Marcos Maidana gave Floyd Mayweather all he could handle on May 3. Mayweather was off his game early in the fight but seemingly made the adjustments necessary to win the bout. Maidana came flying out of the gate, which brought back shades of a younger version of Manny Pacquiao to some degree.
Maidana has that killer instinct, where winning is the only option. Pacquiao, too, used to come roaring at his opponents with a barrage of punches. The difference now, though, is that Pacquiao's age has caught up with him.
At one time, Mayweather vs. Pacquiao would have brought the same intrigue to fans that Ali vs. Frazier I did. Lately, Pacquiao has slowed down, but he is still dominant, using a more tactical display of boxing than earlier in his career. But is boxing with that style really the best approach for Pacquiao, if he squares off against the best tactician in the game?
Although there is no current blueprint to beat Mayweather, as he proclaims, it seems like early pressure is key. Ricky Hatton, Shane Mosley and Zab Judah all had early success with this strategy but came up short.
Pacquiao has the stamina to last the distance against Mayweather but now lacks the ferocity that Maidana displayed. In this regard, Maidana might actually be the better opponent for Mayweather in the fall. While Pacquiao is still quicker and more talented than Maidana, the latter seems to have more heart at the moment.
The way to beat the man with the perfect record is to show no fear and not get lost in the awe of the moment. Maidana clearly showed no respect for the world’s best fighter, trying to knee him, low-blow him and even to tackle him at one point in the fight.
It also takes a lot of bravado to walk through sharp punches that land right on target, as Maidana did. Pacquiao also used to do this in the past, before the devastating knockout handed to him by rival Juan Manuel Marquez. Pac-Man has still played the role of the aggressor in recent fights but has certainly been more cautious when doing so.
Pacquiao is a different proposition now, and we have to question if this version can still beat Mayweather, who seemingly hasn’t lost a step. If we saw this matchup in 2009, 2010 or 2011, then perhaps we would have seen what we saw with Maidana: a brawler who came out swinging away without fear.
But now it seems as if a rematch between Maidana and Mayweather might be the more intriguing fight than the superfight after all. Maidana has had more knockouts and knockdowns than Pacquiao in recent fights. Nevertheless, the 34-year-old from the Philippines is still considered a top-five fighter in the world with impressive victories in his last two fights.
Fans still want to see Mayweather and Pacquiao throw down, but Maidana showed he is a worthy opponent. With the negotiation process proving to be too much of a burden for Mayweather and Pacquiao, Maidana is ready to go for Round 2.
If Pacquiao is able to land what would be the most lucrative fight in boxing history, he will need to do what Maidana did: put the pressure on early.