Mayweather vs Maidana II, dubbed ‘Mayhem’ for the fireworks it would supposedly provide, took place last night at the MGM Grand. It was a rematch of Floyd’s May fight against Marcos Maidana, in which the Argentine bulled his way forward and narrowly lost a majority decision. Mayweather hadn’t looked that susceptible since his first bout with Jose Luis Castillo, as he had difficulty adjusting to “Chino’s” awkward volume punching and swarming style. The outcome was suitably debatable to warrant a rematch, and the usual questions preceded the second fight. Had age diminished Floyd’s skills? Were his reflexes no longer the sport’s sharpest? Could Maidana improve his conditioning in four months and sustain his high tempo into the later rounds?
The common assumption among boxing pundits was that Floyd would win another decision. So often he had shown an ability to adapt to his opponent’s strengths and thus the assumption of most was he would do so again. If the two fights against Castillo were an analogue from which to form an opinion on the Maidana rematch, then Saturday’s fight would presumably unfold the same way: the second time around Floyd wouldn’t allow himself to be bullied and would find his distance and win with ease. After all, he hadn’t shown much atrophy in the first fight, and the idea that he’d regressed physically seemed more like a talking point than a serious issue.
Was this enough to make “Mayhem” interesting? Not for casual boxing fans. There appeared to be less anticipation for it than past Mayweather fights, partly because the first bout underwhelmed on pay-per-view, partly because fans are losing interest in Floyd’s career, and partly because discussion of Floyd Mayweather last week focused more on domestic abuse than boxing in the wake of the various NFL scandals.
Unlike last year’s September fight against Canelo Alvarez, which featured Danny Garcia and Lucas Matthysse on the undercard, “Mayhem” offered very little star power. Showtime demanded $80 from PPV buyers for a card that featured no other interesting fights, which is an absurdity. The entertainment “Mayhem” promised in no way justified spending the same amount you would on a monthly cell phone bill.
As expected, Floyd won a unanimous decision on two scores of 116-111 and one of 115-112. It was a fine performance, as this time he did a better job of staying off the ropes and not allowing Maidana to swarm him. His legs, which were thought to be deserting him, looked spry throughout, and the most visible difference between the fighters was Floyd’s superior athleticism. Despite being six years older, Mayweather’s feet were faster and fresher, and Floyd also showed he’s retained his superb body control. This allowed the champion to move around and away from “Chino’s” awkward punch trajectories, which so flummoxed him in May.
Maidana had several good moments, particularly the fourth round, which he dominated. But he wasn’t able to trap the champion as he did in May, and it was obvious from the opening bell that Floyd was ready to dance. He moved with urgency, constantly switching rhythm and angles, which prevented Maidana from squaring up and launching himself forward. Floyd was also landing cleaner punches, particularly in the center of the ring. His jab and right hand were more effective than in May and, while not as fast as during his twenties, Floyd’s speed and precision remain remarkable.
For all that, it should be noted he didn’t hurt Maidana at all. The Argentine’s defense, which made use of a high guard, was solid, and to adjust, Floyd had to throw his right hand widely to circumvent Maidana’s shield. Mayweather’s sharpest punches mostly came on counters, after Maidana’s offense made him vulnerable and Floyd could sting him with an open shot. But despite his superior connect percentage, Floyd wore the more haggard face. This is partly due to an early clash of heads that bloodied his mouth and left him with a swollen lip.
The fight’s most controversial and confusing moment came during the eighth round, when Maidana appeared to bite Floyd’s left hand in the center of the ring. Mayweather made a dramatic display of this, but it looked like he was trying to smother “Chino’s” face with his glove. I also fail to see how someone wearing a mouth guard can bite through a boxing glove and inflict serious damage, which made Floyd’s post-fight claim of fighting with a numb hand hollow. The phantom bite was not the only contentious moment. In the tenth, Maidana was deducted a point for wrestling Floyd to the canvas. It wouldn’t make a difference on the final scorecard, but his skulduggery was just more obvious than Mayweather’s. Floyd also used his elbows throughout, an iffy practice for which he received a warning from a busy Kenny Bayless. It’s worth mentioning that Bayless, normally a fine referee, seemed unusually intrusive, interjecting too quickly during the many clinches, something which definitely disrupted Maidana’s offense.
There was little drama late in the fight and the atmosphere in the MGM Grand was subdued. The usual theatricality that precedes a Mayweather bout (rappers, circus clowns, Justin Bieber, etc.) was also missing yesterday, and everything about “Mayhem” seemed muted. While not a bad scrap, the event unfolded rather mechanically, without great drama or excitement, and it provided no revelations. In this sense it seemed perfunctory, a word that encapsulates most Mayweather fights.
The Take Away
What did “Mayhem” teach us? Nothing really, beyond the fact that Floyd remains in top condition and Maidana continues to improve. Afterwards, Floyd was asked about Manny Pacquiao, and he stated he was open to a bout with him in 2015. This is the only matchup that can rejuvenate interest in his career, even if it should have happened five years ago. The idea of Floyd earning decision victories against handpicked competition is no longer palatable for boxing fans, and none of the other welterweight contenders are far enough along to create an appealing promotion.
Beyond the absence of real drama yesterday, there is a growing tide of public ill will towards Floyd Mayweather. Fans have become bored with him as a boxer, but they seem even more disenchanted with him as a person. He’s been dismissive of domestic abuse allegations, which are receiving more attention now because of the Ray Rice scandal. His lack of repentance has prompted calls in the media to boycott his fights. The public doesn’t have to like a fighter, but if he’s to remain relevant they should at least be interested in him. If, in Floyd’s case, the public doesn’t like him and is no longer interested, his career will conclude with ambivalence, not accolades.
— Eliott McCormick