliest stages, he still punched at Hernandez, not through him, and got by on natural speed, not technique.

Hernandez (9st 2 1/2lbs), who fights out of Bellflower, California – the old stomping ground of the late Jerry Quarry – was just a tough, straight ahead fringe contender.

Barely a minute into round one, Mayweather got his feet all tangled up and badly fell off balance. He did it a couple more times during the fight. Mayweather swiped three fast left hooks, but moved around with his chin alarmingly high.

When Floyd’s jab thudded into Hernandez’s sombre face, the punches were so quick, even the spectators could not see them coming.

Mayweather has remarkable reflexes, but just doesn’t glide when he moves. His lightning punches come in frenetic, off-rhythm bursts. With his speed, Mayweather should have a superb jab, but after stabbing it reluctantly, he twirled his left or waved it, then wasted more time by showboating for the crowd.

By the second, the unheralded challenger clumped a good right to the pristine face of “Pretty Boy Floyd”. Mayweather countered with a fast, hard flurry. Floyd has the foot-speed to get away with keeping his chin up – but he was not in a position to box or punch, and Hernandez kept slogging ahead, giving him a surprisingly hard fight.

Though few believed Carlos could go the distance as Mayweather’s blows bounced off his face, the native of El Salvador showed a good chin. In 37 bouts, he had never hit the deck.

As the challenger weaved in low, Mayweather scorched him with a fast hook. Flush shots like this were few and far between. Floyd punched downstairs, but tended to slap widely.

Mayweather was breaking loose, ripping off more blows inside and kept nullifying his huge boxing advantage by not staying outside.

By the third, the challenger’s face was starting to swell. Three hard left hooks and uppercuts thumped loudly as Floyd played a pretty tune up and down.

With a minute to go, Mayweather rocked his challenger with a right. As he manically upped the tempo, three more wicked left hooks sent the challenger falling back. Hernandez gamely chopped and slugged his way back and Floyd’s regal nose was bleeding at the bell.

Hernandez bolted out for the fourth, rushing Mayweather to the ropes. Floyd scored with hard combinations, then moved in a circle and ambushed Hernandez with a stiff jab, repeatedly catching him in the face.

The champion’s punches, however, were also straying low and Grable, a Michigan referee, hadn’t even issued a warning.

With the match one-third over, there was no question Mayweather was winning, but that was not good enough – he had to win big.

After all, he is supposed to be the future of boxing.

By the fifth, with fans grumbling in their seats, Floyd flicked and moved but it was more like a game of tag, or “I can hit you – and you can’t hit me.”

Hernandez landed a solid right, but though Floyd went back to outpunching him in almost every skirmish, it wasn’t a stylish display.

Late in the round, Mayweather turned southpaw in an attempt to trick his way out of a corner, but Hernandez tagged him with a good right, a second right, then a third right.

Carlos continued to do much better than expected and the challenger closed out his best round, the fifth, by tagging Mayweather with another long right.

In the sixth, Floyd was trying to move, but it was obvious something was wrong as he shook his right hand. Mayweather’s hand problems had been rumoured before the fight, but when Floyd nailed the gutsy challenger with a good left hook near the ropes, his left seemed just fine.

Hernandez froze for a second near the strands, looked as if he might go down, then Floyd unloaded some more powerful shots.

With a good, fast jab. Mayweather would have won more easily, but he kept standing around, not knowing what to do, until he finally threw a punch. Suddenly, in delayed reaction, Mayweather twisted almost to the canvas as he turned away. Though Hernandez hadn’t thrown a blow, Grable called it a knockdown because the champion’s left glove touched the canvas. Here, he’d definitely hurt his hand.

By round seven, it was obvious that Joel Casamayor would have beaten Mayweather – the WBA champion must be chomping at the bit for a fight. Not only was Floyd more jerky than fluid, Grable barked at him, “Close your hand!”

As Mayweather began moving back and forth, just trying to run out the clock, he looked lousy as Hernandez continued to scuffle away. With Floyd’s hands obviously bothering him now, all he would do was stiff-arm the challenger, then scurry away.

“My right hand’s killing me,” moaned Mayweather as he slumped on his stool. But why wasn’t he using his jab?

In the eighth, Carlos abruptly hurtled to the deck in his zeal to get at the American, but as Floyd crudely threw a right jab from portside, this championship clash looked like novice night at the Golden Gloves.

With the crowd grumbling, Mayweather was going to have real problems coming back. If he was in such distress, as he later maintained, why did he bellow to a friend, when he was on his stool, while uncle-trainer Roger Mayweather tried to give him instructions? In the ninth, as Floyd skittered back and forth, throwing pitty-pats, there were loud boos. This was one hell of a homecoming.

By the 10th, it was obvious Floyd needed a better trainer. The Mayweather clan have battled among themselves to keep it “all in the family”.

But when your chin is high and you won’t listen to your trainer between rounds, it is time for a taskmaster to take over.

It’s probably too late, but Mayweather is not going to reach his potential like this. He is just not improving.

Floyd kept trying his frenetic little flurries, but there was nothing on these punches, and he kept stepping all over himself as he switched from orthodox to southpaw. As the challenger continued to plod forward, really just a glorified club fighter, he landed a surprising amount of leather.

But bad hands or not, Mayweather cannot be considered a great fighter because of the way he slapped, swiped and scurried away.

At the end of the 11th, Grable called the doctor in to look at Hernandez. He had a big welt on his forehead, but hadn’t taken a real beating.

It was as if the referee wanted to save the champion the humiliation of going to the cards. By now, even Lampley was calling this “an ugly fight”.

In the 12th, with his legs wide apart, Mayweather flitted back and forth like a novice. Boos rained down again and Hernandez, 33-3-1 (32), was justly docked a point for slamming the champion with an elbow.

“A good thing for Mayweather he wasn’t in there with (Jesus) Chavez,” said Larry Merchant of HBO.