Marcos Maidana came out punching. Then he did so over and over again for next 11 rounds, hitting Floyd Mayweather more times than any other fighter in history.
It just wasn't enough.
Mayweather's steady and precise strategy won out over Maidana's aggression on the judges' scorecards, as he moved to 46-0 with a majority-decision victory at the MGM Grand. Judge Michael Pernick scored the fight a 114-114 draw, while Burt Clements (117-111) and Dave Moretti (116-112) gave the fight to Mayweather, who won the WBA (Super) Welterweight title.
Largely expected by many to feature the dominant Mayweather overwhelming the relatively unheralded Maidana, it was clear from the opening bell that the reality was far different. Maidana was aggressive and ferocious from the outset, pummeling Mayweather with a series of power punches that put him up against the ropes. All three judges scored Round 1 in the underdog's favor, setting the tone for what turned into a war of attrition.
For all the cheers that went Maidana's way when the final bell sounded, Mayweather stood and battled. He saw 858 punches come flying at his head and body, turning away more than three-fourths of the attempts. Maidana came in looking to turn the bout into an all-out slugfest—and succeeded to a certain extent—but there was no question who was the superior boxer.
While Maidana punched and punched and punched, Mayweather struck. Despite throwing less than half Maidana's punches, he outlanded his opponent by nine. While a good deal of those were jabs designed to back his more aggressive opponent away, Mayweather has mastered the ability to land solid power punches when needed. He opened a cut on Maidana's head—and he didn't even need a headbutt to do so, the way his opponent did.
"This was a tough, competitive fight. This is what fans want to see," Mayweather said after the fight. "I want to give fans an exciting fight. Normally, I box and move. Tonight, I gave fans an exciting fight."
It remains at least somewhat amusing that, even as Mayweather stood and boxed, many thought they'd just seen Maidana make history. There was a loud chorus of boos at the Las Vegas mecca when Mayweather's name was announced as the winner. At the very least, the mood was far different from Money's last fight, when he thoroughly humiliated Saul "Canelo" Alvarez for 12 rounds.
"I definitely think I won," Maidana said through a translator. "Floyd did not fight like a man like I expected him to do. I had to change the gloves [after a last-minute problem with his original gloves on Friday] and I still gave him a great fight."
The post-fight reaction represents the continued dichotomy between fans and those paid to objectively judge the sport. Maidana won the fight to some in the court of public opinion simply by being wildly aggressive. Fans adore punchers. It's why Manny Pacquiao's rise to stardom could have made the perfect muse for a mega-fight with Mayweather. Pacquiao was the puncher who, at the peak of his powers, was also finally learning how to box.
Too often Maidana looked like a fighter—and not in a good way. He was attempting to please the crowd as if there were an American Idol hotline fans could call in to decide the result. It was an admirable and at times thrilling fight. Maidana deserves the national recognition he's going to get out of Saturday night, and at the very least, he livened up Mayweather to the point where he's already considering a rematch.
"We can take it back down there right now if you want," Mayweather told reporters. "Put the ring back up…It's not a problem. If he feels he won, we can do it again in September."
Mayweather has famously not fought a rematch bout since Jose Luis Castillo in 2002. That not-so-coincidentally falls in line with the international recognition of Mayweather's undefeated streak and ascent into the all-time pound-for-pound conversation.
Mayweather's greatest strength is his ability to assess an opponent's strategy in the early rounds and systematically destroy it as the fight goes along. Given a second chance to see how Mayweather would attack them, perhaps a past opponent could have come back and defeated Money in a rematch. We've never gotten to find out.
But based on what we saw Saturday night, I doubt that victor would be Maidana.
While his attacking and aggressive style was a refreshing change of pace for the first few rounds Saturday night—Pernick scored four of the first five in his favor—the bout quietly slipped into that familiar pattern. By the end, Maidana was still valiantly attacking, but his punches one by one were failing to do significant damage. Maidana was the baby pit bull gnawing at the bottom of his cage and hoping Mayweather would give him an out.
Mayweather didn't. And Maidana's history indicates that's the only way he knows how to attack someone like Mayweather. There is no serenity to his bouts. He's coming full force from the opening bell. He's going to fight "like a man."
For one night, that sent Mayweather on his heels and electrified a crowd that expected to see a domination. Run it back one more time, though, and I suspect we'll get a far more typical Mayweather fight.
And not in a good way.
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