All-around, beyond the traits, Maidana has long struck me as someone who could pose a significant threat to Mayweather. The latter has been snacking on baby food for far too long in his career and seemed to allow a few too many shots to land from the green Canelo Alvarez last year. Maidana is more battle-tested and attuned to his skills, and one has to wonder if Mayweather's 37 years of age and potentially-slowing reflexes will combine for a tough night for him.
So, then…why am I not in a rush to pick the Argentine to win?
Having the physical tools for victory is one thing, having the right gameplan to make the proper use of them is another. Mayweather will do what Mayweather will do: chin tucked, keep out of trouble, fast, sharp, accurate combo work, move around. Maidana, though, is more of a question than a definitive answer. He is renowned as a powerful, Terminator-like brawler (hence why I often refer to him as "Marcosbot Maidanoid"), but his change in trainers to Robert Garcia in 2012 helped him accentuate and diversify his moveset and fight game. After a three-fight win streak, he reverted back to his more brute, aggressive ways early on vs. Adrien Broner last year, which actually proved to be the best option in approaching a Mayweather disciple with greater physical gifts than his own idol.
Is that the formula to beating the real thing? Perhaps not, as Mayweather is far better a fighter and, unlike Broner, will not be as gunshy under the gun. So, a more "traditional" approach is best? Against someone that is often upheld as the bastion of the "sweet science", perhaps more unlikely. The Broner fight also poses a question of how ingrained is Maidana's new teachings and his reverting to old habits in that fight, however beneficial, does make one wonder just how far back he might go, as the Maidana of 2011-early 2012 was a frustrating mess.
In short, the answer provided by Mayweather is stronger than the questions surrounding Maidana. The reliable pick says Mayweather by UD by a good margin, with him outboxing Maidana, staying on the move, and keeping him off with his longer reach (oddly enough, they are mostly even, dimension-wise). The bolder, and still reasonable, pick says Maidana will use his aggression smartly and constantly to make it and active fight and steal enough close rounds to win a split decision (be honest, somebody's gonna give it to Mayweather, regardless…). If Maidana is to beat the odds, he can't afford to treat Mayweather too cautiously or with "respect", nor can he can't be careless or do something totally different just because it is him, either.
However it turns out, it is an interesting match-up that offers some seemingly easy answers, but also leaves in plenty of intrigue and a few wrenches that could be thrown in to either man's plans. Mayweather can still box, but he has long been ripe for the picking, whereas Maidana is prime for the upset, but it's still a question mark of which version of him you will see. It might also be good to keep in mind that both Mayweather and Maidana can get buzzed by a good, well-placed shot (a la Shane Mosley and Victor Ortiz, respectively). Mosley failed to capitalize on his chance, but Maidana often does with his own, but on the flip side, Mayweather can KO somebody when pushed too far (just ask Ortiz or Ricky Hatton).
The facts and analysis says "Mayweather", but they could easily say "Maidana" when twisted around. Perhaps, I should stick with my original thoughts, but I'll side with the "Mayweather, UD" take on this one… (…Or should I?)
Other Quick Picks By Any Other Name… (OK, "The Failed Future Floyd Mayweather Opponents Sweepstakes)"
Luis Collazo TKO8 Amir Khan
--Actual upset pick of the night, with Collazo stopping the head-shake-worthy Khan.
Adrien Broner TKO5 Carlos Molina
--Has Broner learned his…nah.
Outcome: Mayweather, MD.
For the Mayweather-Maidana bout, I decided to do something a little different and began scoring the fight after four very close beginning rounds. I normally don't do active scorekeeping, but it felt like the kind of fight to try it out on and observe its results--albeit, with a twist. The first set of scores are based on the premise that Maidana won particular rounds (which is more in line with my personal belief), while the second set is based on the premise of Mayweather winning those (which was very reasonable). Of note are the asterisked rounds of Rds 1 and 4, which were very split:
At the very least, if I were to score Rd. 6, the only real split in the scoring, for Mayweather, it would have been a draw. Though within reason--as stated--I thought Maidana narrowly edged out Mayweather in those respective rounds and won the majority of the others, as well, including the fight at large. A decision victory by Mayweather is not an egregious one (given Rds. 1 (particularly) and 4), but one by a wide margin would likely be one based on ideology.
From a personal perspective, if a fighter is being more economical and precise with his punches, but those punches are not having much effect on his more active, but less precise, opponent, and if that opponent is doing more to impose his will and dictate the action (thus displaying greater ring generalship), I tend to give it to that individual, as his gameplan and actions are more effective and are producing greater results. I can understanding basing a round's winner by precision and cleaner punching, as I normally adhere to that, and by that standard, I might have given Rds 1 & 4 to Mayweather (thus giving him a 116-113 score, closer to the judges' own). However, if it is not proving effective enough and they are getting pushed around regardless, then I have to question whether that fighter is truly being successful enough and doing enough to win the round and the fight. This was especially telling when Mayweather, despite possessing a higher connect percentage, only landed a few more blows than Maidana.
Maidana fought better than his past self, but there was still too much of that "old Maidana" in the fight with the careless swinging & overhand, overhead right haymaker that rarely, if ever, connects. He and his handlers had the right idea in confronting Mayweather, but not the right amount of execution. His effective versus Mayweather, however, did remind me of why Pacquiao has a good chance against him. If Maidana knew how to fight more efficiently and accurately, all the while retaining his level of tenacity and disregard of respect for Mayweather, we would not be having this same discussion. It also would have behooved him to not rehydrate up to 165 lbs., as all of those extra pounds appeared to finally weigh on him in Rds. 9-10, where he looked sluggish and did little fighting, allowing Mayweather to score some vital points.
Yet, for everything he is capable of, Mayweather's fight plan, and his performance was rather, in the literal sense, pathetic. He had a poor application of his strengths, very poor-to-non-existant footwork, and he allowed himself to be pushed & pressed around by a Maidana not fighting at his true best. Age had nothing to do with it, nor was he "doing it for the fans". It was puzzling to see him fight so languidly and not establish true control and generalship.
I suppose that is a partial result of cherry-picking opponents/conditions so he can look good, but perhaps the larger issue at play is that it was also a contrast in styles not bowing in Mayweather's favor. Ironically, he looked liked an larger, more competent Broner, and like many slick, quick orthodox fighters that like to be in control, both had trouble being in the ring with an unorthodox pressure fighter that likes to take control by force--and often, the aggressor tends to win out by nature (also further compounded when that fighter has at least a semblance of boxing skill).
In total, neither fighter fought to the best of their ability, not because of lack of effort, but mainly because neither seemed to know how to properly approach the other. Still, it remained to be a pretty good fight, only one that had an inconclusive, "never out of second gear" feel to it. But, I'm not sure much would change in a rematch, though I do believe Maidana has more of an upswing & more to work with and improve than Mayweather.
Other Pick Outcomes:
--Amir Khan UD Luis Collazo: Collazo was just outclassed by Khan, but Khan doesn't have that same potency back, either. He has felt dulled under trainer Virgil Hunter (not a complete surprise…). This was also one of the few times I have approved of someone getting low-blowed or retaliated against, given Khan's consistent clinching and holding down of the head…
--Adrien Broner UD Carlos Molina: Apparently not that Molina, Broner nonetheless got back onto the winning track. As it was not shown on Showtime's replay, I had not seen it, but I hope Broner is showing greater maturity after his loss to Maidana…
UPDATE [05/25/14]: Updated with results. Only now had the time to post it…