Though he did not obtain his 46th victory in dominant fashion, Floyd Mayweather bolstered his reputation as boxing's best competitor with a hard-fought victory over Marcos Maidana.
In Saturday night's championship bout to unify the welterweight world titles, Mayweather scored a majority decision after being put through the grinder for 12 punishing rounds.
According to CompuBox (h/t ESPN.com's Dan Rafael), Maidana landed 221 punches on Mayweather—the most among any competitor in the 38 fights it has tracked. Mayweather, however, converted 230 punches on fewer than half (426) of his ultra-aggressive foe's attempts (858).
The fight was close mostly because everyone anticipated a rout.
Seeing Maidana hold his own and deliver an entertaining match offered a pleasant surprise, even if the punching stats point to another uncontested victory for boxing's pound-for-pound king.
Truth be told, the pound-for-pound provision is not necessary. Until somebody can beat him to claim his crown, Mayweather remains the king of boxing.
And, no, Jason Whitlock, he's not a cruel, false boy-king about to meet his match.
Along with the big goose egg in his loss column, the numbers support his claim for the sport's iron throne.
According to CompuBox, he's the most accurate puncher with a connection clip of 42 percent. He's even more known for his stellar defense, though, as opponents catch up to him on just 18 percent of their attempts.
His two-sided dominance gives him the best plus/minus rating in the game at plus-24.
In an unspectacular fight by his standards, Money received one of, if not the toughest test of his illustrious career. Nevertheless, he still nailed 54 percent of his punches while Maidana hit on 26 percent of his strikes. That leads to a close call in Mayweather's world of dominance.
The brutal nature of Mayweather's triumph even adds to his reputation. Critics claim the champion has not challenged himself enough, but Maidana gave Money a worthy adversary in the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
Usually selective and calculated, Mayweather changed direction on the fly, opening up more for a physical clash against his relentless opponent.
As he told reporters after the fight, he decided to give the people what they want: carnage.
I was in a tough competitive fight. I normally like to go out there and box and move. But he put pressure on me, so that's when I decided I'd make it competitive and fight differently. I wanted to give the fans what I know they wanted to see, so I stood there and fought him.
He's a good fighter. I take nothing away from him. I couldn't see for two rounds after the head butt, but that's what champions do: They survive and they adjust. True champions adjust to anything.
He makes a valid point about champions, as the truly elite competitors must display versatility. Even when things weren't going his way, Money found a way to prevail—the true mark of a winner.
To be fair, age is gradually catching up to Mayweather. The 37-year-old has not scored a knockout victory in his last five fights. The drought date backs to 2011, when he caught Victor Ortiz off guard in the fourth round of a controversial finish.
Nine of his last 11 bouts have been placed in the judges' hands, and it wasn't always that way. He has collected 26 knockouts over the course of his 18-year career, but only four of them have come in the past decade.
When it comes to stars of his caliber, we're going to find a way to complain either way.
He knocked out his opponent in five seconds? Why isn't he facing someone better? He had to gut out a hard-earned victory against a vicious puncher? Why couldn't he have knocked him out?
Yes, he is past his prime, but a slightly declining Mayweather is still the best boxer the sport has to offer. He's also not the only superstar in that situation. Manny Pacquiao has also lost a step, but it has cost the 35-year-old more dearly, with two losses and a five-year knockout drought.
It'd be one thing if the landscape were full of young studs quickly closing the gap.
Maidana, who previously bested another candidate in Adrien Broner, is still a step away from entering the conversation. Saul "Canelo" Alvarez, who entered his fight with Mayweather undefeated, proved far from ready.
Mayweather's reign as boxing's No. 1 fighter will eventually end. For now, he has more time to enjoy his throne.