Floyd Mayweather vs. Marcos Maidana: Top Storylines as Showdown Looms

Kevin McRae@@McRaeWritesFeatured ColumnistApril 28, 2014

Floyd Mayweather vs. Marcos Maidana: Top Storylines as Showdown Looms

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    It’s fight week in Las Vegas!

    Pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather and Marcos Maidana are under a week away from meeting at the MGM Grand Garden Arena for their huge welterweight unification clash, and we’ll set you up right with all the storylines and information you’ll need before the big fight.

    Mayweather will put his WBC Welterweight Championship on the line against Maidana’s WBA 147-pound title on Saturday night (9 p.m. ET, Showtime pay-per-view), and the world will be watching.

    Mayweather (45-0, 26 KO) is boxing’s undisputed best fighter. He’s undefeated, seldom ever challenged and he easily dispatched the much larger Canelo Alvarez last September in boxing’s richest fight.

    Maidana (35-3, 31 KO) is a rugged, power-punching Argentine who secured his lottery ticket by taking out then-undefeated Mayweather protege Adrien Broner last December to capture his share of the welterweight crown.

    So here it is in one convenient package. All you need to know about the big fight is contained within. Here we’ll ask questions, speculate a bit and give you all the top storylines for “The Moment: Mayweather vs. Maidana.”

Can Mayweather Avoid a Letdown?

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    Mayweather, love him or hate him, is the hardest worker in boxing today. His preparations are legendary, and they’ve allowed him to remain the undisputed pound-for-pound king of the sport, even as he’s reached an age where many fighters of his ilk begin to see their skills decline.

    In his last contest he faced Canelo in a fight that was preceded by an unprecedented amount of hype and media attention from all quarters of the sports world.

    The two fighters engaged in a massive multi-city promotional tour to announce their fight, drawing in hundreds of thousands of fans. They benefited from a revolutionary and wide-ranging marketing campaign, and on fight night, the result was the shattering of all sorts of boxing revenue records.

    That's not a bad haul for a sport that has been on its last legs for years, according to the naysayers.

    The hype engine fired up to promote “The Moment” hasn’t remotely approached the might of that devised to sell “The One” to the masses. Likewise, the air seems to be completely out of the balloon in terms of media attention and fan anticipation.

    The reason for that is simple: Maidana just isn’t viewed as a threat who's on par with Canelo. And that's with good reason.

    The Argentine is rugged, tough and does his best when the odds seem impossible to overcome.

    But he’s not viewed as a credible challenger in many circles, and you can see that written all over everything about this fight.

    Now Mayweather has never been the type of fighter you associate with the word letdown. But if he were to have one—given the attention paid to his last fight compared to this one—could this be the time?

Is Maidana Ready for the Moment?

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    Maidana earned his way to this fight. That much is for sure.

    He’s done nothing but impress since dropping a washout unanimous decision against Devon Alexander in his welterweight debut in 2012, most recently dropping, nearly stopping and taking a clear decision from Broner to capture the WBA Welterweight Championship in December.

    Like this one, that was a fight that many observers felt “Chino” wouldn’t win, but he did, decisively, and is perceived to have exposed “The Problem” as little more than a carefully crafted hype job who had no clue how to handle adversity in the ring.

    Mayweather, for one, believes that Maidana's victory over Broner proves that he's an extremely dangerous foe.

    "Adrien Broner's a good boxer and he roughed Adrien Broner up and he got to victory, so we can't say what this guy, what he can or he can't do," Mayweather said in a pre-fight conference call.

    "We cannot overlook the guy. I can't just say he's going to be an easy fight because he's not going to be an easy fight for me, I don't think so. What I have to do is I've got to make sure that I'm at my best."

    But Maidana has never been on this level before. And co-headlining a PPV with Mayweather is a world apart from anything he’s experienced in boxing.

    Maidana has headlined a PPV in the past, but to say his 2011 showdown with Erik Morales was a few notches below this one would understate the gravity of the situation by a fair bit.

    It’s easy to come undone under these circumstances, especially when you’re facing the master of them. Mayweather thrives under this spotlight.

    Can Maidana? Or will he, like so many before him, wilt under boxing’s brightest lights?

Will Mayweather Turn in Another Virtuoso Performance?

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    Mayweather, facing the biggest challenge of his career, turned in a performance that fell just short of perfection when he defeated Canelo last September in Las Vegas.

    The result—ludicrously close scorecards notwithstanding—was stunningly lopsided, with Mayweather looking every bit the virtuoso he’s proven to be throughout his career, dominating his much younger and larger foe.

    Calling it bluntly, he made the cinnamon-haired hope of millions look downright amateurish, easily slipping in his big punches and carving him up like a surgeon with sharp counters whenever he decided to uncork them.

    The question becomes: Can a now-37-year-old Mayweather, making his third in-ring appearance in the last 12 months after years of relative inactivity, turn back another younger, presumably stronger foe? And can he do it by doing what he’s done to every opponent during his historic run of dominance?

