When undefeated champion Floyd Mayweather (45-0-0, 26 KO) takes on Marcos Maidana (35-3-0, 31 KO) on Saturday, May 3, both men will have faced many tough tests along the way that have shaped their careers leading into the marquee main event.
Mayweather enters the fight as one of the greatest champions in the history of the sport, and Maidana comes in with the opportunity to cement his name in history as the man who took down Money’s vaunted undefeated streak.
There is much more on the line for this fight than just a win or loss. Here is how each fighter got to this point and a prediction for the pay-per-view main event.
Tracing Mayweather's Evolution
Mayweather is the biggest prize fighter in the sport today, but he wasn’t always the top dog. After debuting in 1996, Money spent the next decade climbing the ladder by beating every challenger promoters put in front of him.
After making a name for himself against unproven competition, Mayweather cemented his spot as a top star by defeating well-known boxers like Arturo Gatti and Zab Judah.
Few boxing fans were unable to ignore Mayweather's raw talent any longer. His speed and elusiveness shined, captivating fans of the sport and proving to be huge challenges for his opponents. As a result of his rise, the undefeated champion took on both Oscar De La Hoya and Ricky Hatton in 2007, winning each matchup and proving his worth as the best pound-for-pound boxer in the sport.
The biggest key to Mayweather's success in those fights was his ability to depend on his in-ring I.Q. While many people may not like him because of his lifestyle decisions, he is one of the smartest boxers in the world and continues to play mind games with his opponents.
Mayweather took to Twitter to send a ominous warning to Maidana:
Money has only knocked out one fighter since Hatton in 2007 (he KO'd Victor Ortiz in a controversial finish), but he has rolled with Father Time’s punches and become the most effective defensive fighter in the sport.
MMA fighter Derek Brunson is always impressed by Mayweather’s defensive strengths:
Now using all 12 rounds and the judges’ scorecards to his advantage, Mayweather has beaten the likes of Juan Manuel Marquez, Shane Mosley, Miguel Cotto and Canelo Alvarez via decision, and he will do the same against Maidana.
A great defense opens up offensive opportunities, and few fighters know that as well as Money. Over the years, he has shown an elite ability to use defense to set up surgical counterpunches. It's a trait and style synonymous with his name.
Maidana has power in both of his hands and won't be afraid to attack Mayweather early and often in this fight. However, Money will be content to capitalize on his opponent's fatigue and wear him down later in the match.
Mayweather will use his brilliant defense and counterpunches to seal the unanimous decision.
Tracing Maidana's Evolution
Marcos Maidana debuted in 2004 and fought predominantly in his home country of Argentina for the first two years of his career. During that stretch, Maidana won his first 18 fights before finally leaving his homeland for bigger bouts.
Maidana has lost just three times in his career—he was defeated by Andreas Kotelnik, Amir Khan and Devon Alexander via decision—but has found a comfort zone at welterweight after spending much of his career at light welterweight.
A loss to Alexander in 2012 was devastating for his first attempt at the new weight class, but he refocused on the new division and has racked up four consecutive wins, including a huge upset over then-undefeated champion Adrien Broner.
The dominant victory over Broner opened the eyes of many fans and promoters. Maidana was never widely regarded as a top talent prior to his last fight, but the way he handled himself in the ring proves he is a legitimate threat.
He showed the world he's capable of strategically pounding the body and wearing down the opposition. It was a strong performance that effectively put him brighter in the spotlight.
The struggle to start his run at welterweight slowed his progress, but Maidana has found a great mixture of power and speed that could cause Mayweather problems. The undefeated champion deserves to be the favorite, but Maidana shouldn’t be taken lightly.
While there is a chance that history could be made on fight night, the likelihood that Maidana will be able to upset Mayweather is very low.
Mayweather is one of the greatest defensive fighters in boxing history, and his ability to avoid accumulating damage through all 12 rounds has helped him successfully defend his undefeated record time after time.
As Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated pointed out, promoter Bob Arum was tearing down the Mayweather vs. Maidana main event:
There is no questioning the power in Maidana’s hands—he has racked up an astonishing 31 knockouts in his 35 career victories—but he has never faced a man as elusive as Mayweather.
With lightning-fast feet and elite head movement, Mayweather will avoid Maidana’s punches and strike with his dangerous counterpunching. With Maidana’s accuracy a question mark, Mayweather should have ample openings to dissect.
Maidana deserves credit for making it to the main event, but he is not on Mayweather’s level.
Predicted Winner: Mayweather via unanimous decision
*Stats via BoxRec.com.