By Tyson Bruce
In one of the most exciting fights of his career, Floyd Mayweather barely escaped with his coveted undefeated record intact. Marcos Maidana, however, was the big winner last night. Going into the bout he was regarded as little more than high priced cannon fodder—a glitzy exhibition for Mayweather while his team searched for a real opponent. How wrong we all were. Maidana made Mayweather look mortal in a way that few fighters have ever came close to achieving. There was a genuine air of suspense when the fight went to the cards. Although Mayweather got the close decision some obvious problems with him became apparent:
1. Distractions, Distractions, Distractions:
For essentially his entire professional boxing career Floyd Mayeather has managed to perform perfectly in the ring, despite his personal life being almost constantly embroiled in some kind of controversy. Like all of the true greats, Mayweather looks to the task at hand and finds a way to get the job done. However, everybody has limits and Mayweather may finally be getting to the point where the excess of his personal life is affecting his ability to dominate in the ring.
Like his 2009 bout with Miguel Cotto, where he had to fight with an imminent jail sentence looming, he looked unfocused and sloppy—at least compared to his own lofty standards. To take nothing away from the supreme effort of Maidana, but, clearly, this was not the same Mayweather that dominated Canelo Alvarez. Mayweather looked noticeably rattled in the first few rounds of the bout with a facial expression that read: this is not what a signed up for. Clearly, he expected an easier fight and he paid the consequences for it.
2. A lack of Ammunition?
In 1999 Floyd Mayweather, then a newly crowed 130-pound champion, fought a guy named Carlos Gerena. After dropping Gerena twice in the first round and hitting him with everything but the spit bucket, Gerena tapped his chin and said, “no punch.” Considering the punishment he was taking, the jab at Mayweather’s lack of power was both sick and amusing in a masochistic sort of way.
That scene also reminded of last nights fight. At 147 pounds Mayweather is just not a puncher. Much of the success that Maidana had was because Mayweather simply could not hurt him enough to keep him honest. Much has been made about Pacquiao’s diminishing punching power, but when was the last time Mayweather dropped a guy? Sucker punches aside, the last fighter Mayweather dropped was Ricky Hatton way back in 2007.
Mayweather is almost always able to dominate a fight with footwork and ridiculous hand speed. He is a master at slowing the pace and winning rounds by landing telling single punches—usually right hand leads. Maidana exploited that strategy by walking through whatever Mayweather threw at him. Let’s not forget that Maidana is no Jake Lamotta here, he’s been put on the canvas many times by numerous different fighters. In fact, an early knockdown suffered in the Amir Khan fight was what probably cost him a victory. That Mayweather wasn’t able to even dent Maidana’s chin is a telling symbol of his lack of punching power and natural size at welterweight.
3. Don’t think just punch:
Maidana made up for his lack of speed and technical ability by simply swamping Mayweather with activity. Maidana employed a vicious and sustained body attack, as well as his traditional power punches from all angles approach. While previous Mayweather opponents like De La Hoya and Alvarez tried to employee a specific game, Maidana just went for broke. If you give Mayweather time to think, he will out box you every single time. The way Maidana disrespected Mayweather and viciously attacked was both refreshing and thrilling to watch.
So did the Maidana strategy of roughing up and pressuring Mayweather become the new “blue print” for victory? The answer is complicated. If anything, the fact that Maidana still came up short against Mayweather is proof of just how difficult a puzzle he is to solve. It certainly helped that Maidana was basically a super-middleweight when he entered the ring. What it does prove is that Mayweather’s lack of activity can be exploited. Maidana stole rounds by being the aggressor and retaining a rugged pace for the entirety of the bout—something that no one since Jose Luis Castillo has managed to do against Mayweather.
4. Too Defensive:
Mayweather’s defensive genius is undoubtedly his greatest asset in the ring. It’s the reason why he can dominate men that have a natural twenty-pound weight advantage over him. Most people, myself included, thought that Maidana’s reckless aggression and crudeness would play right into the hands of a great counterpuncher like Mayweather. In reality, it was the exact opposite.
Mayweather has a tendency to lead with defense rather than offense. Mayweather goes into a defensive posture and invites his opponent in with the idea of getting counterpunching opportunities. While this is usually an effective strategy for Mayweather, it also invites the possibility of being outworked. Boxing is an combat sport, where the aggressor is supposed to be rewarded. In all of Mayweather’s closest fights he was outworked for long stretches of the bouts because he was overly defensive.
Experts who believe Sugar Ray Leonard would have dominated Mayweather don’t say that because they’re biased against current fighters, it’s because Leonard was a more consistent offensive fighter. Mayweather can be guilty of relying too much on his defensive prowess and neglecting offense. This was something Emanuel Steward frequently criticized about Mayweather’s style. If Mayweather had gone first more often and used a more consistent jab he would have offset a lot of what Maidana was doing and made it a much easier fight. Against someone as aggressive, tough and powerful as Maidana sporadic pot shots were just not enough.
5. I’m too old for this shit:
In the middle rounds you could read what Mayweather was thinking by looking at the expression on his face. That expression said: I’m too old for this shit. It was a visceral struggle for Mayweather to get up for a fight that became way too complicated for his liking. Getting in a back alley brawl with a guy like Marcos Maidana it a pretty brutal way to make a living—especially when you’re a thirty-seven year old multimillionaire.
It was truly fascinating to see a worried Mayweather soul search for answers during the bout. Regardless of his prefight respect for Maidana’s ability, this was not what Mayweather expected. According to Compubox, Maidana landed more punches on Mayweather (221) than any other fighter ever has. But more than that, Maidana roughed him up and treated him like he was just another club fighter standing in his way. Mayweather was bemused and often looked towards Tony Weeks for help when things got out of his comfort zone.
To his credit Mayweather summoned the courage, dug deep and came up with the goods in a fight that must have been hard to get up for. But with all the money he’s made how much longer will he really want to keep doing this? With young, strong guys like Shawn Porter and Keith Thurman on the rise, the end could come sooner rather than later. More than ever, a bout with Manny Pacquiao seems to make sense, as both guys are slowing down and require maximum motivation to bring out their best. But this is boxing—a place where logic is looked at as insanity—so you can bet it won’t happen. Amir Khan get ready.