Floyd Mayweather took a beating against Marcos Maidana on Saturday night, but he emerged victorious yet again to solidify his already incredible legacy.
His majority-decision victory to unify the welterweight world titles improves his unblemished record to 46-0, maintaining the pound-for-pound king's position atop the boxing world.
It did not come easily against a hungry adversary who came out swinging and did not relent until the final bell. After the match, Mayweather admitted to receiving a tougher test than he's seen in past fights.
Rather than using that as evidence that he's fading, Mayweather's tough win showed his ability to adapt in the ring when facing adversity. A big knock on the 37-year-old is that he often doesn't have to break a sweat against over-matched opponents. Well, he certainly broke a sweat in Las Vegas, but he employed a more physical approach to secure the victory.
He described his thought process after fight. From Yahoo! Sports' Kevin Iole:
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.
Maidana will feel differently about all those accolades and honors bestowed upon a man whom he thinks he defeated. When discussing a possible rematch after the fight, the 30-year-old declared that he's the one who should get to grant Money a second chance.
"I have to give him a rematch, because I won." -Marcos Maidana on Floyd Mayweather Jr.: http://t.co/vXKyvqunHw— USA TODAY Sports (@USATODAYsports) May 4, 2014
Nevertheless, the data tells a different tale.
According to CompuBox, via ESPN.com's Dan Rafael, nobody has landed more punches than Maidana's 221 in 38 fights it monitored. Mayweather, however, hit his opponent 230 times despite taking 432 fewer swings (Mayweather tallied 426 during the 12 rounds).
With a 54 percent connection rating compared to Maidana's 26, Mayweather rightfully won the bout, even if he was pushed further than usual against the aggressive Argentine.
Every Mayweather fight now concludes with a discussion of his legacy. After all, nobody knows for sure how many more great years he has left in the tank. When it's all said and done, where will he stand among boxing's legends?
Since entering the fray in 1996, Mayweather has been a polarizing yet dominating figure in the sport. He won 13 of his first 15 fights by knockout or technical knockout, but he has since slowed down on that front. Only two of his last 11 fights ended by KO or TKO.
Still, a win is a win, and Mayweather's lack of knockouts should not be mistaken for struggles. It's instead a tactical decision from the sport's toughest defender. He knows he can outlast anyone through 12 rounds, and he has thus thus transitioned to relying on his veteran savvy in recent years.
Some of the questions about his competition level are not his fault. If he wins big, he needs a better opponent. If his foe steps up to the plate like Maidana, Mayweather is slipping by not making quick work of him. Everyone wants Mayweather to face someone of his caliber, but that fighter does not exist right now.
Of course, fans wanted him to fight Manny Pacquiao when they were both at their best, and the dream match would still intrigue everyone if it happened with both men well past 30.
We'll never know what would have happened if they had clashed years ago, but we do know that Pacquiao has suffered two consecutive losses (one a controversial decision against Timothy Bradley) while not having won via knockout since 2005.
Comparing the two legends today, Mayweather gets the upper hand. Even if the absence of this dream bout blocks Money from entering the sport's Mount Rushmore, he's the greatest boxer standing right now.
His legacy became an even more relevant discussion after he entertained thoughts of soon leaving the sport.
"I'm being honest. I be contemplating every day about getting out of the sport now," Mayweather said the week before the fight, per Rafael. "I'm very, very comfortable. I think that it's not really hard for me to get up when I get to the boxing gym—it's like getting me to the gym."
Despite his perfect record, Mayweather is not without his flaws. There will always be doubts about him protecting his record rather than delivering the best show possible.
But he's competed 46 times and won 46 times. His in-ring success deserves celebration.