The wait to figure out who Floyd Mayweather will beat next is over, and the choice, announced Monday, is Marcos Maidana. It was always down to two men, Maidana and Amir Khan, and an impatient, overeager, petulant Khan deliberately removed himself from the competition last week, declaring, laughably, that Mayweather was scared — a failed attempt to save face when it looked like Madana would get the call for the May 3 Showtime pay-per-view gig.
Despite the opening sentence's submission to the foregone conclusion, Maidana (at right) proactively established himself as the most viable available option at welterweight, whereas Khan did not. Khan scraped by his last opponent, Julio Diaz, nearly a year ago in his debut above 140 pounds. Maidana bashed his way into the Mayweather fight with a hard-nosed defeat of Mayweather's "little brother," second rate Mayweather clone and protege Adrien Broner.
Other welterweight options weren't options for one reason or another. Manny Pacquiao still isn't an option for Mayweather, so long as Pacquiao remains with Top Rank Promotions, and probably forever anyway, because Mayweather has never wanted the fight and neither have various other people attached to the two men. Other Top Rank-affiliated fighters are also therefore out. Shawn Porter is more highly ranked at 147, but not by much, and he only recently arrived as a real contender, whereas Maidana — as the news release points out repeatedly — is Latino and has the marketable storyline of having beaten Mayweather's buddy.
There are better Mayweather opponents in other divisions, too. They just aren't on the cards yet. Junior middleweight Erislandy Lara is widely viewed as the biggest threat to Mayweather in the division where his is the lineal champion, but his fan base is small and therefore brings little money to the table. Middleweight champion Sergio Martinez would make an attractive opponent both from a competitive standpoint and marketability standpoint, if Mayweather dared to venture that high in weight or if Martinez could be lured over from HBO, but there's little indicator either is likely.
So Mayweather had a poll on his website between Khan and Maidana. Khan won, which everyone interpreted as meaning Mayweather wanted to fight Khan next, since every other poll on every other website selected Maidana. But maybe Mayweather wised up when he saw the fan reaction; Khan might have a bigger name, he might even have beaten Maidana himself, he might even have had more of a chance somehow based on his length and speed. But most people didn't really believe the shaky-chinned Khan had a prayer given the degeneration of his skills and multiple losses since the Maidana win, and maybe the notion that the Pakistani/Brit would bring a U.K. fan base or Middle East fan base was a fantasy.
The Argentinian Maidana does bring a Latino angle, although it's not like his countrymen or Americans of Argentinian descent have really translated into massive TV ratings. He also brings rugged power, unholy intent, ugly tattoos and demonic determination. Although improved under the tutelage of Robert Garcia (and in alliance with controversial strength and conditioning coach Alex Ariza — one assumes there will be advanced testing in place for performance enhancing drugs), Maidana is positively paleolithic compared to Mayweather. It's one thing for Maidana to have kicked the ass of a blown-up welterweight with questionable work habits like Broner, an impressive feat given the athletic and boxing advantages Broner had; it's an entirely different task to do that to Mayweather, the best fighter in the world today.
We'll see how much the perception of Mayweather's inevitable win hurts the PPV buy rate. The perception of the threat posed by Canelo Alvarez (which proved a flawed perception) helped propel that card to no worse than the second biggest PPV ever. Plenty of Mayweather fights have sold well when Mayweather was the heavy favorite, but it doesn't exactly help, and some of those fights against big underdogs at least featured big names. That's not Maidana. And the choice of Maidana comes late for promotional purposes — about as late as when he picked Robert Guerrero, who shared Maidana's lack of name recognition and underdog status, and whom Showtime and Golden Boy Promotions have argued somewhat unconvincincly did 1 million buys with Mayweather. Each of those factors — the perception of an inevitable win, the late hour of the choice of opponent and the lack of name recognition for said opponent — should do damage to sales.
In a year where boxing is off to a slow start, you could play the optimist and celebrate that between his two choices, Mayweather made the right pick. Or you could play the pessimist, and shake your head that boxing's in such a state where you're mildly pleased about an outcome like this. Or if you really wanted to get fanciful, you could play the dreamer, and imagine a world where Maidana takes out two of boxing's biggest villainous characters in succession.