Floyd Mayweather may have beaten Marcos Maidana by majority decision at the MGM Grand on Saturday night, but no fighter in the last half-decade came closer to putting the first blemish on "Money's" undefeated record than the Argentine challenger.
Whether you want to applaud Maidana's monumental effort (which you should) or point to Mayweather's 37-year-old legs as an excuse for the inevitability of a fight like the one we had on Saturday is irrelevant. For any neutral boxing fan in the world, this was probably the most entertaining Mayweather fight in years.
Floyd looked vulnerable, and at the end of Round 3, no one would have been surprised had the judges decided in favour of Maidana. This wasn't a clinic like we've come to expect from Mayweather. It was a brawl, and one the American pound-for-pound king ultimately survived.
Would it be far-fetched to think Mayweather would shy away from a rematch with Maidana so as not to jeopardise his undefeated record? Not at all. Which is why fans should rejoice after Money did no such thing, as shared by KnockoutNation.com's Andreas Hale:
Mayweather reiterates that the rematch can happen in September.— Andreas Hale (@AndreasHale) May 4, 2014
Momentum for a rematch started to build in the direct aftermath of the fight. Maidana made it clear he believed he had won the fight in a manner not too dissimilar as Manny Pacquiao calling out the judges following his first bout with Timothy Bradley.
The Argentine started out furiously, driving Mayweather into the ropes with a number of strong punches. While his combinations swung wide more often than not, the stats through three rounds were still impressive, as shared by SHO Stats:
#ShoStats: Total Power Punches Landed/Thrown thru 3 Mayweather [40/59, 67%] Maidana [64/182, 35%]— SHO Stats (@SHOStats) May 4, 2014
Landing 35 percent of power shots on a fighter as defensively adept as Mayweather is impressive, and Maidana didn't slow much later in the fight. Floyd simply adapted to the situation, took control of the fight and did enough to pull out the win.
But he didn't dominate, and with all due respect to Maidana, who fought one hell of a fight and deserves all the plaudits, this would not have happened five years ago.
Five years ago, Mayweather would have made mincemeat of any brawler in the world, and he pretty much did.
Father Time catches up with everyone though, and on Saturday, perhaps for the very first time, even the seemingly invincible Mayweather looked like he felt the effects of old age. His hand speed was still as phenomenal as ever, but his legs didn't seem to move as well as they used to in his prime.
Maidana must have noticed it as well, and time would be on the Argentine's side in case of a rematch, further adding to the opportunity of "El Chino" being the one to potentially ruin Mayweather's undefeated record.
Former Olympian Kenny Monday thinks Mayweather may have actually fought the way he did to make sure people would want to see the rematch, however:
Mayweather very smart about his money! kept maidana in the fight! rematch? mo money mo money! @FloydMayweather— Kenny Monday (@KennyMonday) May 4, 2014
And if the fight didn't whet the appetite of fans enough, the two fighters made sure there would be plenty of intrigue when they started taking shots at each other during the post-fight presser.
This particular dig at Maidana, via Boxing Channel, would be enough to make the blood boil of any challenger who felt like he had just won the fight:
"I could have made the fight a lot easier if I wanted to" Floyd Mayweather— Boxing Channel (@BoxingChannel) May 4, 2014
Per Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix, it was then Floyd's turn to get angry:
Floyd Mayweather criticizing a member of Maidana's entourage for cheering as his own entourage cheers him on. This is not real life.— Chris Mannix (@ChrisMannixSI) May 4, 2014
It wouldn't be unfathomable to think this is just Floyd being the sensational businessman he is, already hyping a rematch.
Should there be an immediate rematch to this fight?
But with his perceived anger at the press and challenger and his claim he "made the fight interesting"—plus Maidana believing he won and undoubtedly taking offence at Floyd's claims—plenty of storylines are already swirling for a potential rematch.
One of the two fighters has to be right, and fans will spend the next few weeks arguing whether Maidana won the fight or Mayweather took it easy on him. Should the rematch officially be confirmed, the media will start to do the same ahead of their second meeting, possibly in September.
Mayweather's money-making machine (pardon the alliteration) probably couldn't have asked for a better outcome to this fight, as everyone will want to see this rematch.
In terms of hype, we could be looking at the fight of the year, even if the likely outcome would involve Mayweather learning from their first bout on his way to a unanimous decision.