He beat Marco Maidana and remained undefeated, but Floyd Mayweather looked vulnerable during his victory in a way he has not before.
Money Mayweather hadn't been pushed like that in over a decade, not since he faced Jose Luis Castillo in 2002 with a torn left rotator cuff. Though he only topped Canelo Alvarez by a majority when they fought last September, the close result did not do justice to Mayweather's performance; in his ESPN.com recap of that fight, Dan Rafael called judge C.J. Ross' 114-114 score "unconscionable."
Fast forward to May 3, and Mayweather did not appear to be the ageless wonder that took down Canelo. He was still a masterful boxer, but one who was beginning to show the effect of years in the ring.
Though Burt Clements and Dave Moretti gave Mayweather 117-111 and 116-112 scores, respectively, Bob Velin of USA Today reports that the crowd, though admittedly partisan in Maidana's favor, was displeased with the outcome. So was Maidana, who felt he would have won outright if not for a controversial decision by the Nevada Athletic Commission to deny the younger fighter his preferred gloves.
"If I had my gloves, I would've knocked him out," he said. "He never hurt me with a punch. He wasn't even that tough.
"I thought I won the fight. I feel like (the decision) was an injustice."
Maidana, 30, said it should be him that gives Mayweather a rematch, not the other way around, because "I won the fight. I'm not scared of him. Why not give him the rematch."
After the fight, Maidana raised his arms, believing he had won. Velin confirms that, ringside, the match appeared closer than Clements' and Moretti's scores indicated.
The lightning-quick Mayweather of old would have simply toyed with Maidana, dancing around him and counterpunching him off power misses, leading to a probable mid-round knockout. The Mayweather that beat Alvarez would have at the very least made this an easy decision.
Instead, Maidana threw punches constantly—858 in total, more than double Mayweather's 425—but Money could never seize the opportunity to make Maidana pay. Maidana went at Mayweather with overhand after overhand, and the frequency of power punches kept the champ from taking total control.
Mayweather is still terrifyingly accurate, which was the edge he needed against Maidana. Of the 425 punches he threw, Mayweather landed 230 of them, compared to 221 for his opponent on so many more attempts.
Even so, that last stat is more significant than it appears on the surface. According to CompuBox (via Velin), of the 38 Mayweather fights the system has tracked, no fighter has connected as many punches on him than Maidana did in this bout.
None of that is to say that Mayweather is washed up or even should have lost this fight, though the margin ought to have been thinner.
Rather, Mayweather will not have it as easy as he once did, in a rematch against Maidana and against whomever else he fights, as he continues to age.
He can still win with accuracy and endurance, and his instincts won't betray him, but when his fist speed slows a half-tick, it will be that much harder for him to punch with such economy. At that point, his only options would be to become more of a brawler, lose or retire.
Saturday night surely was not Floyd Mayweather's last win, and he may very well go out with his undefeated record intact. After all, he compiled his 46-0 record with strength and savvy as well as speed, so he'll still have plenty of talent on which to fall back in the coming years as his athleticism gradually fades.
But the potential for that first blemish on Money's record has never been so clear.
Maidana couldn't deal him that first loss, but he dictated the fight with his power. Going forward, Mayweather will have to adapt and rely less on his speed, or he'll go down trying to be the fighter he once was.