(May 3, 2014; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Marcos Maidana punches against Floyd Mayweather Jr. during their fight at MGM Grand. Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)
We came so very close to history Saturday night. Had Marcos Maidana defeated Floyd Mayweather on Showtime Pay-Per-View, it would have been the biggest upset in boxing at the top of the sport since unheralded James “Buster” Douglas toppled the invincible Mike Tyson 24 years ago. Such occasions, even a near miss such as the one we just got, tend to rewrite the story of a fighter’s career, at least with scribbles and scratches if not wholesale script doctoring. Tyson never regained what he lost against Douglas that night, a halving of esteem from human to superhuman levels that he reinforced with a jail trip and subsequent defeats. It is early yet for Mayweather, in these moments after his almost-loss to Maidana, and nothing so dramatic and definitive happened in Mayweather-Maidana as what happened in Douglas-Tyson. You can still see the talk without much searching: Perhaps he wouldn’t have fared so well against various historic boxers, if this is how he did with a fighter as simple as Maidana; perhaps the nearest rival of his generation, Manny Pacquiao, would have beaten him after all.
The talk is natural, and not as hysteric as sometimes occurs when a fighter who had cemented an elite reputation encounters a setback. Mayweather’s lifetime of in-ring excellence demands that this chatter is muffled, although the fact that he himself erroneously talks up his “TBE: The Best Ever” catchphrase means that he has set a higher standard than some others. When considering a boxer’s place in the firmament, it makes sense to consider the circumstances of a troublesome outing such as this one; maybe it will one day be more than a scribble on Mayweather’s ledger, a whole chapter devoted to that other Mayweather catchphrase, the supposedly uncrackable “MayVinci Code,” or perhaps it is a road bump around the bend from the completion of an undefeated career. So that is what we will do.
- Mayweather’s performance, and Maidana’s. These two things are directly related. The elements Maidana didn’t appear to have enough of to make his wild, crazed attack from all kinds of unconventional angles work this well were: A. consistent stamina; and B. boxing ability. He had enough stamina to win the first half of the fight and remain competitive over the back half. Before, Maidana has disappeared in stretches. This time, he faded some but never went away. It’s one of the reasons CompuBox recorded him hitting Mayweather more than he has ever been punched in a single fight. And don’t underestimate a small number of boxing tricks he did to aid his performance. He jabbed his way inside to back Mayweather up into a crucial posture against the ropes, then started feinting a jab to the same end, and he moved his head enough defensively that he wasn’t getting constantly stopped in his tracks by flush shots. This was a very solid performance by Maidana, abetted by a good game plan from trainer Robert Garcia (which included explicit directions to fight dirty — not exactly praiseworthy from a sportsmanship standpoint, but what Maidana needed to do to win [besides the low blows and the tackling and punching him while they went between the ropes, the attempted knee to the face in a clinch was particularly devilish in its conception]). It’s hard to imagine Maidana being in this good of shape again in his whole life, to be this motivated, even in a rematch. But if they did it again he could use his left hook more and take a half step back here and there when cornering Mayweather. The problem is, it would be hard to catch Mayweather by surprise again the next time. He “figured out” Maidana as soon as he slowed down a touch, getting better at anticipating all the unconventional shots. His strength and conditioning didn’t abandon him at all, the way they did a little for Maidana. His legs did, somewhat, and that’s not surprising at age 37 — but let’s not forget that his legs didn’t look that great in the last fight where he encountered this much pressure, against Miguel Cotto, so Maidana gets some credit for that. He also took too long to get going, as though he assumed that Maidana would start fading the way everybody else does. And Mayweather’s lobbying of referee Tony Weeks led to Weeks breaking them more quickly as the fight went on, although Mayweather also did a better job late than early of tying up Maidana fully so he couldn’t attack with a free hand, forcing Weeks’ decision. The head butt-induced cut was a surprise, given the imperviousness of his skin to date, and Mayweather confessed between rounds that he couldn’t see, at least for a time.
- Post-fight remarks. Nobody, though, buys the notion that Mayweather fought this way on purpose to give the fans a show, as he claimed afterward. The last time he had a fight this hard, against Cotto, he switched trainers from offensive-minded uncle Roger to his defensive-minded father. Mayweather doesn’t like getting punched, and not in the usual sense that nobody does — he has spent his whole career downplaying the valor of taking shots for the entertainment of others, decrying it as simple stupidity. Nor did I fully agree with Mayweather’s criticism of Weeks afterward, after saying, “I’m not here to complain about Tony Weeks, but…” Weeks let Maidana get away with some fouling, to be sure. He also let Mayweather get away with the same, namely excessive holding and his usual elbowing and forearming. Neither man quite did enough of any one kind of foul to command a point deduction, not that I would’ve objected. It was refreshing to see what happened in a fight where a Mayweather opponent was allowed to work on the inside for a spell — Ricky Hatton wasn’t given the privilege, for instance. Mayweather basically spent the whole post-fight press conference being disingenuous and evasive. He was gracious to a point, complimenting Maidana on his performance and his new child, then getting dispensing with the graciousness by finishing with “next time don’t hit me in the dick so much.” Maidana zinged him back, telling him, “next time let me use my gloves.” (There might be a slight bit of disingenuous there from Maidana, too, considering he took a reported big payment to switch gloves. Whether using the gloves he wants next time would make a difference is unlikely, with the psychological edge and the apparent ill-fit probably not enough to do more than a smidge.) On the evasive front, Mayweather never answered the question about why Mayweather didn’t put it in the contract to wear the gloves he wanted Maidana to wear. Maidana summed up the whole affair in classic Maidana fashion: “Enough words. Just give me the fucking rematch.”
