Marcos Maidana peeled himself off the canvas, the recipient of a vicious body shot from Amir Khan – the type of punch that usually ends fight, a pulverizing liver shot.
Maidana made it to the closing bell of the opening stanza, still grimacing in pain from the hard left he took moments earlier.
From then on, the Argentine brawler took the fight to Khan, dishing out vicious uppercuts and crushing hooks.
In the 10th, Maidana had Khan out on his feet but couldn’t put him down.
In the end, though, Maidana came up just short, losing a unanimous decision last year to the junior welterweight from Bolton, England — but it was the kind of performance that improved his stock in defeat.
Now, junior welterweight Maidana (29-2, 27 KOs) takes on a living legend: Mexican Erik Morales (51-6, 35 KOs), the last fighter to defeat Manny Pacquiao (HBO pay-per-view, 9 p.m. ET Saturday).
“I was very happy when I got the call for this fight. He’s a big name,” Maidana, 27, said in a recent media conference call. “He’s a very big name, well known throughout the world. We all know that he’s at the tail end of his career, but it should still be a very, very good fight.
“Obviously, it’s going to help my career tremendously fighting a legend like Morales, a guy with a big name like Morales. It’s another step in my career, to get more notoriety, and a bigger name for myself here in the United States.”
As Maidiana pointed out, Morales, 34, is past his prime, and many observers fear for the safety of the Mexican warrior, fighting a young man in Maidana who is a knockout artist, only two of his victories going the distance.
Regardless of Maidana being as much as a 6-1 favorite, he isn’t taking “El Terrible” lightly.
“Erik Morales is a good fighter. He’s a good boxer,” said “El Chino” Maidana of Buenos Aires, Argentina. “This is not going to be an easy fight. It’s going to be a tough fight. I think that it’s very important for me to win this fight.”
Maidana first arrived in the public consciousness with his upset victory over Victor Ortiz on HBO in 2009 – a fight of the year candidate.
Ortiz, undefeated at the time, dropped Maidana once in the opening round and twice in the 2nd. Madiana, unfazed, stormed back and dropped his counterpart in the first round, before closing the show in the 6th.
Maidana followed up that scintillating performance with a knockout of another undefeated fighter on HBO – Victor Cayo of the Domincan Republic. Maidana dropped him in the 1st with a crushing body blow and never let up, pressuring his opponent and again putting him on the canvas in round two, before finishing him off in the 6th.
Now, Maidana headlines a PPV for the first time, looking to add the biggest name to his resume. With an impressive win, big fights will loom for the Argentine power-puncher.