So I asked the TQBR team — Patrick Connor, Matthew Swain, Tim Starks, Andrew Harrison, Jeff Pryor and Sam Sheppard — whether they thought Saturday’s fight is going to be competitive, and that’s the look they gave me. The Roundtable is virtual (we all live in different parts of the world), but I assume they were all wearing bow ties, animal print dinner jackets and rhinestone-encrusted sunglasses. Apart from their sartorial flair, these gents are some of the best boxing writers going round, and what they have to say about Floyd Mayweather and Marcos Maidana is really illuminating:
What will be different in the rematch, if anything, and what impact will it have on the fight?
Patrick: If we’re going by the (somewhat rough) statistics, the fighter who won the first match is more likely to win the second. If you apply that to a fighter so cerebral that he’s nearly precognitive, like Floyd Mayweather, I think that means Mayweather will poke holes in Maidana’s game sooner than he did the first time. Though the consensus score was close at about 7-5 in favor of Mayweather, many — myself included — felt that Floyd was simply more effective. Apart from better stamina for a more overwhelming output, I can’t see Maidana improving on his performance a whole lot.
Matthew: I agree with Patrick, in that Mayweather should be able to time Maidana earlier in this fight. I also agree that apart from improving his stamina, there isn’t much Maidana can do, but I think that plays to his advantage. Part of what made him so effective during the first half of their first fight was how awkward he is. Tightening his technique would only make it easier for Mayweather to counterpunch. If he can catch Mayweather with more of those over-over hand rights, hooks and body shots, he can have success. If I’m Robert Garcia, my game plan is to have him ready to go full honey badger for 12 rounds.
Tim: So far we’re all in agreement here: Mayweather has that gift for figuring out what his opponent is doing well and taking it away from him, as he did against Maidana the first time, albeit more slowly that usual, thanks to Maidana’s unintimidated, herculean exertion. That should carry over into this fight, too, only he’ll probably have one more advantage vis-a-vis changes from last time: He has complained so mightily about Maidana’s fouling last time that it will be very difficult for even the great referee Kenny Bayless to not pay attention to it and cut back on it earlier. This is why coaches in a seven-game team series make these gripes; even the best zebras can be susceptible to this kind of pressure, and it usually carries over to the very next game after they complain. Maidana’s main hope is that Mayweather has deteriorated further in the age department — which is possible at age 37 — because it’s hard to figure out how Maidana could be any more inspired for this fight.
Andrew: Not a lot, I’d wager. Robert Garcia has spoken about shortening Maidana’s right hand, which I’m guessing is mere brinksmanship: “Chino’s” arcing overhead right worked a treat for him in May, as it did for Jose Luis Castillo (albeit a tidier version), all those years ago.Maidana no longer has that subversion of expectations thing working for him either, and so isn’t likely to win as many rounds.
Jeff: I think Tim nailed the key component, which is that Maidana has to hope that Mayweather has further declined to make the difference, because we’ve never seen the tough Argentine fight better than he did on that night in May. And the type of fighter that he is, he really doesn’t have the ability to add many wrinkles to his game plan. It was a very close fight, but if there is any difference in the rematch, it will all happen on Mayweather’s side, either being more focused and smart or perhaps just a touch more shopworn and older.
Sam: I can’t see things playing out differently unless Floyd’s legs truly have gone — as Freddie Roach has impartially claimed. Otherwise I see it as a repeat of the second half of the first fight, where he found the groove and more or less won every round.
And I agree with Andrew in terms of Chino’s tactics. I’d be very surprised if the Garcia camp actually tried to change the way he throws the right hand. As they’re so fond of saying: “that’s his punch, man!”
Alex: Wish I had something new to add, but I have to agree with the boys on virtually everything. Mayweather is a cold bastard in the ring, and he’ll have Maidana’s number a lot sooner this time round. It could get quite painful to watch. I’d just add that if I were Robert Garcia, I’d be making so much more noise about Floyd’s elbows and forearms to counter the Mayweather camp complaints about Maidana’s alleged dirtiness. The sway-the-ref effect can work both ways.
If Maidana were somehow to defeat Mayweather, what would it do for the reputations of both men?
Patrick: Mayweather has already chiseled his claim as an “all-time great” fighter in stone. His ledger could have been better, but his dominance has been impressive. A loss would sting, but it would produce a huge rubber match and finally create a foil for a fighter previously considered unbeatable. For Maidana, he would become an instant celebrity, in addition to his status as a fighter skyrocketing.
Matthew: If that happened, I would shit myself. I’m just throwing that out there. That’s how excited I would be.
Long term, I think it doesn’t hurt Mayweather’s reputation. As Patrick said, he has already established himself as an all time great. Short term, he would take a hit. I imagine it would be something like when Pacquiao got flattened by Marquez. There would be a great deal of teeth gnashing (and lots of sobbing from Leonard Ellerbe), but then everyone would chill the fuck out about it.
It would make Maidana a star, though I don’t sense that that is something he cares about at all.
