By Tyson Bruce
When Floyd Mayweather fought Saul Alvarez in 2013 the whole sports world stopped and for a brief moment boxing became all that mattered. It’s safe to say that his fights with Marcos Maidana have not generated the same type of interest, this despite the fact that Maidana gave the elusive Mayweather his toughest fight in years. For many casual fans its just another match against a foreign fighter not named Pacquiao.
The most interesting angle of the bout is that it’s just the second rematch Mayweather, 46-0-0-(26), has fought in his entire career. Not since 2002, when he granted Jose Luis Castillo a rematch to a fight many believed is the only bout Mayweather truly deserved to lose in his eighteen-year career, has Mayweather fought the same man twice. This is because apart from that fight (and perhaps the De La Hoya fight) Mayweather has been so utterly dominant that any notion of a rematch in most of his fights would be ridiculous. Whether you believe Mayweather should have ever boxed Maidana, 35-4-1-(31), in the first place, the Argentine certainly fought well enough to deserve a rematch.
Veteran Showtime boxing analyst Al Bernstein recently stated in an interview that if you didn’t score the fight at least as close as 7-5 Mayweather than you weren’t paying attention. How many other Mayweather fights can you say the same thing about? Maidana of course had much of his success in the early rounds of the fight, probably managing to win the first four rounds of the bout. It was shocking to see Maidana come out with the success he did—literally almost running Mayweather out of the ring at times. All Mayweather could do was hold on, be defensive and hope that Maidana would slow down.
In those early rounds Mayweather had a weary look in his eyes that said, “I’m too old and rich for this shit.” Nobody has ever disrespected Mayweather the way Maidana did, using everything from low blows (lots of them) to a Muy Thai knee to the stomach to bend the fight his way. Maidana is a hard man with a lot of the street incrusted into his fighting style and he simply doesn’t give a damn about Mayweather’s standing in the sport. In order to be more successful this time around Floyd will have to find a better way to cope with Maidana’s recklessness.
The real question is whether at thirty-seven years of age is Mayweather capable of fighting him any different? In his younger days Mayweather would have used his footwork to make the Maidana fight a very easy night. If he is still capable of doing that you have to wonder why he didn’t the first time around. Maidana is a brutal and unpredictable puncher and sitting against the ropes as much as Mayweather did was a rare tactical mistake on the part of the ‘pound for pound’ king. When Mayweather had Maidana in the center of the ring he dominated the bout with his superior reflexes and hand speed. Maidana can only fight successfully in one direction: forward. If you can break his rhythm by keeping him turning or going backwards he gets lost.
The most positive thing going into the rematch for Maidana is that Mayweather never really came close to hurting him. For a guy that goes forward and fights as wild as Maidana does he has a very shaky chin. Maidana has been knocked down or badly stunned by Victor Ortiz, Amir Khan, Jesus Soto Karrass, Erik Morales, Josesito Lopez and Adrien Broner. Mayweather, even when he landed flush, could never really earn Maidana’s respect with his punching power. It’s hard to keep a guy off of you when you can’t hurt him, which was a big reason why Maidana was brazen enough to do what he did against Mayweather the first go around.
The biggest negative against Maidana’s chances in the rematch is whether he is he capable of doing anything differently the second time around? You just got the sense that Maidana fought the fight of his life and even duplicating an effort as good as that will be a formidable challenge for him. In watching the “All Access” infomercial on Showtime the strategy of his trainer Roberto Garcia seems obvious: do what you did the first five round for the whole fight. The problem is that it’s almost impossible to keep that kind of pace (the 100 punch a round mark) for the entire twelve rounds. Throw in Maidana’s history of stamina problems the plan starts to reek of wishful thinking. Plus, given Mayweather’s massive clout in the sport, you can almost guarantee that Maidana will not be allowed to get away with nearly as much extracurricular activity as last time—a huge aspect of what made him so successful.
The vast majority of boxing insiders believe that Mayweather solved Maidana’s style in the second half of the bout and that his boxing intellect will allowed him to dominant the second bout much earlier. Mayweather has been so good for so many years that it almost seems disrespectful to consider any other scenario. However, at age 37, way past the point when most boxing greats were at their best, every time Mayweather steps into the ring there will be a veil of doubt that didn’t exist before. As superior as Mayweather’s technical skills are his style is still based a great deal around his athletic ability and freakish speed. As his speed gradually starts to decline every fight will get that much tougher. It’s the same thing that is happening with Pacquiao right now.
Most people expected Roy Jones, then 35, to dominate the rematch against Antonio Tarver after barely managing to win the first time around. Instead, Tarver flattened Jones with one straight left hand and shattered his myth of invincibility forever. If he keeps fighting long enough the same thing will eventually happen to Mayweather—it does to every fighter no matter how great. Regardless of whether or not Maidana is the fighter to do that—I suspect he is not—you can guarantee he will give 100% of himself in the ring, which is a lot more than you can say about many of Mayweather’s recent opponents.