Mayweather vs. Maidana II: Burning Questions Ahead of Blockbuster Fight
Last week I published a piece about the biggest questions surrounding Floyd Mayweather and Marcos Maidana's rematch, which centered on issues related to the fight. What happens in the ring is always the most important thing in a fight.
But following prizefighting has always been partly about the drama and hype surrounding the big event. The background questions might be secondary, but they are crucial nevertheless.
These five questions will be debated and discussed in barrooms and on message boards wherever boxing fans come together in the days leading up to the fight on September 13.
Will Marcos Maidana's Popularity Continue to Grow?
When a fighter faces Floyd Mayweather, a certain percentage of fans will always cheer for him, simply because he is fighting Mayweather. And among serious fans, Marcos Maidana was already a popular performer due to his take-no-prisoners, all-action style.
Maidana raised his popularity and earned his first shot at Mayweather when he beat the crap out of the insufferably cocky Adrien Broner last year. His relentless, mauling style against Mayweather took his stardom to the next level.
Maidana made the last fight exciting and relatively close. It might be too much to ask him to do it again, but I do expect him to demonstrate the same tough-guy persona that has been steadily winning him fans.
Boxing lives and dies with its stars. It would be nice to see El Chino continue developing into one in his own right.
Will the Earlier Start Time Lead to Better Sales?
In a move that is great news to all early-to-bed East Coasters like myself, Golden Boy and Mayweather Promotions announced last week that they would be moving the start time for this event up to 8 p.m. ET.
Traditionally, most pay-per-views have started at 9 p.m. or later. The biggest part of the boxing audience has always been blue-collar, so events sometimes ended a little more than 24 hours before viewers had to get up to go to work on Monday.
For a lot of fans, it's tough to even stay awake for the main event. For young fans trying to break into the sport with their parents, it's often too late at night.
I'm old school and keep grandpa hours most of the time. I'd love to see a return to the days of major fights happening in the afternoon.
That's obviously very unlikely. But the move to 8 p.m. is at least a nice accommodation to make for the 80 percent of the U.S. population that lives in the Eastern and Central time zones.
Will There Be a Shake-Up to the Mayweather Entourage?
It makes me feel a bit like a gossip columnist to be writing about this before one of the biggest fights of the year. However, promoting fights has always been partly about show business, and Floyd Mayweather understands this as well as anyone ever has.
Speculation over who will walk into the ring with Mayweather on fight night is always part of the chatter in advance of a Mayweather fight. Rap superstars, teen heartthrobs and entire circus troops have accompanied him to the ring in recent fights.
For his past few fights he's fallen into a steady lineup of Lil Wayne and Justin Bieber. Even my eight-year-old niece hates the Bieb at this point, but Mayweather has kept loyal with his own case of Bieber fever.
Still, it's hard to imagine a showman like Mayweather won't finally shake things up this time around. In his 2012 HBO interview with Michael Eric Dyson, Mayweather actually boasted he could get Barack Obama to walk in with him, if he made the call.
I'm still holding my breath on that one.
Are the Wheels Coming off the Money Team?
Even while battling Marcos Maidana in a tough fight last time, Floyd Mayweather proved that he's still the pound-for-pound best in the sport. So this question isn't about Mayweather. Even at 36, he very much looks to have quality years ahead of him in the ring.
But the greatest fighter of his generation has found that transitioning to the promotional side of the sport is not such a simple thing to do. His Money Team has yet to develop a true rising star, and his best prospects have gone down hard over the past year.
Last weekend, Mayweather's main protege, J'Leon Love, was knocked out in three rounds by Rogelio Medina. To me, this wasn't a complete surprise. Love has looked great against plodders like Marco Periban, but he got a gift decision against light middleweight journeyman Gabriel Rosado. That was later turned to a no-contest when Love failed the post-fight drug test.
Mayweather's other top undefeated fighter, Badou Jack, was stunned by a first-round knockout against Derek Edwards last February. Jack's stiff, upright European style allowed Edwards to easily slip and counter.
Boxing is a tough sport. Only one man can win in each fight. There is a lot of talent out there, and the talent only grows as a fighter moves up the ranks.
Mayweather grew up in the sport and has a great boxing mind. I wouldn't count him out as a future success as a promoter. But unlike what he does in the ring so often, he's not making it look easy.
Will the "May Surprise" Be Legitimate?
When Floyd Mayweather announced he would be fighting Marcos Maidana for a second time last spring, he also teased a big surprise for May. I can't be the only boxing fan who rolled his eyes.
The reason for the cynicism is simple. The only truly earth-shattering "surprise" Mayweather could announce would be that finally, after all these years of posturing and delays coming from both sides, he was going to fight Manny Pacquiao.
Anything else is a consolation prize. And boxing fans have gotten used to a steady diet of those.
And since I have long since given up on Mayweather and Pacquiao meeting in the ring, it's hard not to view the so-called "surprise" as pure hype.
Maybe I'll be wrong. I'd love it. Maybe Floyd and Manny will finally resolve this soap opera in the ring.
But until it happens, I won't put much stock in rumors or intimations.
More likely Mayweather will announce a fight in London against Amir Khan. A fight overseas would be a "surprise" for Mayweather, who has made Las Vegas his home like no other boxer before him.
I also can't help noting that Miguel Cotto has remained inactive since capturing the lineal middleweight title from Sergio Martinez in June. It could be he's waiting out the year for a rematch with Mayweather next spring.
Even though the last fight wasn't close, a rematch now makes sense with Cotto's newly won title. He no doubt believes he can do better than last time, while becoming a lineal champion at middleweight would do a lot for Mayweather's legacy.
Either way, I think the majority of boxing fans are going to receive Mayweather's big surprise with the enthusiasm of a kid opening up socks on Christmas morning.