- Scoring. Most writers scored Mayweather-Maidana for Mayweather, putting me in the minority by scoring it a draw. It’s likely the case that whereas some people reflexively score fights for Mayweather simply because they’re used to him winning, there’s a countervailing force that causes people to score close rounds for his opponents just because they’re surprised that he’s getting a challenge. Maybe I fell into the latter group. Upon rewatching, I scored it the same, but found the 3rd, 4th and 5th to be closer than I thought at the time — all easily could’ve been Mayweather rounds. That said, while my 5-1 scorecard for Maidana was pretty rare, there were two even rarer scorecards among the judges who had Mayweather winning: They had Mayweather winning 4-2 through six. In a quick survey on Twitter, I found two people who had that card through the first half and a great many others who had every other kind. By the way, somehow the scorecards for this fight were identical to the scorecards for Mayweather’s last fight against Canelo Alvarez. That’s not weird or anything.
- Next for Mayweather and Maidana. While Mayweather continues to say he’s willing to rematch Maidana in September, it’s hard to believe he really wants that. Maidana does, of course, because money. For one, there’rs still some ambiguity about whether he really will continue his career. Outside of maybe Manny Pacquiao, there’s no obviously more competitive fight at 147 than Maidana. That “maybe” reflects the style differences between Maidana and Pacquiao. Pacquiao is faster and might hit harder, and his unorthodox angles might do some of the harm Maidana did. But he mixes attacking and counterpunching on offense, and struggles with counterpunchers on defense. Mayweather might hit Pacquiao less, even with Maidana’s defensive improvements, but we don’t know whether he’d take the shots better and be so relentless in the “not giving a fuck” style Maidana practiced so enthusiastically this past weekend. That’s fantasy, anyway — we won’t get that fight next, and more like never, not even with Muhammad Ali asking for it. Rafe Bartholomew makes a good case for seeing Mayweather in against someone different. We know it can’t be Amir Khan in September because of Ramadan. If not Maidana part two, if not retirement, then Shawn Porter becomes the next best option, and he’s about halfway between Maidana and Pacquiao in his pros and cons. Then there’s the off chance that Mayweather could face the winner of Sergio Martinez-Miguel Cotto for the middleweight championship; timing is the major problem there, with their fight still a ways off, although both men’s non-contractual yet still close ties to HBO could also be an issue. (Mayweather-Gennady Golovkin at 154 is an even bigger pipe dream than Mayweather-Pacquiao. Mayweather wants nothing to do with someone that big and powerful in his prime.) As for Maidana, if not a Mayweather sequel, Devon Alexander wants a rematch. The version of Maidana who fought this weekend would handle Alexander much more easily than the limp noodle version who fought Alexander the first time.
- Mayweather-Maidana odds and ends. Angered by a water bottle toss post-fight that he alleged as coming from Maidana’s camp, Lil Wayne tried to spray at some alleged rusty niggas like WD-40, which, it’s probably good he didn’t get to, because Robert Garcia would’ve ruined his golden vocal chords with a punch to the throat… Showtime’s Jim Gray should’ve just let Maidana eat his damn cookie in the post-fight interview. At least somebody got to eat the rest of it… Not sure which was worse: Mayweather’s corny circus-themed ring entrance, or the stampede that injured a host of people at MGM Grand upon exiting the fight… Mayweather estimates that his pay could jump from $32 million guaranteed to $70 million after what he gets from pay-per-view buys. Doubtful. Mayweather has a history of inflating how much money he makes.
- Undercard odds and ends. People reflexively hate everything Adrien Broner says now, to the point that when he goes into his “Can-Man” routine post-fight where he talks about all the nationalities he can/did/will defeat, it comes off as racist that he boasted of beating a “Mexi-Can.” Nah, just his usual patter — he talks about Ameri-Cans and others, too. Nor was it offensive that he called out Manny Pacquiao, whom no doubt he’d like to fight despite the Showtime/HBO Golden Boy-Al Haymon/Top Rank divide. It’s just laughable — he would lose badly, based on recent showings. He probably also would lose to junior welterweight champion Danny Garcia or Lucas Matthysse, but they’re more doable and he’d have a better chance… Whatever you think of Weeks’ performance in the main event, it was a shaky night for several referees. Jay Nady was the worst offender during the 5th round sequence of J’Leon Love-Marco Antonio Periban where he took forever to step between Periban punching Love while he was on a knee, then tossed Periban halfway across the ring to the ground after he finally did. I wasn’t as annoyed by Vic Drakulich’s handling of the holding/low blow point deduction 8th round sequence for Khan and Collazo respectively. Collazo’s low blow deduction wasn’t just a “I’m getting my head pushed down while punching” thing but a deliberate low blow, and not the first. Khan’s holding was excessive, sure, but I didn’t think he warranted a deduction until that round. Collazo had rocked Khan slightly and it felt like Drakulich took a couple poor moments to warn, re-warn (unnecessary if Drakulich had heeded his own warning’s threat moments earlier) and then eventually deduct Khan… The jab by Khan trainer Virgil Hunter about Collazo being an alcoholic — which others heard, although I did not — was unnecessary, even though it was only meant for Khan’s ears.