Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Untouchable No More… Floyd Mayweather Jr. Struggles Past Marcos Maidana

By Peter Silkov

Floyd Mayweather Jr.(46-0, 26koes) successfully defended his World Welterweight title on Saturday night, May 3rd, against the rugged Argentine Marcos Maidana, (35-4, 31koes), but although he won the decision, his aura of invincibility was severely dented against a man whom many had not given a chance. This was a title unification battle of sorts, as Maidana was putting on the line his ‘Super’ WBA World Welterweight title, which he had won from Adrien Broner last year, while Mayweather was defending his WBC World Welterweight title. 

However, it almost goes without saying that Mayweather was regarded as the true champion in the run up to this match, while Maidana’s status was seen by most as little more of than that of a challenger, who was more than a little lucky to find himself in the ring with the world’s number one, not just at welterweight, but pound- for-pound as well.  Instead, Maidana, far from shrinking into his role as ‘challenger’ as have so many of Mayweather Jr’s past opponents, seemed to relish both his role and his opportunity, just as he had against Adrien Broner late last year.

The MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada, has in recent years become a 'home away from home’ for Mayweather, whose out-of-the-ring home is just a short limousine drive away, and this was Mayweather’s ninth fight in a row under the MGM’s adoring neon lights. 

This was supposed to be just another house party for the former ‘Pretty Boy’, who prefers be known now as either ‘The Money Man’ or ‘TBE’ (The Best Ever).  He was expecting and expected by most to have his little dance of the sweet science, and leave his house guest of the night, Maidana, baffled and bemused, like so many before him. Yet, on this particular occasion, Mayweather must have emerged at the end of the night with the feeling that his act had been well and truly upstaged by his latest paid guest, Marcos Maidana, who’d had the temerity to ignore the script, did his best to wreck Mayweather Jr’s act, and turned out to be a full blown party pooper for Floyd.  It’s unlikely that Floyd will have experienced many longer nights than last Saturday, and although he emerged from it all officially victorious in the end, the truth was there for everyone to see, in the harsh ring lights. The party is almost over for Floyd Mayweather.  

Maidana came into this fight off the back of his upset victory last year over Mayweather’s heir apparent, Adrien Broner. While he was able to beat and expose Broner, the general thinking going into this match with Mayweather was that Broner is not Mayweather, and that this would be the difference when Maidana tried to do the same things to Mayweather, which he did to Broner. As it turned out, Maidana was able to give Mayweather almost as much trouble as he gave his protégé Broner. That is to say, it was just short of the two-knockdowns, ass whipping, which he handed out to Broner just a few months ago. Mayweather was not floored, nor did he ever look like going down, but he was harassed, battered, bloodied, and bemused, in much the same way as Broner was previously to him.  Only Mayweather’s superior defensive skills and experience saved him from being totally overwhelmed by the human wrecking machine that is Marcos Maidana.  Whether that was enough to gain Mayweather the victory, is open to debate.

After the usual pre-fight ceremonies, which included Mayweather parading his rather colourful entourage, the action started with both men starting off fairly cautiously, circling each other, with Mayweather flicking his jab and Maidana trying a jab or two of his own, while stalking the retreating champion. As the fight approached the second minute, Maidana turned up the heat, and gave Mayweather a clue as to what he had in store for him for the rest of the fight. Maidana unleashed his first real burst of thumping left hooks to the body and head, provoking Mayweather to hold tightly; a tactic he would fall upon throughout the fight, with an air of shock, and surprise.  In the last minute of the round, with Mayweather having been maneuvered onto the ropes, Maidana let his threshing machine attack go into full flow, swinging with both arms. He hit Mayweather wherever he could; the shoulders, arms, head, the champion blocked and dodged some, but a surprising number were getting through, especially some thumping shots to the body.  Mayweather stood with his back to the ropes and tried to ride the storm. It was as if he was trying to dodge a hurricane with just an umbrella.  If Mayweather thought that this storm would soon pass then he was mistaken, this was just the beginning.     

In the second round, Floyd  tried to get his jab going more, and to keep more distance between himself and Maidana, as Marcos stalked, and reached for Mayweather‘s body.  Although Floyd landed some good jabs, he was having trouble keeping the Argentine at bay, and seemed genuinely disconcerted by Maidana‘s aggression and intensity.  In the last minute of the round, Mayweather found himself driven to the ropes again, where Maidana once more unleashed his thumping hooks and swings, looking as if he were trying to chop down a tree.   

As the fight progressed, both men were guilty of stretching the rules to something beyond the sweet science, with Floyd guilty of incessant holding and wrestling, plus use of the forearm, in an attempt to defuse Maidana’s attacks. Maidana meanwhile, never the most subtle or sweetest of fighters, replied to Mayweather’s holding with a variety of low blows, rabbit-punching, and some wreastling of his own. To his credit, although referee Tony Weeks allowed Mayweather to get away with too much holding throughout the fight, he resisted going the route of penalising Maidana points for his own, often more blatant infringements.   

