THE atmosphere as Floyd Mayweather Jr. made his way to the plush ring of the MGM Grand in Las Vegas resembled a circus, complete with confetti and dancing clowns. Unfortunately for Mayweather, Argentinean Marcos ‘Chino’ Maidana was not in the mood to perform a trapeze act.
World Boxing Association (WBA) welterweight champ Maidana, a huge underdog going in, was all business during the fight proper, making his welterweight (147 pounds) unification showdown with World Boxing Council (WBC) counterpart Mayweather anything but a laughing matter. Maidana bulldozed his way into Mayweather’s air-tight defense and turned the ring into a cauldron. Maidana promised a street brawl before the bout and he definitely walked the talk as he crowded Mayweather and stuck to him like a deodorant.
In the collective opinion of fight experts, the bout was dead-even after eight rounds. A clash of heads in the fourth round opened a cut on Mayweather’s eye and by the sixth round, he was being instructed by his cornermen to plant his feet and let his fists fly. It was a distress call, what with Maidana looking very good.
Maidana was effective in the first half of the fight by unloading one overhand right after another. There is a reason why Maidana favored the overhand right: the punch, thrown in a looping manner, landed way above Mayweather’s shoulder and on the top of his head, negating the American’s shoulder block/roll defensive maneuver. In between rounds, trainer Roberto Garcia repeatedly reminded Maidana that “your overhand right is a weapon” and Maidana responded by throwing it with homicidal intention.
Mayweather, however, is not a ring genius for nothing. The undefeated WBC champ made the necessary adjustments to temper Maidana’s wild assaults. Maidana often crouched and weaved his way inside before throwing his dreaded overhand right. Mayweather responded by planting his feet and throwing punches pulled from underneath the moment Maidana started to weave inside. The specific instruction from Mayweather’s corner was for him to sit on his punches and dig underneath, and the fighter followed it to the letter. Throwing short left hooks and right uppercuts thrown from his hip, Mayweather started catching an incoming and crouching Maidana with alarming frequency. Whenever he got trapped along the ropes, Mayweather locked Maidana’s arms and pivoted away to dodge further damage.
The problem with throwing plenty of overhand rights is that it quickly drains a fighter’s fuel tank. Predictably, Maidana started slowing down in the ninth stanza as Mayweather started to block and pick up his punches with his gloves. It was at this juncture when Mayweather stepped up his offense and began landing clean and nifty combinations. By the 10th frame, a frustrated Maidana tried to provoke Mayweather by motioning the latter to stop moving and brawl with him. Mayweather stuck to his plan and started teeing off with his right hand. To his credit, Maidana was still swinging for the fence when the bell ending the 12th and final round sounded.
The scorecards reflected the closeness of the fight. Judge Michael Pernick scored it 114-114, a draw. Dave Moretti scored it 116-112 for Mayweather while Burt Clements posted an outrageous score of 117-111 also in favor of Mayweather to give Floyd the victory by majority decision. This writer scored it 116-112 for Mayweather, but a stalemate was also acceptable as the fight was really that close. A draw, however, would have meant that somebody was as good as Mayweather in one fight and this would have sullied the American’s claim of being unbeatable. Former heavyweight champion Rocky Marciano retired with a perfect 49-0 record, with no fighter holding him to a stalemate.
Post-fight statistics showed that Mayweather threw half as many punches as Maidana (425 to 858), but he was the more accurate, landing nine more. It is worth noting though that the 221 punches Maidana landed against Mayweather were the most in Floyd’s last 38 fights, proof that that Mayweather’s defense is no longer that impenetrable.
For the second consecutive time, Mayweather did not pitch a shutout and managed only to win by majority decision. Last year, Mayweather also eked out a majority decision against Mexican Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez, with one judge also ruling the bout a draw. Then again, many thought that the scoring in the Alvarez fight was flawed and that Mayweather really deserved a unanimous verdict for outboxing the overrated Mexican. In stark contrast, the Maidana fight was really close.
Mayweather improved to 46-0 with 26 knockouts in his toughest fight to date. Based on the contract he signed with Showtime, Mayweather is obligated to fight again in September. He has expressed interest in a rematch and even challenged Maidana to an impromptu fight during the profanity-laced post-fight conference. Not to be outdone, Maidana bragged that he would have won had he been allowed to use his preferred Everlast gloves. Mayweather objected to the gloves because it offered less padding on the knuckle area, a factor that would have definitely favored the hard-punching Maidana.
A rematch is not a lock considering Mayweather’s penchant to change his mind. As Oscar De La Hoya pointed out, he had a rematch clause with Mayweather when he lost by split-decision to the latter in 2007. According to De La Hoya, the rematch clause was good for one year, but Mayweather retired for one year and one day, thus cleverly dodging a return encounter with the Golden Boy. Panamanian legend Roberto Duran, who thought Maidana deserved the decision, believes that Mayweather will run if the rematch happens.
It is clear from the Maidana fight that Mayweather is no longer the same fighter. Then again, Mayweather also showed in the fight that it will still take a Herculean effort to actually beat him. Maidana gave it his all but still fell short. While Mayweather’s defense showed loopholes early on, it still held up in the trenches. Mayweather was not that fast with his fists in the fight, but he remains accurate.
At age 37, Mayweather’s clock is ticking fast. Amid the avalanche of criticisms he is receiving lately, a fight with Manny Pacquiao is the best route to take for Mayweather to silence everybody. Then again, the moment he realizes that Maidana is the safer pick, look for Mayweather to settle for the Argentinian.