Welcome to fight week for Floyd Mayweather, where ugly-spectacle-as-promotional-hype builds up to his sublime perfection in the ring. How low can Mayweather sink, in the department of self-marketing? Low enough to, as a convicted woman beater, to capitalize on the publicity he gets from defending Ray Rice, for instance, this past week. Last time, it was promoting his ex-fiancee’s abortion.
Ideally the grotesque qualities could be set aside and we could just focus on a rematch of what was a pretty quality fight the first time around against Marcos Madaina, but that’s not how this has worked with Mayweather. The first fight was no smashing success financially, by Mayweather standards, and the promotion smacked of desperation. Despite how unexpectedly closely Maidana fought Mayweather the first time, the desperation is no less pronounced for the rematch, in part due to the lack of marketability to the general audience of Maidana himself and secondarily due to the wide consensus that Mayweather will use his cyborg intellect to dismantle Maidana in the way he did late in the first match.
Interestingly, Maidana is as crude inside the ring as Mayweather is outside it, so it’s not as if the bout itself is undynamic dramatically. Maidana gave Mayweather the best challenge he faced since Miguel Cotto, who gave Mayweather his best challenge since Jose Luis Castillo or depending on your perspective, Oscar De La Hoya. It’s not a bad fight. It’s the best fight Mayweather could take outside of Manny Pacquiao. It’s just that Maidana remains a big underdog this Saturday on Showtime pay-per-view, and one whose name with a mainstream audience is entirely dependent on his success the first time against Mayweather. So we get the old “domestic violence as boxing promotion” gag, unsavorily enough. And alas, it probably will work, at least more than any other tactic might have.
Let’s try to take our mind off the extracurriculars for the time being anyway. Let’s just talk boxing.
Mayweather is as good as it gets, right now. He’s nearly as good as it gets in many eras. The problem is that he hasn’t fought in the era of, say, Sugar Ray Leonard, Thomas Hearns and Roberto Duran, the last great vintage of welterweight (with Oscar De La Hoya/Felix Trinidad et al having an argument for same), plus the best opponent of his era in this weight class is Pacquiao, and he hasn’t mustered that. It makes it harder to comprehend how great he is — you can speculate about his excellence, and there’s ample evidence of it, but only up to a point.
Maidana’s crudeness, to a certain degree, demonstrates the limitations of this edition of Mayweather. You will find various estimations of the degree of the 37-year-old Floyd’s decline, yet in some measure Maidana’s caveman-like qualities speak to that. It’s also possible that, historically, Maidana, as an unpredictable, mauling and undauntable power-punching maniac, represents the ideal threat to the kind of slickster Mayweather is.
As we discussed in the roundtable, however, there is wide consensus that Mayweather will have solved the Maidana puzzle. Mayweather has never seen a wild right hand like Maidana throws. After the first four rounds or so, he saw it coming and got hit with it less. Maidana trainer Robert Garcia can say they’ll shorten the glide path all he wants, but Maidana, despite adding some nuance under Garcia, isn’t suddenly going to outbox Mayweather or arrive at similar technical expertise. Maidana’s best chance relies on a few things, many of them the same: his odd angles; his stamina; his refusal to be intimidated; his power; and his mauling.
Let’s take them one by one. Mayweather, as stated already, has seen Maidana’s odd angles and will be anticipating them. More conventional angles, mixed with the usual wild ones, might make Maidana more unpredictable, but relying on one or the other would be fatal for Maidana.
It’s almost impossible to imagine his stamina being better than last time. The Maidana plan involves pacing himself better. That might give him a better chance of winning late rounds, as he faded some. It might also make it harder for him to win any rounds at all. Even at his best, Maidana won few rounds ultra-definitively the first time.
Power was enough to make Mayweather think twice about opening up, but Maidana never once rocked Mayweather. If other things go Mayweather’s way this time, it would mean trouble for Maidana, unless somehow he’s figured out a way to boost the power of his shots or land heavy ones at the right moment.
The refusal to be intimidated remains. Maidana didn’t fade late because he was flustered, the way some other Mayweather opponents have been. He faded late because he went all-out early, and because Mayweather’s stamina is a reliable metronome. Even if Mayweather rocks Maidana this time, Maidana is not the kind to be cowed. It could take a couple rounds for him to ramp up again. Not much more than that.
Mauling is going to be harder. As I mentioned in the roundtable, it’s going to take an extraordinary feat of subconscious denial for referee Kenny Bayless to ignore all of Mayweather’s lobbying about Maidana’s fouls. Maidana scored fairly plenty in the first fight. On the other hand, his mauling enabled some of his offense. If he can do less, he’ll be at a tactical disadvantage.
All of that is enough to believe that Mayweather will win more easily this time. To be sure, few expected the first fight to be that close, so we can surmise Maidana might exceed expectations again. If Mayweather’s legs have deteriorated further since last time, we can surmise that Maidana can fare better this time, too. Both points have no evidence to commend them.
The safest bet — the most rational one — is that Mayweather wins again this time, without as much trouble as last time. Maidana will never be an easy evening for anyone if he’s focused (only the Devon Alexander loss was so definitive, during a period where Maidana appeared to lack fire), and whatever you make of the paunch he showed not long ago in the face-off videos, he’ll have to get “up” for this fight at least nearly as much as the first one. But Mayweather defuses a bomb better than anyone, so if Maidana won four to six rounds last time, figure he wins half that amount this time.
And the cycle renews — Mayweather awes us with his excellence in the ring, then repulses some of us with his monstrosity outside it.