Floyd Mayweather (46-0, 26 knockouts) entered the MGM Grand on May 3 with a big smile on his face. Flanked by celebrity cohorts Justin Bieber and Lil Wayne, Mayweather looked the part of lead clown, a troupe of performers preceding him into the ring for a fight with Marcos Maidana (35-4, 31 knockouts) that seemed almost an afterthought.
He left in distinctly different fashion, with a tenuous majority decision, even that a bridge too far for many fans in attendance who rained boos when the decision was read. Maidana, an Argentine slugger who seemed tailor-made for Floyd's counterpunching prowess, proved a hard man to demoralize.
That propensity for mental warfare—even more than his fast hands, clever footwork and rough play inside—is what defines Mayweather as a fighter. He is so perfect, so unhittable, so tactically brilliant, that opponents break mentally, hoping in vain for a mistake that never comes.
The trick for Maidana was his refusal to wait for an opportunity. In a bravura display of nerve and sheer gall, Maidana forced the issue. He challenged Floyd in a way few men ever have.
|Mayweather vs. Maidana: By the Numbers|
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Maidana didn't care how many Maybachs Mayweather owned or what his net worth was. He didn't care about that goose egg that followed the 45 wins on Mayweather's resume. He came to fight, winging punches that don't exist in any boxing textbook but were written just the same on Mayweather's arms, shoulders, ribs and, shockingly, even the champion's chin.
Maidana bulled the smaller man around the ring, trapped him against the ropes and punished him. The science took a backseat to brawn and fiery bluster. Even as Mayweather landed beautiful counters, Maidana refused to step backward. He was the underdog—but it seemed no one remembered to remind him. If anyone deserves a second crack at our greatest fighter, it's Maidana.
In some ways, however, a return bout is counterintuitive from an economic standpoint. Sports Illustrated reported the first fight drew 900,000 pay-per-view purchases. Though a hefty number, the show failed to reach the magic benchmark of one million, a line in the sand that seems to determine success or failure.
But that number, as Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix pointed out, was drawn with a bare minimal effort, with Mayweather at half speed and an opponent incapable of carrying his piece of the promotional burden:
Promotion for the Mayweather-Maidana fight—in which Mayweather was guaranteed $32 million—was lackluster. There was no press tour for the Maidana fight, whereas for the fight against Alvarez, Mayweather embarked on an 11-city, two-country press tour that created significant mainstream interest. And while the Argentina-born Maidana fights a fan-friendly style, he is relatively unknown outside of the hardcore boxing community, and the language barrier made it difficult for him to connect with U.S. media.
Sources tell Bleacher Report that promoters see this as a positive, not a negative. The first fight was a qualified success after all, and that was before anyone but the most hardcore boxing fan had ever heard of Maidana. He's no longer the great unknown. He's the guy who beat up Floyd Mayweather; the Argentine is an old-school, do-your-talking-in-the-ring madman.
"Sept. 13, back to business, Marcos Maidana-Floyd Mayweather, Part II," Mayweather told LA Ten Media on the red carpet at the BET Awards. "And then, in May, I'm fighting in May and I'll have a big surprise for y'all."
The surprise for some was immediate. But, in many ways, the rematch made perfect sense.
When Mayweather fights, the toughest sell of all is competitiveness. People want to buy. The success of the World Cup on American television shows just how much we crave a common cultural experience.
A Mayweather fight is a big deal. Fans want to share it with others.
But there's an assumption that Mayweather's opponents won't be able to keep up with him. He's built a reputation over the years for being untouchable. He makes great fighters look average and good fighters look like bums. That makes fans hesitate to pull the trigger sometimes. There's a piece of them that can't quite be convinced, no matter how great the promotion, that a great fight is on the horizon.
The rematch here has no such issue. Maidana battered Floyd the way no man has since Jose Luis Castillo back in 2002. The aftermath of that fight should have been a clue as to how Mayweather might respond to Maidana's challenge. Mayweather wasn't content to let doubt linger then, wanting Castillo again that same year. To teach him a boxing lesson.
It's a lesson Money no doubt wants to teach Maidana as well. And, this time, fans won't be asking if they should buy. They'll be asking when.