When you're considered the best in the world at what you do, getting by just isn't good enough.
Floyd Mayweather can toy with Marcos "El Chino" Maidana for 12 rounds on Saturday night before the judges rule in Money's favor if he wants, but the heavy favorite won't impress anyone with a victory by decision. He needs to listen to LL Cool J's mama and knock his opponent out.
Brandishing a 45-0 record heading into his upcoming fight in Las Vegas, Mayweather has little to prove to anyone at this juncture of his career. That puts boxing's best pound-for-pound competitor in a precarious situation, as he has little to gain—but everything to lose—against Maidana.
A humdrum victory will simply bring about business as usual, with a murmur here and there about the 37-year-old losing a step, or growing complacent against opponents beneath his level of excellence. While C.J. Ross made a dubious decision scoring his last fight with Saul "Canelo" Alvarez a draw, it wasn't Mayweather's strongest performance.
Doing the minimum necessary to ensure another victory won't win over any fans, who are expecting a win, but hoping it comes by special means.
Mayweather is hardly a knockout artist, having won five of his last six bouts by decision. This matchup, however, gives him the opportunity to pounce on an eager adversary. Maidana is an ultra-aggressive fighter, which feeds into the hands of boxing's premier defender.
According to CompuBox, Mayweather limits his opponents to an 18 percent connection rating, while landing 42 percent of his own punches. That efficiency has served him well, but constantly combating a hungry foe should create a few chances to inflict more damage than a jab.
Maidana earned a shot at the grand spotlight by defeating Adrien Broner, a 24-year-old considered a possible heir apparent to Money's throne; he has also, however, suffered three losses in his career.
He can overpower inferior men, but Mayweather's elusiveness will prove too tough for the 30-year-old to handle, leaving him vulnerable to counters all night. After a few rounds of playing Tom to Mayweather's Jerry, Maidana will expose himself to a trap.
While Mayweather is perceived as arrogant and cocky, he's no dummy. The veteran explained during a conference call, via The Miami Herald's Santos A. Perez, that he won't lull himself into a sense of security.
“I know Maidana is going to come and bring his best, so I know that I cannot overlook him, so I’m in training every day and dedicating myself,” Mayweather said. “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.”
Kevin Cunningham—who stood in Devon Alexander's corner as he defeated Maidana in 2012—expects Mayweather to attain a knockout victory. Per Showtime's The Boxing Blog's Tim Smith:
I think Mayweather stops him in the eighth or ninth round, because Mayweather is so smart. Mayweather is going to have him so confused. Devon was on the way to stopping him. Floyd is going to really sense that. When Floyd senses that he’s ready to go, he’s going to get him out of there. I think in the eighth or ninth round he’s going to get potshot and counter punched and Floyd is going to start digging into the body. He’s either going to quit or Floyd is going to knock him out and stop him.
Without a knockout win, Mayweather will need to thoroughly annihilate Maidana to come out of the MGM Grand Garden Arena smelling like roses. Otherwise, viewers who have seen this result many times before will find little reason to get excited for this outcome.