Floyd Mayweather got all he could handle from Marcos Maidana Saturday night at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nev., but still came out on top.
“Fascinating fight,” opined Showtime’s Al Bernstein midway through the impressive action to the millions of people watching on their television sets at home via Showtime pay-per-view.
He was right. Maidana threw the kitchen sink at Mayweather all night long, but the master pugilist was able to find new ways to be the victor at the final bell.
Mayweather, 37, defeated Maidana, 30, by majority decision. Judge Michael Pernick called it a draw at 114-114. But Burt Clements had Mayweather the winner, 117-111, while Dave Moretti called it 116-112 for the same.
Pernick was probably closer to the truth of the matter. This fight was darn close.
“If the fans want to see it again, we’ll do it again,” Mayweather told Showtime’s Jim Gray in the ring immediately after the fight as fans in attendance booed the winner loudly.
Standing close nearby, Golden Boy’s Richard Schaefer echoed the same.
Maidana told Gray he thought the decision was wrong.
“I definitely think I won this fight,” said Maidana. “Floyd did not like fight like a man…”
But Mayweather, who once appeared untouchable, did fight like a man. He was just an older one, who had to find a new way to win.
The hard-charging Maidana hit Mayweather with thudding shots all night long.
Observing the action from ringside, The Sweet Science’s Michael Woods called it for what it was:
Older legs. Has to wrestle. 37— Michael Woods (@Woodsy1069) May 4, 2014
The bout started auspiciously enough.
When Mayweather came to the ring, it was a circus. Literally.
Clowns, jugglers and other type folk you’d expect under a big top led him in as fake money fell from the rafters.
Mayweather later entered the arena flanked by celebrities Lil Wayne and Justin Bieber.
By the time he made it to his corner, he was surrounded by a host of other sycophants, the kind who appear only to be in your corner when you’re winning.
It’s a good thing Mayweather always wins.
Round 1 was the sweet science of Mayweather versus the savage poetry of Maidana. Mayweather tried to establish the jab early on, but soon found himself with his back to the ropes catching punches from all angles. Maidana landed left hooks and was effective with ruthless aggression.
Mayweather connected with hard, clean shots in Round 2, but Maidana kept on coming. Mayweather’s legs did not seem swift enough for him to totally evade the ever-advancing onslaught. Maidana successfully worked Mayweather’s body when he corralled the world’s best on the ropes with a minute left in the round.
Mayweather found his groove in Round 3. He landed clean jabs to the body and hard hooks when Maidana tried to cut the distance too fast. But soon Maidana had Mayweather up against the ropes again. An uppercut seemed to bother Mayweather enough for him to make it a firefight to end the round.
This one was getting good.
In Round 4, Mayweather seemed to make a conscious effort to stay off the ropes. He’d move and pivot when Maidana came close, and do his best to never be there in the first place.
But Maidana’s wide shots and bullish lunges forward didn’t keep him off them altogether. By the end of the round, Mayweather appeared visibly bothered by a small cut over his right eye.
Mayweather had never been cut before. This was a fight.
The pace slowed a bit in Round 5. The two fought mostly in the middle of the ring, exactly where Mayweather wanted it. Still, Maidana landed several overhand rights and left hooks. Mayweather did most of his work to the body, something that would pay dividends in the later round.
Maidana did well with the jab to open Round 6. He focused exclusively on his bully tactics. Mayweather remained content to fend him off with sharp counters when and where he could land them. He tattooed Maidana with several hooks and straight rights, too.
Mayweather made a tactical adjustment midway through the bout. Referee Tony Weeks was obliged to break the fighters whenever Maidana would rush forward. This gave Mayweather an out when he was stuck on the ropes just about whenever he wanted it, so he wisely took full advantage.
Whenever Maidana would trap him in the corner or on the ropes, Mayweather would grab hold and wrestle him close. Weeks would step in quickly to break them, and Mayweather would use the halt in action to position himself away from the ropes or out of the corner.
The move paid off.
Mayweather’s hand speed gave him Round 7, as he kept Maidana in the center of the ring and landed shots from all angles. It was his best round of the fight so far.
Round 8 was Maidana’s volume of pounding punches against Mayweather’s accuracy. Mayweather fought too much with his back to the ropes yet again, and Maidana took advantage. But Mayweather never let Maidana get his punches off without using the trick he learned before.
Hold. Wrestle. Wait for the break. Move off the ropes. It worked every time.
Round 9 was Mayweather’s. He moved around the ring at will and landed crisp punches with blistering accuracy. Maidana did his best to keep pace behind a jab, but it was clear Mayweather’s early bodywork had paid off.
Round 10 was close but Mayweather’s shots seemed harder and more accurate. Maidana appeared slower than ever now.
Maidana got his legs under him for the championship rounds.
Toward the end of Round 11, he made things rough and ugly. Round 12 was as exciting as the rest, atypical for a Mayweather bout. The two traded rips and digs while the crowd chanted for its new hero, Maidana, who’d proved to at least be on par with Mayweather on this night no matter what the judges had to say.
When ring announcer Jimmy Lennon Jr. prepared to read the scorecard, both men held their heads and hands up high. Honestly, they both had good reason to do so.
Maidana thought he’d won the fight, and he certainly might have. The rounds were close, and he was just as much deserving of the nod as Mayweather.
But Mayweather was happy with his performance, too. He absolutely should have been.
While a younger, more agile Mayweather might have made mincemeat of a brawler like Maidana a few years ago, an older, wiser one did the little things needed to get the win anyway.
Moreover, Mayweather established a clear path forward in his career. He proved he can still do enough to win fights, even if his best days are behind him.
Mayweather can spot adjustments like an eagle, make them, fight hard and get the job done when it matters most. That’s something even Father Time can never take away.
Kelsey McCarson is a boxing writer for Bleacher Report and The Sweet Science. Follow him on Twitter @KelseyMcCarson.