We've been here before. The negotiation. The pre-fight press conference. The smiles as the flashbulbs go off, reporters with their recording devices out waiting for the next sound bite. Forty-five fights in, Floyd Mayweather fights have trended toward the repetitive structure.
Heading into his fight with Marcos Maidana, though, there has to be some concern within the Mayweather camp—and especially at Showtime. The negotiations this time around came and went without the hustle. The flashbulbs were a little less bright. The reporters were a little more limp-wristed as they stuck their arms out hoping to drum up excitement.
And, for once, Mayweather himself doesn't seem desperate for all the attention. His pre-fight press is nonexistent in comparison to his bout with Saul "Canelo" Alvarez, a fight for which you couldn't go a half-block in a city without seeing a billboard. Even if the actual in-ring combat never lived up to its hype—and how could it?—the record-setting numbers who came out in droves for that bout made it feel like an event.
By comparison, Mayweather-Maidana is a boutique.
Not that Maidana minds. The Argentine already has experience knocking off heavily favored and undefeated opponents. His unanimous-decision victory over Adrien Broner in December was perhaps the most shocking result of 2013 and gave Maidana enough cache to catch the eye of Mayweather's team. Broner is largely viewed as the next great American face in the sport.
If Maidana can do it again Saturday, he'll be making boxing history. With that in mind, let's check in on a few storylines to watch heading into fight night.
OK, Really, Can Maidana Actually Pull Off the Upset?
This is really the only question that matters.
Maidana beat Broner. OK. Broner is decidedly not one of the greatest pound-for-pound boxers in the sport's history, someone who has flawlessly run through a gamut of the truly elite of his time. Broner is a guy everyone in the sport liked a lot. Mayweather is a legend who stakes his entire reputation on his undefeated record.
Per Odds Shark, Money opened at a -1429 favorite (7-100 odds). In head-to-head combat at this level, that's about as high as one can ratchet up the odds. Money (the actual currency, not the person) will come in on Maidana simply because people can't pass up the high odds.
Don't confuse that with actual confidence.
Maidana is there to win, sure. He's also there to play the role of Robert Guerrero, the last boxer Mayweather brought to the forefront from the nationally anonymous. The Guerrero fight was sold on the basis of Mayweather's struggles against southpaws, a narrative that only a handful of experts actually talked themselves into by fight night. By the time the first couple of rounds ended, it was obvious again that Mayweather is in another class.
I suspect this fight will go in a similar fashion. Maidana recently told Jeff Powell of The Daily Mail that he wants to attack Mayweather's body rather than going for the kill shot. Now please go Google search through similar phrases and see how long opponents have been talking that game or pundits have been suggesting it. Then review how often they've actually gotten it done.
Mayweather's greatest strength is his boxing mind. He uses the first couple of rounds of a fight to identify opponent strategy and then the following few rounds to systematically pick said strategy apart. The reason Mayweather opponents look so much worse as a fight goes along is not because he pummels them with power shots, but because he flummoxes them to the point they look like they're back in their first gym.
If Alvarez couldn't figure out the code, I very much doubt Maidana can. He's a nice fighter and will put every last ounce of his body on the line to get the job done. It's just not going to be enough.
What Comes Next for Both Fighters?
Not to dismiss Saturday's bout entirely. This is just the more interesting question in a macro sense.
If we're reading the tea leaves of his deal with Showtime, it seems clear both parties find the spring fight as Mayweather's B Show. I'm not sure whether that's a strategical move from the Mayweather camp or a complete coincidence. It's just the way things have worked out so far.
Working further under that assumption, Mayweather should be looking to go big for his next bout. The obvious transition here goes to Manny Pacquiao talk, at which point all our eyes either glaze over or pop out of our heads due to over-rolling. Pacquiao and Mayweather continue to do this weird dog and pony show every couple of months to get people talking.
"The line is open 24 hours, seven days a week," Pacquiao told reporters after his defeat of Timothy Bradley in April. "If he wants to fight, the fight will be on."
Until there are legitimate negotiations between the two camps, it's best to ignore the rhetoric. This fight has been "almost" happening for a half-decade now. Not only are Pacquiao and Mayweather both worse fighters than they were when everyone wanted the rematch, but can we please stop beating this poor dead horse already? He's nothing but rawhide and ground-up bones now. It's sad.
More likely scenarios have Mayweather considering Amir Khan if he beats Luis Collazo or even going after a Juan Manuel Marquez rematch. Assuming the Pacquiao-Mayweather fight doesn't go down, Marquez will almost certainly face one of the two if he's not upset by Mike Alvarado. With Floyd's next fight moving from the typical Vegas setting to Brooklyn's Barclays Center, he needs a big name.
As for Maidana, he'll either use this fight as a platform to book future high-profile bouts, or Mayweather will beat him into such an oblivion the whole thing will be rendered a farce. No pressure here or anything. If Maidana is able to hold his own, though, there's little reason to believe he won't at least get a second Broner fight and have a long career holding down penultimate fights on big cards.
Of course, that's a long way off from being a giant killer.
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