Floyd Mayweather Jr. (45-0, 26 KOs) will be a heavy favorite when he steps inside the ring against Argentine challenger Marcos Maidana (35-3, 31 KOs) on May 3 in Las Vegas.
Not only has the 37-year-old, five-division world champion never lost, but he's also rarely come close.
However, the overlooked Maidana possesses knockout power that "Money" must respect if he hopes to advance to 46-0. Mayweather was quick to point out "El Chino's" strengths when confirming the bout back in February, per ESPN.com's Dan Rafael:
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.
Nonetheless, Mayweather's superior movement and unrivaled defense make him an overwhelming favorite to prevail.
Below, I'll predict which rounds will prove to be the most pivotal on Saturday night.
Which Fighter Will Set the Tone in Round 1?
It goes without saying that Round 1 will be critical in determining the outcome of this fight. Although the judges' scores aren't going to decide the winner right off the bat, if Mayweather is able to start fast and establish himself early, Maidana will be in trouble, since it's so difficult to battle back against Money as fights progress.
On the other hand, if the younger Maidana is able to threaten in the early goings and develop some confidence, we could have the early makings of an upset.
As Capital Boxing on Twitter points out, Maidana is a capable fighter with a dangerous right hand:
I don't think Marcos Maidana is Floyd Mayweather's toughest opponent but I do feel like people are underestimating Maidana.— Capital Boxing (@CapitalBoxing) April 14, 2014
Despite the lack of pressure on Maidana in this fight, look for Mayweather to make an early statement with his movement and speed. Both will prove too tough for El Chino to conquer on Saturday, but the first round should provide us with an early indication as to whether Maidana has a chance to make things interesting.
Prediction: Mayweather wins Round 1 and takes control of the fight
Can Maidana Survive, Win over Judges in Rounds 5-8?
Once both fighters are fully immersed in the bout and have taken a few shots, Rounds 5-8 are sure to prove pivotal. This is where the potential for a stoppage increases and where Mayweather is likely to begin strategically pulling away.
Keep in mind that nine of Mayweather's 26 career knockouts have come within these four rounds.
This stage of the fight will also present opportunities for Maidana, who can create some doubt in Mayweather's mind by continuing to throw strong combinations and finding a way to avoid Money's devastating jab.
However, doing so will be a tall order for Maidana. Therefore, watch for Mayweather to control these key rounds in the middle of the fight. His stamina is second to none, and he'll more than likely be too tough to hit.
Prediction: Maidana will not be able to capitalize during these pivotal rounds
Who Will a Leave a Lasting Impact on the Judges in Round 12?
Assuming Saturday's bout goes to the judges scorecard, the 12th and final round will no doubt prove pivotal as each fighter will aim to put the finishing touches on a potential decision win.
Even if Mayweather dominates the fight up to this point, he'll have to be sure to avoid taking any unnecessary risks and stepping into a big shot from Maidana. At this stage, the Argentine will likely be swinging for the fences and going all-in on the knockout.
But expect Mayweather to do exactly what he's done throughout his career: outthink his opponent in the clutch and outbox him until the final bell rings.
Prediction: Mayweather seals the victory with a composed Round 12
Fight Prediction: Mayweather via unanimous decision
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