It doesn't matter that Floyd Mayweather is the best in the world as he enters his bout with Marcos Maidana on May 3.
When one acts as Mayweather does—that is, feasting on weaker competition—public perception will knock him down a peg if he isn't clearly the more dominant fighter in Las Vegas that weekend.
It doesn't help that the general consensus is Manny Pacquiao is back to elite form after downing Timothy Bradley.
To be fair, Mayweather is simply on a different planet in terms of skill when compared to the rest of the boxing world, so there isn't a fight out there he could take—sans Pacquiao, which has expired thanks to camp and opposing company warfare—that doesn't look like a lopsided matchup.
This is the case with Maidana, who packs plenty of knockout power (31 of his 35 career victories have come via knockout), but little else. As ESPN's Dan Rafael helps to illustrate, the lines in Vegas are lopsided for good reason:
Arum keeps yelling that Mayweather-Maidana is a 15-1 fight. He's wrong! It's only 11-1 in the latest odds I've seen. lol. #boxing— Dan Rafael (@danrafaelespn) April 24, 2014
Like Canelo Alvarez and those who were felled in the squared circle before him in the face of Money's attack, Maidana has a fleeting chance of cementing his legacy.
Unlike most others, FightNights.com notes the Argentine will be more willing to risk it all:
I do believe Maidana will succeed where Canelo and Guerrero failed, and that is he will lay it all on the line and go for it.— FightNights.com™ (@boxing) April 20, 2014
Mayweather also faces a familiar situation. His opponent, who will be hyped to the moon to encourage pay-per-view buys, doesn't really stand a chance and the globe knows it—meaning anything short of a violent, dominant showing will be frowned upon.
For his part, Mayweather plans to be his usual, methodical self, per Boxing.com:
That's really all Mayweather has to do on May 3 in order to emerge the victor.
Unlike Pacquiao, the natural aging process has yet to slow down his quick feet, hands and crisp head movement, not to mention his violent retorts when the time is right.
These traits have kept all opponents at bay. In his last 10 fights, only 17 percent of the punches thrown Mayweather's way have landed, per CompuBox (via Josh Slagter of MLive.com).
That sort of domination needs to be on full display once more because Pacquiao's reemergence as a top fighter will once again open up a major debate if Mayweather is anything short of his usual self against Maidana.
A knockout would be nice, but it has been quite some time since we've seen Mayweather go for the emphatic finish. He simply hasn't needed to after thoroughly picking apart his opponents, and the unnecessary risk makes no sense as he continues to gun his way to the that coveted 50-0 mark.
Who wins on May 3rd?
But as noted above, Maidana may be more desperate and have a higher work rate in the later rounds, so the opportunity may certainly present itself.
Either way, another lopsided decision or knockout is the only way Mayweather can remain on top in the minds of the casual fans as once again he appears, at face value, to have selected a throwaway opponent.
Typical Mayweather shows up on May 3 and this is a non-issue. Anything else, and expect the drama to be at an all-time high in the world of boxing.