Maidana launched himself upon Mayweather from the beginning of the 3rd round, provoking yet more holding by Floyd, and then a forearm, one of many, which Floyd used throughout the fight to try and push Maidana away. After one such clinch, Maidana was warned by referee Tony Weeks for pulling on Floyd’s left arm.  

Maidana replied to this by forcing Floyd back onto the ropes, where he again launched his thumping, failing two-armed attack upon the number one boxer in the world, pound-for-pound.  Mayweather tried to counter Maidana, but while his punches were classier in delivery and precision, they simply bounced off Maidana like arrows off a tank. The last minute of the 3rd found Floyd on the defensive again, with his back pressed against the ropes, as Maidana assaulted him once more with an almost frightening fury. 

By the 4th round, Mayweather bemusement had evolved into something akin to panic, as he looked less and less like the best boxer in the world, and more like someone who just wants to get a quick ride home. In the midst of some rough clinching, a Mayweather forearm is replied to by a Maidana forehead and the result is a cut over Mayweather’s right eye.  Floyd’s reaction to being cut was not to fire off combinations of retaliation at his tormentor, as greats of the past would have done, but instead he went on the retreat, while complaining to the referee and dabbing at his bleeding eye.  Mayweather’s complaints to the referee by this time were mirroring Adrien Broner’s when he fought Maidana last year, like Broner before him; Floyd seemed to be having trouble accepting that Maidana was actually having the audacity to hit him with impunity.

The 5th round found Mayweather still struggling to deal with his cut right eye, and not doing a whole lot a else, as he looked increasingly wary of Maidana’s frenetic attacks. What punches Floyd did land, were simply walked through by Maidana.  Once more, the round ended with Floyd with his back on the ropes as Maidana hammered away with both hands, with a happy abandon. Mayweather’s defensive skills saved him from taking too many punches flush, but far more punches were connecting than usual, as Maidana’s intensity and volume of punches battered through one of boxing’s best defences.

In the 6th round, Mayweather was once more spending most of his time planted by the ropes and managing some counters, while Maidana continued his industrial assaults, hammering away with both fists as if trying to batter down a wall. 

Mayweather had his best round of the fight in the 7th round, as Maidana slacked off a little for the first time in the fight, as if to show that he is human after all, rather than some kind of inhuman wrecking machine. Mayweather landed some good jabs and counters upon Maidana in this stanza and for the first time in the fight held a modicum of control in the round. Maidana looked tired for the first time in the fight, which was hardly surprising considering the pace he had been setting since the first bell.

Maidana found his second wind in the 8th round, pressuring Mayweather with verve once more. The round was close, as Mayweather continued to land some good counters, but the aggressive Maidana was refusing to be denied, and his heavy punches made Floyd’s less frequent counters on the retreat seem innocuous by comparison.

The 9th round saw Floyd create a bit more distance between himself and Maidana, as he used his legs and produced his best footwork of the contest. Maidana was not coming forward with quite as much zeal as in the previous round, and this was probably Floyd’s best round of the fight, and one of the few that he won cleanly. Yet, it was still a close round, and although Mayweather landed the cleaner punches, they had little more than an annoyance affect upon Maidana.

There was more wrestling than clean punches landed in the 10th, as Maidana closed the distance again on Mayweather provoking the best fighter pound-for-pound in the world to clinch desperately when his Argentine tormenter got close to him.  Mayweather used some footwork and one of his few combinations of the fight, to slightly edge this round on clean punches, but was he really doing enough to override the domination Maidana had held in the earlier rounds?

Both fighters were finding it hard to score cleanly in the 11th round. Maidana was trying to bulldoze Mayweather with renewed relish, while Mayweather clinched tightly and carried the air of a man who still couldn’t believe that he was being treated so badly in a ring that he had grown to regard as his home, and in front of the guests whom had come to see him perform. Maidana put the seal on this round by pushing Mayweather into the ropes and launching one of his two-fisted assaults, which while it may have lacked the freshness and intensity of the earlier rounds, it was still the best work done by either fighter within the round. Marcos Maidana stayed standing between the 11th and final round, with the air of someone who has completed a mission. 

The 12th round was another close one, with Maidana trying to get close and land his bombs, while Mayweather tried to keep him at bay with some footwork, and yet more clinches. Floyd scored with more clean punches than he did in the 11th, but was still sparing on his offense, as he had been throughout the fight, while Maidana’s attacks were slower and less focused, due to a weariness caused by his own exertions. Yet, Maidana came forward, until the last bell. 

