Since defeating Saul "Canelo" Alvarez in a highly anticipated bout in September, it was unclear whom undefeated boxing legend Floyd Mayweather (45-0) would fight next. Mayweather announced that decision Monday after months of speculation, naming Argentinean Marcos Maidana (35-3) as his next opponent on May 3.
Mayweather made the announcement via Twitter:
While boxing fans enjoy Mayweather’s fights due to the fact that they are witnessing history with his impressive undefeated streak, it has been years since he agreed to a fight that truly challenged him in and out of the ring.
Not since Oscar De La Hoya in 2007 has Mayweather squared off against a real contender, and with De La Hoya retiring just two fights later, hindsight proves that bout wasn’t the epic matchup it was built up to be.
Since beating De La Hoya via split decision and defeating Ricky Hatton via TKO later that same year, Mayweather has only been able to knock out only one of his challengers. While he scored a KO victory against Victor Ortiz in 2011, the controversial manner in which it happened still has many fans doubting the credibility of that fight.
Despite taking bouts against lackluster competition like Shane Mosley and Robert Guerrero, as well as unproven albeit exciting talent like Alvarez, Mayweather insists that squaring off against another mediocre fighter like Maidana is the smart move.
The undefeated champion told Dan Rafael of ESPN.com about why he picked his next foe:
Marcos Maidana's last performance immediately brought him to my attention. 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.
The most striking part of Mayweather’s comment is that he admits it wasn’t until Maidana’s victory over then-undefeated Adrien Broner that he really considered the Argentinean as a real option for his next fight.
Broner did not look like the same fighter as he was before his split-decision victory over Paul Malignaggi earlier in 2013 and performed terrible at times against Maidana. The outcome of the fight had as much to do with Broner’s struggles as it did with Maidana’s successes.
Even Maidana was surprised that he was going to fight Mayweather next, telling Rafael about his appreciation for getting this bout and how he plans to break the champion’s undefeated streak (I think we’ve heard this before):
I am extremely happy to be facing Floyd Mayweather because it will give me the opportunity to show the world that I am the best welterweight in the division. I just handed a great defensive fighter his first loss and I plan to do the same to Mayweather. I don't care whether he's the best and undefeated. I will bring some real Latino power to him on May 3rd.
There is no discounting Maidana’s ability in the ring after beating Broner and Josesito Lopez as part of his four-fight winning streak, but losses to Devon Alexander and Amir Khan in two of the biggest fights of his career have raised serious questions about his consistency.
Is this whom boxing fans really want to see Mayweather square off against?
Even fellow fighter Gavin Rees was disappointed by Mayweather’s decision and felt he was taking the easy way out:
While the ideal option for Mayweather has always been Manny Pacquiao—the smartest fight fiscally and technically—there has been no indication that the two sides have been able to reach mutual ground since the first time the superfight was discussed.
Pacquiao is the only fighter in the division with the mainstream notoriety to match up with Mayweather in order to bring in major pay-per-view buys, but the fact that "Pac-Man" has the ability to steal a victory is likely the biggest holdup.
Now that Mayweather waited long enough to avoid fighting both Pacquiao and undefeated star Timothy Bradley—the two men square off on April 12—he can claim that Maidana was the best available.
As for fight fans, those ordering the PPV should expect Mayweather to use his defensive prowess to evade the challenger for 12 rounds and walk away with another decision victory.
Yet beating Maidana would do nothing but add another win to his record.