At this stage of his career, Floyd Mayweather Jr. has nothing left to prove. Any rational analysis of his career would portray one of the greatest pound-for-pound boxers in history, and his undefeated record is a nice bonus atop a sparkling resume.
Decline is inevitable for all athletes, but even at age 37, Mayweather had not demonstrated any noticeable signs of regression until now. Maidana pummeled the champion with a relentless style that stretched the definition of a foul and kept Mayweather along the ropes for much of the fight.
After the bout, Maidana expressed dissatisfaction at the majority decision loss. According to Sam Farmer of the L.A. Times, El Chino believed he was robbed and took exception to Mayweather's protests about his gloves:
“I feel I was robbed,” Maidana said through a translator. “I feel I won.”
When they took away my gloves, they took away my advantage. If I would have had my gloves, I would have knocked him out.
I trained hard, and I fought a good fight. And I feel that this was an injustice.
For his part, Mayweather stubbornly refuted Maidana's objections, suggesting that referee Tony Weeks' reluctance to untangle tie-ups gave Maidana an unfair advantage. Mayweather even explicitly welcomed the proposition of a rematch:
Of course, there is a difference between an impulsive post-fight offer and a calculated move after more time for rumination. There are still four bouts remaining on Mayweather's six-fight contract with Showtime, and with no obvious opponent before the fight, Maidana now seems like an intriguing candidate.
Maidana landed 221 punches in the fight and threw twice as many as Mayweather, potentially providing a blueprint for future fighters. As SI.com's Chris Mannix notes, a rematch may be the simplest solution to stirring up pre-fight intrigue:
A rematch with Maidana though could be the simplest route. The Twitter-sphere was abuzz with pay per view buyers outraged by the decision and Maidana’s fan friendly style will get Showtime executives on board for a rematch quickly. Maidana took short money for the fight (a guaranteed $1.5 million to Floyd’s $32 million) and a decent pay bump will get him back, too. The guess here is that Mayweather waits to see the outcome of Cotto-Martinez before making any decisions on his next foe.
However, Mannix himself notes that despite the unexpected drama of the fight, there is also a school of thought that believes there are enough young contenders that Mayweather should provide another fighter an opportunity:
Maidana is already 30 years old, so while he certainly has time to rebound and establish himself as the top contender, it may not be worth fighting someone who has already gotten a chance in his prime.
Amir Khan, who defeated Luis Collazo in one of the undercard fights on Saturday night, stands out as a potential opponent. BBC Sport noted that Khan wanted a shot at Mayweather after his victory, who asserted that "[his] style would cause Floyd a lot of trouble."
At the same time, though, the Collazo fight was a relatively breezy victory for Khan, far from a proper tune-up for Mayweather. Thus, others would prefer that Khan wait in the wings and fight some stiffer competition first:
Regardless of who he fights next, it's clear that Mayweather will have more questions to answer than he has had in years. It's unfair to denigrate his career even if he eventually loses a bout, but for someone who carries himself with as much swagger as Mayweather, there is additional pressure to continue backing up his talk.
Mayweather's impregnability is in question after Maidana nearly pulled off one of boxing's greatest upsets. To quash the inevitably incessant whispers about his decline, Mayweather must prove that the tight majority decision was an aberration.