At the bell, both men raised their arms in triumph, as is customary, yet there was a marked contrast between the jubilation of Maidana and his corner, and the palpable sense of relief that it was all over that came from Mayweather and his team. Of the two sides, Maidana seemed to the only one truly celebrating.

Unfortunately, Maidana had too much faith in the judges. When the judge‘s scores were announced, Maidana’s jubilation turned quickly to anger and disappointment. By the time he gave his post fight interview, he had already adopted the attitude of someone who had seen it all before.

When the judge’s scorecards were read out, it started well for Maidana, with Judge Micheal Pernick scoring the contest a draw at 114-to-114, but then came Burt A. Clement’s 117-to-111 for Floyd, and Judge Dave Moretti’s 116-112, also for Floyd.   Scoring fights is always subjective to a certain degree; this is both, one of the charms and curses, of boxing.  It is a charm because one fight can be seen in so many different ways by different people, according to their own personal viewpoints., but it is also a curse, because this very aspect that makes boxing unique from so many other sports, also leaves it open to manipulation and dishonesty. 

Did Floyd win on Saturday? There are many who seem to feel that he eked out a victory, but few, save the diehards, who feel their own pride is piqued by the treatment of their hero at the hands of the savage Maidana, will say that Floyd had an easy time of it, and won clearly.  Certainly, Judge Clements score seems to have been made up by someone who watched a different fight.  Even judge Moretti’s 116-to-112 seems to downplay how much Maidana harassed, bullied, and battered Mayweather through much of the 12 rounds of their fight. Judge Pernick’s 114-to-114 is the closest to the truth of what happened in the ring. The official punch stats for the match reveal that Maidana threw a whopping 858 punches, to Mayweather’s 426, while landing 221 to Mayweather’s 230 landed. Maidana’s punch figures set a record for punches, both thrown and landed, against Floyd Mayweather. While he missed with many of his punches, Maidana still officially landed just 9 fewer punches than the precision king Mayweather did. As for workrate and aggression, Maidana’s superiority in those areas during the fight are unquestionable. It is said that the best way of judging a close fight is to decide which fighter has had the most difficult time overall in the fight, who has been hurt or discomforted the most out of both men.  Looking at Saturday’s match overall, it seems clear that it was Mayweather who was the most troubled boxer during the contest. He was the one who spend much of the fight trapped on the ropes, as he tried to defend himself against Maidana’s frenetic attacks. It was also Floyd, rather than Maidana, who was the most relieved when the fight had reached its conclusion.

Although Floyd officially won the fight, and added Maidana’s WBA title to his own WBC World Welterweight championship, he lost something against Maidana on Saturday night, something perhaps even more precious to him than the world titles, his aura of invincibility. When Maidana battered and bullied Adrien Broner to defeat last year, it was proof that Broner is no Floyd Mayweather.  Now, just a few short months later, Maidana has treated Floyd Mayweather in much the same way as he did Broner.  Floyd was saved from further damage and embarrassment, by his superior defence to Broner, and his experience and guile are what got Floyd through on Saturday night.

Maidana didn’t just write a blueprint for how to defeat Floyd Mayweather; he tore down Mayweather’s carefully constructed aura of untouchablity, and threw it away into the Las Vegas night. 

As the smoke clears and the excuses begin, it’s hard to ignore the age factor, and at 37 years of age, father time may finally be coming to call for Floyd.  However, it shouldn’t be overlooked that Maidana is the first man since Jose Luis Castillo, and to a certain extent Miguel Cotto, to have the strength and heart, both physically and mentally to force their way past the Mayweather mystic, though to the man behind it.
For the first time in his career, Floyd looked vulnerable, old even. 

In the immediate aftermath of the match there was already talk of a rematch. One hopes that if they do fight again, Marcos Maidana will be paid handsomely for it.  Despite his time as a top contender stretching back at least five years, and despite Maidana being one of the gutsiest and most entertaining of today’s top fighters, the Argentine was paid a derisory amount for the Broner fight, and then again against Mayweather. He had to be content with £1.5 million, to Mayweather Jr’s  S32 million dollars. Maidana seems to have been mistaken for an illegal immigrant, and to have been treated accordingly, by many of boxing‘s powers that be.

There’s more than one way to win and lose in boxing, and on Saturday night, Marcos Maidana and Floyd Mayweather Jr. both lost, and won, in different ways, and with different effects.  While Maidana will now bask in a moral victory and look towards further glory in the future, Floyd Mayweather Jr. will clutch this latest victory tightly to himself, with the cold knowledge that it may be one of his last. 

Copyright © 2014 The Boxing Glove, Inc. Peter Silkov Art. All Rights Reserved. Peter Silkov contributes to www.theboxingglove.com and www.theboxingtribune.com

twitterfacebookgoogle pluslinkedinrss feedemail

No comments:

Post a Comment