After months of steamy speculation, impromptu Internet polls and persistent pipe dreams that he would at long last fight Manny Pacquiao, Floyd Mayweather finally stopped teasing the world. His next fight is now, at long last, officially on the books.
Marcos Maidana, come on down.
The Argentinian slugger will be the next man immortalized by Mayweather, propelled into stardom by a relentless hype machine that started working long before his name was pulled out of a hat. By careful design, it's an announcement much anticipated, one that seems exciting even if it's not.
Mayweather had the boxing world dancing to his beat, the sport's media willingly playing along with his cat-and-mouse game of "who will it be?" Immediately after defeating Saul "Canelo" Alvarez in September, the games began. Mayweather announced his next fight on the spot. It would be, he said, on May 3, 2014. What he failed to mention, of course, was his opponent, tantalizing fans and media alike.
Eventually the list of potential opponents was whittled down to two names: Maidana and the slick British technician Amir Khan. The clear front-runner, Khan appeared to be in the driver's seat. He cancelled a scheduled bout with Devon Alexander to make sure he was available for Mayweather, leading to rampant speculation the bout was a done deal.
It was even announced, at one point, that the fight was on. It made a certain amount of sense too. Despite losing two of his last four, Khan remains a legitimate attraction in Britain, and his speed and technical acumen was thought to be an interesting challenge for the pound-for-pound greatest. He won Mayweather's Internet poll, is the bigger name and holds a 2010 victory over Maidana.
Ultimately, though, the only opinion that matters is Mayweather's. Despite all the compelling reasons to go with Khan, on Monday Mayweather gave himself a 37th birthday present, announcing his next opponent—the Argentinian and not the speedy British boxer. It felt, after countless articles and incessant discussion on forums and Twitter, like an exceedingly big deal.
This, as much as his impeccable defensive prowess, is Mayweather's true genius. Had he simply announced Maidana's name, the response in the boxing world would have been a barely disguised yawn. Instead, he made a production of it, surrounding the somewhat drab announcement with enough bright lights and shiny things that it became, reductio ad absurdum, an announcement that mattered.
In truth, Maidana is not a big name outside of the insular world of hardcore boxing fans. Nor, despite claims from some in the boxing media, is this a matchup earned in the ring, the true meritorious challenger given his just do. That would be Timothy Bradley, separated from Floyd by his affiliation with Bob Arum's Top Rank and HBO. That's a bridge Mayweather and his television partners at Showtime refuse to cross, one that continuously cheats boxing fans out of the best potential matchups.
Make no mistake: Maidana is a tough fighter, a relentless brawler who showed Mayweather's protege Adrien Broner how dangerous he can be if you aren't bringing your A-game. Evidently, Mayweather was paying close attention to the fight, making Maidana the boxing equivalent of a lottery winner.
“Marcos Maidana’s last performance immediately brought him to my attention,” Mayweather said via press release. “He is an extremely skilled fighter who brings knockout danger to the ring. I think this is a great fight for me and he deserves the opportunity to see if he can do what 45 others have tried to do before him – beat me.”
But he's also an opponent tailor-made for Floyd's style, predictable, and there waiting to be hit. You can almost picture how the fight will play out in your head. Maidana will come charging at Mayweather for 12 long rounds, eating leather along the way, his opponent frustratingly refusing to stand and trade. Maidana's will won't break, but inevitably his body will. Each valiant charge will be just a bit slower, each haymaker a little further from the mark.
It's a fight almost predestined to be a drubbing.
At times Mayweather's boxing brilliance is an albatross around his neck. His bout with Alvarez broke records at the gate and generated more pay-per-view revenue than any fight in boxing history. But it was also so one-sided that Forbes's Kurt Badenhausen argues that it might actually hurt Mayweather's future box-office power:
Mayweather is in a tough position. His destruction of top challenger Canelo Alvarez in a fight billed as “The One,” makes the promotion of any upcoming fights difficult. Fans will hesitate to plunk down $75 for the hi-def pay-per-view telecast if no one gives the opponent a chance. It is also a busy boxing season on PPV with one telecast a month between March and June featuring the sports biggest stars including Mayweather, Alvarez, Manny Pacquiaoand Miguel Cotto. There were only four boxing PPV telecasts in all of 2013. Fans are going to have choices which fight cards they want to buy.
It's an argument that makes a certain amount of sense. After all, if Mayweather can demolish the best young fighter in the world, what chance does anyone else have? But it's an argument that could have been easily made throughout his career as he's counted coup through five divisions on his way to legend.
In the end, the opponent is largely irrelevant. Mayweather is the spectacle. We're not buying any particular fight or opponent at this point. He's the attraction, his flair, style and boxing bonafides drawing us in despite every reason not to watch. Marcos Maidana, Amir Khan, Timothy Bradley—who's across the ring hardly matters.
It's Floyd's world. We're just here for the show.
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