Floyd Mayweather enters his bout with Marcos Maidana as the clear No. 1 pound-for-pound boxer in the world. He needs a convincing victory against what should be an overmatched opponent in order to maintain that lofty status at age 37.
The undefeated American is coming off a majority-decision triumph over Saul Alvarez. Although the scorecard that gave "Canelo" a draw was certainly a bit generous, it was still far from Mayweather's best performance, raising questions about whether Father Time was starting to catch up with him.
It wouldn't be a surprise if that was the case, of course. Manny Pacquiao is two years younger and hasn't shown the same type of power and speed as he did in his prime. That said, Bernard Hopkins is nearing 50 and still going strong, illustrating that each case is different.
For Mayweather, going up against Maidana serves as a proving ground. No matter what angle you analyze the fight from he should come out on top. The Argentine sports plenty of powerful but lacks the all-around ability necessary to keep up with the five-division world champion.
That's assuming the Mayweather fans witness on May 3 is the same one they have seen control 45 straight fights over the past couple of decades.
If he doesn't come out and dominate an opponent like Maidana, it will raise questions about whether Mayweather's run as the top boxer on the planet is nearing its conclusion. It's the type of pressure that arises when choosing to face lesser-known opponents.
And being thought of as the best means a lot to Mayweather. Lem Satterfield of The Ring magazine passed along his comments from All Access: Mayweather vs. Maidana about wanting to go down as the greatest of all time, not only in boxing but in all of sports:
Is it about the money? Absolutely. Is it about the fame? Absolutely. It's everything wrapped into one. I want to be the best. Not just the best fighter but I want to be the best athlete, period. When I leave, I will be known as 'TBE' and that's the best ever.
Those are lofty goals, and trying to force his way into the conversation would become tougher if he was ever upset by Maidana. So even though it might look like another lopsided fight in an era where boxing is struggling to create marquee matchups, it means a lot of both fighters.
As for the fight itself, the biggest key for Mayweather will be showcasing his elite defensive and counterattacking ability in the early rounds. Maidana has shown that he can use his power to demolish lesser opponents, and he will likely try to impose his will on the current king of the mountain as well.
FightNights.com believes it could lead to an awesome opening sequence:
The first 3 to 4 rounds of Mayweather-Maidana could be the best rounds we've seen in a Mayweather fight in years. #MayweatherMaidana— FightNights.com™ (@boxing) April 22, 2014
If Mayweather can defend and counter effectively, it should wear Maidana down enough for the Michigan native to take complete control in the middle rounds. Again, that's based on the assumption that he's still in peak form.
Who will win the hyped bout on May 3?
Should Mayweather show signs of slipping, perhaps the No. 1 pound-for-pound spot will be back up for grabs for the first time in a while. Andre Ward, Wladimir Klitschko and the resurgent Pacquiao would all be in the conversation.
All told, it should be an entertaining clash between Mayweather and Maidana, at least for the early portion of the fight. In the end, however, Mayweather should be able to pull away and prove he warrants remaining atop all pound-for-pound rankings.
Exactly how long that will stay the case is the biggest question and whether boxing can find another superstar to fill his spot won't be far behind. But as long as Mayweather continues to dominate, it's something boxing doesn't have to worry about quite yet.
The pound-for-pound king should retain his crown for the time being.