    Can he make another really good fighter look downright ordinary?

Does Maidana Have Anything More Than a Puncher's Chance?

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    Not many, if any, observers are giving Maidana much of a serious chance at succeeding where 44 men—Mayweather is 45-0 but fought Jose Luis Castillo twice—have already failed. Those who are, however, all cite the same thing as their reason why.


    The 30-year-old WBA welterweight champion made his power the decisive factor in his win over Broner, dropping the now-former champion in Rounds 2 and 8, coming very close to stopping him and securing the biggest victory of his career.

    His punching power has frequently been cited in the promotion of this fight as a reason that it has the potential to be highly compelling. As is always the case in boxing, any one single punch, landed on the button, can end the night.

    That's true even if you’re the pound-for-pound king.

    Those odds jump exponentially when one of the competitors possesses the type of stopping power that’s been a hallmark of Maidana’s rise through the welterweight ranks.

    But it doesn’t matter how much dynamite you have in your fists if you can’t find a home for your power. Maidana has been easily outboxed in the past—Alexander didn’t lose a round to him—and if he can’t find a way to land something big, there doesn’t seem to be another path to victory.

Can Mayweather Avoid Maidana's Power?

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    Maidana is a serious power puncher with a knockout ratio that sits just a tick south of 82 percent.

    Let that settle in for a second.

    How does that number compare to some of Mayweather’s most recent foes? Even Canelo, considered to be his most dangerous opponent to date, and a big puncher for sure, has only scored knockouts in 69 percent of his pro bouts.

    Robert Guerrero? 50 percent. Miguel Cotto? 74 percent.

    Going into our time machine for a couple of big punchers from Mayweather’s past, Jose Luis Castillo only stopped his foe in 72 percent of his contests, and the late Diego Corrales only secured a stoppage 73 percent of the time.

    For some proper context: Heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko has scored knockouts in 80 percent of his fights, while guys such as Gennady Golovkin and Sergey Kovalev are closer to 90 percent.

    While it’s true that many of Maidana’s stoppages came in the lower weight classes—he’s 4-1 with 3 KOs at 147 pounds—he still packs quite a punch, and that’s something Mayweather will need to consciously try and avoid.

    And if he does, he feels it could give him an advantage.

    "Well, he punches extremely hard if he has an 80 percent knockout ratio. That's obviously his best attribute, but a lot of times when a guy's swinging a lot of big shots and they're not landing, you get fatigued like that," Mayweather said.

    He was successful at making Canelo miss and pay, but Maidana is cruder, less refined and more willing to attack in unconventional, less mechanical ways in order to score.

    That’s not to say his style is more conducive to penetrating Mayweather’s legendarily tight guard, but the mode of attack is different and could provide some interesting moments if he can’t stay out of range. 

How Will Maidana Deal with Mayweather's Speed?

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    Even as Mayweather has reached this point, the closing stages of his career, he remains the standard by which all in-ring technicians are measured. He’s never been a big knockout puncher, but he possesses elite speed, footwork and a boxing IQ that is on par—if not above—those of the very best to ever set foot in the ring.

    All of those factors bode well for Maidana, but the single biggest disadvantage he faces is in the speed department. And, yes, he faced a similar deficit against Broner.

    But Broner isn’t Mayweather. He isn’t even in the same orbit, so dispense with what you’re thinking.

    The Argentine is a one-trick pony, and while it’s true that trick has gotten him to the promise land of the sport, it’s one thing to get there and another to stay.

    Maidana pressures and attacks with the best of them, but he’s a bit of a plodder coming up against the type of technician who will be able to find the holes in his game and make him pay.

    Mayweather is unflappable, and it’s very easy to see how this fight could play out with Maidana relentlessly pressuring but getting shredded by punches he won’t even see until they bounce off his head.

    His speed deficit is huge, and he’s going to need to find ways to effectively cut off the ring if he wants to avoid becoming the latest fighter to step in the ring with Mayweather and end up on the wrong end of a 118-110 scorecard.

Have We Seen This Show Before?

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    As Lyle Fitzsimmons pointed out in his review of Showtime’s second episode of All Access: Mayweather vs. Maidana on Saturday night, we’ve gotten to the point where Mayweather fights, or at least the hype preceding them, have gone into repeats.

    If you’ve been paying any sort of attention to this incarnation of All Access, you’ve noticed a couple of key things.

    Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but Mayweather is rich. His lavish lifestyle is not something he shies from showing to the world at every available opportunity, nor does he apologize for it.

    But we’ve seen it before. Fans don’t gain anything by once again seeing his garage full of million-dollar luxury cars or trays of jewelry containing individual diamond-encrusted pieces valued at more money than most of us will see in a lifetime.

    Standing in stark contrast, as Guerrero and Canelo did before him, is Maidana, a grounded rancher from Santa Fe, Argentina, who is more likely to be seen riding around his land on a horse than in a new Bugatti.

