Floyd Mayweather remains undefeated. | Photo: Mike Sloan/Sherdog.com
When the classy Jimmy Lennon Jr. read the judges scorecards after the wildly entertaining Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Marcos Maidana clash at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on Saturday in Las Vegas, the sold-out crowd of 16,268 fans collectively held its breath. As soon as a 114-114 score was read, there was hope that Maidana would be the one who would make Mayweather’s “0” finally go.
However, Michael Pernick’s scorecard was offset by judges Dave Moretti (116-112) and Burt Clements (117-111) to give “Money” Mayweather his 46th win and keep his undefeated record intact. Those in attendance and others watching at home exploded with disdain over the decision. Of course, they wanted Maidana to win and were surprised at how much trouble he gave Mayweather, but a robbery it was not -- seriously -- so stop with the crying.
Boxing has had its fair share of terrible decisions -- Timothy Bradley’s 2012 win over Manny Pacquiao immediately comes to mind -- but the attempts to suggest that the Argentinean was robbed are asinine. We have all seen worse decisions in boxing, and Mayweather-Maidana does not even come remotely close to highway robbery territory.
Did Maidana give Mayweather a tough fight? Absolutely. Did Maidana make the highest-paid athlete in the world work harder than he had to against Saul “Canelo” Alvarez? Yes. Did Maidana do enough to beat the champion? Absolutely not.
However, the general population wants to see Mayweather lose so badly that anything remotely close to looking good against the defensive wizard is viewed as a victory; and when it comes from a fighter who was considered a massive underdog, it makes us salivate for the upset to the point where we begin giving extra-credit points just for hanging around longer than you should have.
Maidana, who earned his spot against Mayweather by impressively beating Adrien Broner in December, was a man on a mission. Well aware that Mayweather would outgun him in anything that resembled a boxing match, his best chance was to stick his head in his unbeaten opponent’s chest and roughhouse his way to a victory. Those of us at ringside were impressed with Maidana’s game plan. He was not going to beat Maywather in the center of the ring, and any attempt he made to box was going to result in his being overwhelmed by one of the best to ever do it; so make it as much of an MMA match as you can.
That is what Maidana did against Mayweather. Heck, he scored a double-leg takedown late in the fight and even attempted to throw a knee from the clinch that would have made Anderson Silva proud. Alas, this is boxing, and when it comes to adjusting on the fly, Mayweather is arguably the greatest to ever set foot in the ring.
What made the fight interesting was that Maidana’s determination never wavered. After his opening salvo, it was assumed he would eventually punch himself out and allow Mayweather to perform open-heart surgery on him the rest of the way. However, Maidana just kept bullying his way forward and not allowing Mayweather the proper space to operate. To see Mayweather in positions that looked uncomfortable was exciting, especially when you consider the idea that the general population despises his chess-over-checkers mentality.
According to Compubox, Maidana landed more punches than any of Mayweather’s 45 previous opponents. However, he only landed 26 percent of his punches, 221 out of 858. Meanwhile, Mayweather was as accurate as ever, landing 230 out of 426 punches for an eyebrow-raising 54 percent.
To put it in perspective, Mayweather’s overall connect percentage throughout the course of his career is 41 percent -- that ranked second among active fighters entering the Maidana bout -- while his opponents connect percentage is 17 percent, also good enough for second among active fighters. Maidana landed at a better clip but did not make it difficult for Mayweather to hit him back.
You do not win fights simply based on ruthless aggression if your opponent keeps landing the cleaner punches. All the mauling and brawling in the world could not save Maidana from being dissected whenever the two created distance; and although Maidana never aborted his plan, he clearly slowed in the middle rounds and allowed Mayweather to score with scintillating combinations whenever there was open space between the two.
You also get the feeling that Mayweather welcomed this kind of fight. Normally, when opponents bull their way forward, “Money” dances away. It is not like Maidana is better than Alvarez or Miguel Cotto in his ability to trap Mayweather. Oftentimes, Mayweather could be seen making a decision to counter off the ropes. It was a dangerous strategy, but “Money” said he wanted to please the fans and play with fire. Fortunately for him, he did not get burned.
At the end of the day, Mayweather kept his “0” intact with an exciting performance, while Maidana saw his stock rise by defying the odds and not looking like Alvarez, Robert Guerrero, Juan Manuel Marquez or just about everyone Mayweather has outdueled over the past decade. The Argentinean proved naysayers wrong and instantly became a fighter the casual fan will want to see again; and perhaps we will see him in a rematch with Mayweather.
When you really think about it, could this have been Mayweather’s plan all along? With the list of qualified opponents thinning faster than Manu Ginobli’s hair, did Mayweather make a conscious effort to almost look beatable so fans would tune into his next fight? With Amir Khan, who is likely next in line, unable to fight in September due to Ramadan, is it wrong to think Mayweather opted to set up a rematch with Maidana while he waits for a worthy opponent to materialize? Would it be all that surprising if Maidana gets the call for a highly anticipated rematch and is systematically taken apart by Mayweather in an I-told-you-so performance? Nope, and that is what makes Mayweather as good of a salesman as he is a fighter.
To that end, let us not call what happened on Saturday a highway robbery.