So continues our marathon coverage of one of the biggest bouts of 2014, Floyd Mayweather vs. Marcos Maidana, on May 3 on Showtime Pay-Per-View. Previously: the basics of Mayweather-Maidana; TQBR Radio on Mayweather-Maidana; the undercard, previewed;keys to the fight; a staff roundtable. Next: the Ultimate Guide.
In the days before Floyd Mayweather and Marcos Maidana meet at center ring Saturday night, the promotion has taken on an air of desperation. Mayweather has grifted cheap headlines by threatening retirement, by implausibly proposing he will buy the Los Angeles Clippers and most shamelessly of all, publicly claiming that he parted with his ex-fiance over her having an abortion, complete with sonogram pictures — a tacky innovation in publicity akin to car dealership air dancers, if they were also morally repugnant.
That desperation stems from Maidana’s own. Viewed as a hopeless underdog by the vast majority of boxing fans, and as the most hopeless Mayweather opponent in a long while by Las Vegas, Maidana’s perceived slim chances of winning are playing a considerable role in dousing the buzz that usually accompanies a Mayweather fight.
And the chances are indeed slim. The desperation is ugly, but it comes from a real place, in other words. There might be a path to victory for Maidana — it’s just more like the road to El Dorado than Route 66.
Consider what Maidana shares in common with a number of men who, at times, have troubled Mayweather. Maidana is an aggressive, hard-hitting pressure fighter. So was Jose Luis Castillo, the only person who can claim he deserved a decision over Mayweather. Ricky Hatton and Miguel Cotto had their moments by keeping Mayweather busy, not letting him breathe easily or set the pace. Others have troubled Mayweather by other means — Shane Mosley and Zab Judah did it with speed, Judah and DeMarcus Corley did it with a southpaw stance, Oscar De La Hoya did it with size and a jab — but Maidana is less like them and more like Castillo, Hatton and Cotto.
Yet Maidana is different from Castillo, Hatton and Cotto in some very key ways, mostly not for the better. All of them were better technicians than Maidana. All of them had faster hands and feet, and all of them had superior stamina. It isn’t just pressure that troubled Mayweather in those fights: It was the means of applying it consistently, be it with speed or intelligence or endurance superior to Maidana’s or all three. Maidana is the slowest opponent Mayweather has faced since he met fellow Argentine Carlos Baldomir, and all the pressure in the world by Baldomir did nothing for him. He disappears for stretches of fights. And while trainer Robert Garcia has taught him a trick or two, you’ll still find more nuance in a Katy Perry song.
Where he differs from that trio in a good way or two: His awkwardness might make him more unpredictable, and he hits harder at 147 than Hatton did at 147, than Cotto did at 154 or with a single punch than Castillo did at 135. Yet he doesn’t hit so hard that he takes people out with one shot. Maidana pounded on Adrien Broner all night, hitting him more frequently than he’ll ever hit Mayweather, and managed to drop him twice but not finish him. He might not even ever hurt Mayweather if he hits him cleanly — Mayweather is a longtime welterweight, whereas Broner doesn’t belong in the division and was contending there for only the second time.
Maidana badly needs a wild card. Somehow, in training, he needs to have become significantly faster or have learned a whole slew of tactics Mayweather hasn’t seen before. Even then, he’ll still be much slower than Mayweather, and Mayweather usually adapts to anything that works on him within a couple rounds, tops. Another wild card could be, say, incapacitating Mayweather with fouls. Unfortunately, there’s more “even then” for Maidana: People who have tried to rough up Mayweather have found themselves roughed up even worse. And a final wild card might be that Mayweather, at 37 and sincerely contemplating retirement (which he probably isn’t), has suddenly become 50 percent worse thanks to age and disinterest. Not bloody likely. In his last fight, Mayweather turned in one of the best performances of his career against a 23-year-old Canelo Alvarez.
For those who want to see a competitive fight out of Mayweather-Maidana, then, the most we can probably hope for is that Maidana manages to shake up Mayweather once or twice, or wins a few rounds thanks to sheer aggression.
More likely, we’ll see Mayweather glide out of harm’s way and punish Maidana with counters the more aggressive he gets. Don’t count on Maidana remaining aggressive all night; it’s not his nature, and Mayweather, despite not hitting terribly hard, has a way of draining the life from his opponents with accumulated physical punishment and desperate mental anguish. A knockout is not out of the question if Maidana does go for broke.
Some thinking about the nature of desperation is that it is an agent of inspiration and change. So far, all the desperation of Mayweather-Maidana has offered is repugnance. It is unlikely to lead to anything more fulfilling Saturday night than another Mayweather romp, which has appeal to a certain kind of fan, to be sure, but for the rest, inspiration will have to await elsewhere.