    It’s not that this doesn’t provide a compelling storyline. A huge part of Mayweather’s marketing strategy over the years has been his ability to play the role of villain, and his huge wealth and willingness to flaunt it are a key part of that.

    It just feels like we’ve seen this storyline before. And it’s time for something fresh.

Will the Fans Be Paying Attention?

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    Mayweather set the bar so high in his last fight that it’s impossible not to expect this one to bring him back down to earth a bit. The fans, and largely the media as well, just haven’t bought in to this fight.

    The oddsmakers in Vegas have installed Maidana as a massive underdog and largely with good reason.

    Now it’s true that Mayweather always sells. But it’s also true that you’ll eventually hit a wall with the fans if they don’t deem the matchup to be of the quality necessary to part with 75 of their hard-earned dollars to watch in high definition.

    And it’s entirely possible that Mayweather and company may have hit that wall here. Maidana isn’t a heartthrob in the way Canelo was; he isn’t a young, determined champion being groomed to take the pound-for-pound king’s throne once he moves on, and he isn’t going to draw in a ton of fans on his own.

    Hence, this is the stacked undercard we keep hearing about from every person in the industry even loosely affiliated with Showtime Sports.

    Unlike “The One,” where Danny Garcia’s defense of the junior welterweight championship against Lucas Matthysse was gravy for the fans and not truly necessary as a selling point, the undercard for “The Moment” is being sold—hard.

    But are people really salivating for any of these matchups? Sure, Amir Khan vs. Luis Collazo is a very solid and compelling fight. In fact, it could well end up being the fight that provides the most drama on the night.

    Adrien Broner’s return against Carlos Molina isn’t a PPV-worthy fight. Molina hasn’t fought since December 2012—when Khan stopped him in his comeback fight—and he holds precisely zero wins over world-class opposition.

    And the last time J’Leon Love appeared on a Mayweather undercard he got a gift verdict against Gabriel Rosado, which he was later forced to vacate after testing positive for a banned substance after the fight.

    No, unlike last September, this is a card that may appear to be stacked, but when you delve deeper, it’s full of questions.

    And will fans pay attention and shell out all that money for questions?

Who's Next for Money Mayweather?

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    It’s impossible to go into a Mayweather fight week without asking the inevitable question: Who’s got next?

    Granted, boxing is the theater of the absurd where strange things happen all the time, but it would be a real shock—think Mike Tyson getting knocked out by James “Buster” Douglas—if Maidana were the one with his hand raised at the conclusion of festivities on Saturday night.

    So let’s jump a little ahead of the speculation train and take a look at who could be next for the pound-for-pound king, should he, as widely expected, make Maidana victim No. 46 this coming weekend.

    Disclaimer: Manny Pacquiao will not be discussed beyond this point.

    Danny Garcia is the logical choice. The junior welterweight champion struggled mightily and got—what some feel at least was—a gift decision over Mauricio Herrera this March in Puerto Rico.

    But Garcia has discussed the possibility of a jump to 147 pounds, and boxing fans have a short memory. That’s a potentially compelling fight and a fitting challenge for Mayweather at this stage.

    Then there’s the winner of the co-feature between Khan and Collazo.

    Khan pulled out all the stops in hopes of getting the call for this Saturday’s Mayweather lottery, but he lost out and was candid in expressing his frustrations with the process and the lack of respect he received.

    But as a practicing Muslim, he will be observing the Holy Month of Ramadan this July, and that would possibly make him unavailable to fight in September, which is likely the next time Mayweather will be looking to fight.

    Looking further out of the box, Cotto could make for a particularly attractive rematch, especially if he finds a way to knock off middleweight kingpin Sergio Martinez in June.

    Either one of those fights would give Mayweather the chance to extend his dominant reign to middleweight—one of boxing’s glamour divisions—and could be the cherry on the top of an already historic career.

What's Next for El Chino Maidana?

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    Maidana has the opportunity of a lifetime staring him in the face come Saturday night.

    In a lot of ways, he faces the ultimate no-lose situation. He gets the payday of his life, exposure on the biggest stage in boxing and a chance to score one of the biggest upsets in the sport’s long history.

    All that said, if he loses, nobody will be surprised. That’s the script.

    Most people, this observer included, expect Maidana to give a spirited effort but just end up being outclassed by a generational talent who plies his trade on a different plane of existence from most mortal men.

    So if Maidana wins it’s obviously a career-maker. But if he doesn't, it should barely leave a dent.

    The Argentine could still wind up with his choice of a bounty of plenty who could include welterweight champions Shawn Porter and Keith Thurman or a rematch with Broner, assuming he wins.

    Garcia and even Maidana compatriot Matthysse, should he jettison 140 pounds for the bigger fights afforded by the welterweight division, could also be possibilities.

    Either way, there’s an embarrassment of riches between 140 pounds and 147 pounds, and Showtime possesses the lion’s share.

    That should be good news for Maidana, win or lose Saturday night.


    Kevin McRae is a featured boxing columnist for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.