Tim: It depends on the manner in which this theoretical Maidana victory happened. Is it because Maidana found even ANOTHER gear for this fight and Mayweather was “himself?” Then Maidana rockets into new esteem, although whether he can become a big star or not is hard to say, as South Americans have typically had a difficult path to U.S. stardom; on the other hand, I never thought a Filipino would become such a big U.S. star. And some people will say of Mayweather, “See, he finally fought someone who wasn’t intimidated by him, and this is what happened.” They said it about Mike Tyson, and I’m not of the mind that there’s much similarity between these situations other than that part of it, but both were viewed as somewhat unbeatable until they were beaten. On the other hand, if Mayweather looks old, then Maidana won’t get as much credit and Mayweather won’t get dinged as much. It’s not fair but it’s how people think.
Andrew: If Mayweather were to stumble now, I don’t think it wouldn’t hammer his reputation. Roy Jones was every bit as imperious once until his disastrous late-career slump.After pounding Broner, then Mayweather, Maidana would probably win a Nobel Prize. The Twitter memes would be glorious. I’m still laughing at “Floyd, they jumped me,” and the picture of Maidana sporting a tattoo of Broner’s face (in place of that baby’s face) on his chest (“This is my son”).Too much to hope for, surely?
Jeff: Maidana would come out looking like a modern day Rocky, but the story would really be about Mayweather and the end of an era. I think people are starting to acknowledge that Floyd may be further down the backside of his career than previously thought, so it wouldn’t be as massive a shock as it would have been several years ago. There’d be the inevitable redemption storyline in a rematch and beyond for him and a number of fighters would smell blood and the still-lucrative payday facing him would garner. Maidana would have his pick of suitors but would still not be an A-side caliber name. I think it would do less than shake up the world, but it would truly shift the landscape and potentially hasten the arrival of that ever elusive Pacquiao-Mayweather match.
Sam: I think it would do less damage to Floyd’s reputation than he thinks. In fact, I think there’s an argument to say that the L would do a lot of good for American boxing, where Floyd’s legacy ensures soft matchmaking for prospects and the veneration of the ‘0’ above all else. What it would do to his ego is another matter, of course.
I can’t imagine Chino would elicit much more than a shrug in the event of victory, before returning to Argentina, never having to buy another drink again.
Alex: I love Sam’s point about the cult of the “0.” It’s something that modern boxing really needs to get over. That said, I think a loss will be really bad for Mayweather — he’d never be the same draw again. His undefeated status is central to his whole schtick. It would blow welterweight and junior middleweight wide open, though.
What does it say about boxing/Mayweather/society in general that he’s the most lucrative figure in the sport despite all the allegations and convictions related to his violence against women?
Patrick: It says that Floyd Mayweather has somehow found a persona that speaks to consumers and entices them to buy him, as a product, no matter who he is in real life. He has succeeded in selling himself better than almost any other fighter the sport has seen, despite a number of serious character flaws that we are now seeing other major sports stars losing their careers over.
Matthew: At a certain level, it shows how culturally marginalized boxing has become in the U.S. The mainstream media, and mainstream sports journalists, are able to ignore it because he’s a fighter and boxing has always been considered the lawless territory of disreputable people.
Tim: Nothing good. Certainly the “boxing as red light district” phenomenon the gang pointed out is at play here. But overall, I’ve encountered people who are celebrating Mayweather even though they think he’s guilty; there’s a misogyny in our culture that’s reflected in Mayweather being as popular as he is. I do enjoy watching Mayweather ply his craft, which is the other half of why he’s popular, but there are people who love all of the shallow, even sometimes evil aspects of his persona (which isn’t entirely manufactured, so perhaps “evil aspects of his personality” is a better phrasing). There have been too many doubting fingers for my taste pointed at the women he has abused, so I want to make clear that it is 100% not their fault. But I do wish that everyone — women, men, everyone — that he mistreats and exploits, whether it’s by making them fight 25 minute rounds in his gym (this is a licensed promoter, dancing around in the ring at people being knocked out during sparring) or his virtual harem would, rather than caring so much about getting diamond-encrusted watches or whatever, step away from a bad human being and isolate him the way he deserves to be isolated. It might take that for him to change his ways, if he even can.
Andrew: Not only that (not that beating women isn’t sufficient reason for him to earn less than the obscene amounts he already does) he’s also devoid of charisma and wholly unlikeable. Personally, I don’t remotely understand Mayweather’s earning ability. He’s a great fighter, granted, but he’s hardly a compelling athlete. I suppose in an era where Kim Kardashian can be a modern-day Cleopatra, he fits right into the “I really wanna be rich, therefore I am” culture.
Jeff: I think boxing, by its nature a splintered sport without a sole entity to guide it’s image, has always done little to curb the notion that it’s a haven for violent men. As others here point out, the marginal interest in the sport at large and that historical proclivity for less-than-model behavior leads to more tolerance to these things in prizefighting. Mayweather in particular is at least partially lucrative because he is a polarizing figure that many can’t wait to see lose.
Sam: Floyd makes money because he’s a pantomime villain with supreme skills. When he crosses over into actual physical villainy it takes the shine of the comic persona. But all he need do is print a few more “TBE” shirts and make fun of Bob Arum to have the fans clamouring for him again.
In grimly predictable fashion, it shows that money decisively rules over character when it comes to sport. It’s by no means unique to boxing, but perhaps the violent nature of the discipline makes it somehow less gratuitous in the minds of certain fans. I’d be fascinated to see how a sport like tennis would react to the same events surrounding one of its stars, but I suspect I might dislike what I find.
Alex: It says that boxing’s disorganised as shit and society in general doesn’t take violence against women seriously at all. But you already knew that.