Floyd Mayweather knew Marcos Maidana wanted a brawl. The undefeated current pound-for-pound king could have counteracted that with an extremely conservative defense-first approach. Instead, he decided to embrace the style en route to a majority-decision win.
The result of Mayweather's willingness to box a more uptempo, heavy-hitting bout was one of the more entertaining fights of the year. It also told fans a lot about both fighters, especially Maidana, who was a bit of a question mark entering the main event.
For Mayweather, the fight showed why he's been able to remain unbeaten for so long. The unheralded challenger was actually able to gain control of the bout early. He used his power to get "Money" out of his comfort zone.
At that point, the American superstar had a decision to make. He either had to match the intensity and ferociousness coming out of the opposite corner, or he had to go into an all-out defensive stance with hopes of letting Maidana wear himself down.
Mayweather chose to go on the offensive, illustrating the type of versatility few other boxers can match. It was another gear that many probably didn't know whether he still had at this stage in his career.
In turn, he fought back from the early deficit to score his 46th straight win. Although it was close, it certainly seemed like he did enough to earn the victory.
Just don't tell that to Maidana. The Argentine came away from the bout thinking he did enough to pull off the upset. Bob Velin of USA Today passed along some of the underdog's post-fight comments, including a mention of the glove change he was forced to make:
If I had my gloves, I would've knocked him out. 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.
Though that's obviously a debatable take, the confidence he expresses through those remarks is exactly what allowed him to at least push Mayweather. That alone is something only a handful of fighters have been able to do over the years.
Who would win a rematch?
Above all else, Maidana showed he was capable of going toe-to-toe with Mayweather without getting overmatched. That was important when it comes to attracting more high-profile fights in the future. He proved he was a legitimate threat.
It also showed that his power numbers (31 knockouts in 35 wins) weren't just a product of fighting lower-tier opponents. When he was fresh early in the bout, he really gave Mayweather some problems by being the more aggressive fighter and landing some power punches.
Moving forward, the focus shifts to a potential rematch. The fight was definitely good enough to warrant a sequel, but doing it right away is up for debate.
Steve Bunce of ESPN UK thinks another battle between the two could chart out the rest of Mayweather's current deal: "If Maidana gets the next fight, then presumably Amir Khan, an easy winner on Saturday's undercard, will get the shot next May and I think that the final fight of the $200m deal will be against unbeaten Danny Garcia, the current WBC and WBA light-welterweight champion."
Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated believes avoiding the rematch trend is the right move:
I'm OK with Mayweather and Maidana moving on. There are too many rematches in boxing. Give me Khan, Thurman or Porter next. New blood.— Chris Mannix (@ChrisMannixSI) May 4, 2014
Either way, the conversation alone is good news for Maidana. If he would have gotten boxed out of the arena on Saturday night, there certainly wouldn't be talk of a rematch and he'd likely be looking at a step down in competition.
Now he's one of the hottest names in a sport looking for more fighters to step to the forefront. It's a nice position for the veteran Argentine.
Mayweather is still the king of today's boxing landscape, but Saturday's fight probably did more for Maidana, even in a losing effort.