It’s not as if Marcos Maidana didn’t have street cred already.
After all, even in an era when every third fighter wears a title belt, any guy who’s managed world recognition in two weight classes has reached the boxing equivalent of never having to buy a drink.
So, regardless of what he was able to do in the ring with Floyd Mayweather Jr. at the MGM Grand, the word “elite” was not one to which he couldn’t make a legitimate claim going in.
And now, in the still-lingering buzz of “Money’s” most competitive fight in a while—one in which he got hit more than anyone’s recently been able to hit him—the debates about Maidana’s deserved status have been largely forgotten amid a collective zeal to get a rematch signed for September.
He belongs on the big stage, it seems, and whether he does any better in a Las Vegas encore this summer or not, he’s probably going to have a lengthy run among the top stars in the 147-pound sky.
Just how successful he’ll be in beating some of those stars depends on how you perceived Saturday.
If you agreed with the loudest representatives of a largely partisan crowd in the desert, you no doubt believe that Maidana can not only compete with the likes of Mayweather and others, but that he’s already earned top-dog status at welterweight because he proved he was the better man.
It’s a viewpoint, at least for the cameras, championed by the fighter himself.
“I definitely think I won,” Maidana told Showtime’s Jim Gray in the ring. “He did dominate some rounds, but the majority of them, I dominated. I'm not scared of him, why not give him a rematch? I have to give him a rematch because I won the fight.”
Of course, even if you endorsed Michael Pernick’s 114-114 score, or the majority calculations of Burt Clements and Dave Moretti—who saw Mayweather winning eight and nine of 12 rounds, respectively—you probably concede that the Argentine is at the very least a dangerous and interesting commodity.
And in a sea of television execs desperate for compelling content, those are good labels to have.
Thanks to his alignment with Golden Boy Promotions and Showtime, Maidana should get myriad post-Mayweather chances to strut his stuff against similarly aligned big players in the welterweight mix—particularly IBF champion Shawn Porter, unbeaten top contender Keith Thurman and lingering former titleholders Amir Khan, Devon Alexander and Robert Guerrero.
All are Golden Boy clients and all would be main event-caliber foils for Maidana on a routine Saturday night premium cable broadcast—or certainly worthy sidesaddle opponents for a co-feature underneath a pay-per-view show featuring either of the network’s two biggest names in the corridor between 147 and 154 pounds: Mayweather and Saul “Canelo” Alvarez.
And none of them, especially after Saturday, would be considered too big a reach.
His perpetual aggression would make for must-see battles against the unbeaten likes of Porter and Thurman, whose stars have risen sharply thanks to Showtime-televised victories over recognizable—if not entirely threatening—foes. And whether Maidana won them or not, they’d presumably make an instant beeline to consensus short lists for fights of the year.
He and Khan have already engaged in one classic slugfest that earned SI.com's nod as 2010’s best fight, and the version of the “King” that emerged against Luis Collazo in Saturday’s final undercard bout makes a return against “El Chino” a distinct possibility—particularly if Maidana were to enter that fray following a follow-up defeat of Mayweather.
“Of course,” said Amir Rashid, sports PR director at Golden Star Media, which works with Khan. “(He is) open to fight Maidana if he wins.”
Maidana’s last pre-Saturday loss came to Alexander, who dropped his IBF title to Porter in December and would probably welcome the chance to reinvent against an old victim; while Guerrero has been shelved since his own loss to Mayweather last May and could use another statement-making win to get back into the running for another PPV date down the line.
For a guy dismissed as a mismatch patsy before the weekend, one brave effort goes a long way.
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.