So, it looks like we’ve got a new blueprint on how to defeat Floyd Mayweather Jr., right?
Well, not exactly, mostly because Marcos Maidana, despite an inspired performance, was unable to come away with a victory over Mayweather (46-0, 26 KOs) on Saturday in their welterweight title-unification bout at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
But Maidana (35-4, 31 KOs), who lost by majority decision, clearly provided the pound-for-pound king with his toughest fight since Mayweather’s victory over Jose Luis Castillo in their first meeting in 2002.
So how, exactly, did this 12-to-1 underdog nearly pull off a performance most felt was improbable against the unbeaten Mayweather?
Well, he did it with volume punching and by showing an outright lack of respect for Mayweather, above all else. But he also benefited from a perfect storm of other factors that conspired together to provide fans with the most exciting Mayweather fight of his career.
Let’s take a look at how Maidana was so successful:
We all knew Maidana’s best shot at finding success would come by cutting off the ring and smothering Mayweather with a flurry of awkward punches from various angles. What we didn’t know was that Maidana would still be fighting at relatively the same pace for the entire 12 rounds.
Maidana never buckled under the mental and physical fatigue that inevitably comes once Mayweather’s patented midfight adjustment opens the door for him to land a series of flush right hands to the face. The Argentine slugger was able to do that by maintaining a hellish pace and overwhelming Mayweather with volume, which never allowed him to properly set himself or get comfortable for a prolonged time.
Not only did Maidana set a record for landing the most punches against Mayweather (221) in the 38 previous fights tracked by CompuBox, he also threw an astounding 858 punches in all, which was more than double those of Mayweather.
Outside of Castillo, only three Mayweather opponents proved able to produce legitimate success against him over a period of at least three to four rounds. But none of them -- Zab Judah (444), Oscar De La Hoya (587) and Miguel Cotto (506) -- proved able to match Maidana’s output, and that was the difference.
Veteran referee Tony Weeks had his hands full attempting to separate the two fighters and curb both men’s low blows, holding, head butts and forearms.
Although Weeks was vocal in his warnings, he never took away a point from either and allowed the fight to remain physical, which played into Maidana’s hands.
Not only did a fourth-round head butt open up a cut above Mayweather’s right eye for the first time since early in his career, Maidana’s mugging style consistently backed Mayweather up to the ropes and forced him to fight on the inside.
Mayweather was vocal in his disapproval of Weeks’ performance after the fight, claiming it allowed Maidana an opening to consistently foul. And there’s little question it played a major role in Maidana’s success.
Ricky Hatton’s attempt at a similarly aggressive style against Mayweather in their 2007 fight was mainly kept in check by referee Joe Cortez's quickness in breaking the fighters apart each time they clinched. This time, Mayweather wasn’t so lucky, allowing Maidana chances to hit on the break and be physical at close range.
Mayweather maintained after the bout that he wanted to give the fans their money’s worth by standing and trading with Maidana instead of outboxing him from distance.
Sound familiar? It should. It’s the same stance Mayweather employed after his last relatively close fight against Cotto in May 2012. And both times it wasn't believable.
The fights share a common parallel in the sense that Mayweather appeared to be battling outside the ring distractions in both, which likely played a major role in both fights being so competitive.
While Cotto certainly exceeded expectations against Mayweather two years ago, it can’t be ignored that Mayweather entered the ring one month before serving a three-month jail term. And the buildup to Saturday's fight against Maidana appeared to have the same affect on Mayweather.
Not only was he enduring the aftermath of a reported breakup with his ex-fiancée, there also was a prefight glove controversy with Maidana and the lingering rumors of a rift between Golden Boy’s De La Hoya and Richard Schaefer.
Exactly how all of that affected Mayweather is uncertain. But he talked of a possible retirement in the final news conference days before the fight and appeared both emotional and distant in many of his public appearances, often speaking of his career in the past tense.
Yes, Mayweather could very well be slowing down just a bit at 37. And, yes, Maidana clearly performed at a level much higher than anyone expected. But even though Mayweather impressively dug deep to come away with a victory, this wasn’t the same fighter who pitched near shutouts in 2013 against Robert Guerrero and Canelo Alvarez.
Whether the reasons for Maidana’s success can be attributed to anything written above or reflect more on the fact that he employs a style that was always meant to give Mayweather fits only remains to be seen should the two do it again this fall.
But Maidana clearly found success where others have failed before him, even if he benefited, in part, from the stars aligning perfectly in his favor. Either way, he forced Mayweather, who landed 54 percent of his punches overall and 65 percent of his power shots, to prove once again why even in his twilight, he’s still the best in the game.