(Note: Countdown to Mayweather vs Maidana II is an EastSideBoxing exclusive by resident scribe Vivek “Vito” Wallace who will take provide a glimpse into the epic showdown each week on Sunday, with a final prediction/analysis piece to be published on the day of the fight)
Floyd Mayweather’s resume boast a laundry list of formidable talent, yet each of those men carried one very flawed trait; one which Maidana has never owned or known. That one trait? Fear. The UK’s, Ricky Hatton also lacked fear, yet inadequate size blunted his best chance at achieving an upset. Oscar De la Hoya and Miguel Cotto were arguably the only fighters in Mayweather’s recent history with adequate size who didn’t enter the ring afraid, yet both made the mistake of trying to box, failing to realize that you can’t try to beat a master at his own game. Going into their initial showdown, fans and media alike viewed the Maidana matchup as a “classic case of Mayweather targeting a tailor-made opponent”, who had “no shot”. Less than a minute into the bout, that perception was far from the reality.
Years ago, the consensus “dangerous bout” for Mayweather would have been the rugged Antonio Margarito. This logic stemmed from the fact that he embodied zero fear, a tireless workrate, a high threshold for pain, and unlike most others, he knew his true identity. No matter who he had across from him, his mission was to seek and destroy, courtesy of a vintage ‘stalk-til-they-can’t-walk’ style. A higher bid by a ‘Cinderella Man’ who also happened to be the lineal Champ at the time (Carlos Baldomir) prevented us from seeing how Mayweather would fare against the only ‘Duran template’ of his era; but in a very intriguing subplot, today’s template of that same style will get a second shot to re-write history against a 37 year old version of Mayweather, no longer capable of doing what the younger one could.
Some will balk at an angle which parallels Duran with Maidana or Margarito, but outside of Gennady G. Golovkin, those same people would probably struggle to name two more relentless competitors of this era in that same weight range. Maidana doesn’t have Margarito’s toughness, but neither did Margarito have his shot selection or fluidity. Conventional logic tells us that Margarito’s slow foot movement would have been his ultimate undoing against Mayweather, who would have inevitably cruised to a 12 round unanimous decision. With Maidana, the dynamics change. An old adage tells us that “no tiger can change their stripes”, yet Maidana, with the help of trainer Robert Garcia, has proven this theory incorrect.
Once little more than a typical brawler, Garcia found a way to convert reckless aggression into a controlled ‘fire’ of sorts. One that few of his opponents have had answers for. In December of 2013, many were so happy to see the demise of Adrien Broner that they missed the bigger picture, which was the fact that Maidana is very much a changed fighter. How does this bode for the sports Pound for Pound king, Floyd Mayweather? In the initial encounter, not very well, as for the first time in well over a decade Mayweather has been asked by the fans and media to prove again that he has the ability to defeat a fighter who appeared to have the ability to defeat him.
Against Castillo, Mayweather could be heard in his corner telling his trainer that his shoulder was bothering him. After a very close call, he faced him again and found a way to earn a more decisive victory. Against Maidana, there was no injured shoulder to contend with, yet for the first time in his career, there was visible blood. That blood came courtesy of an unintentional head butt, but the ruthless aggression that led to it was no mistake. This time around, fans can expect more of the same, which leads us to the operative question:
Who does a rematch truly benefit? Maidana has proven that he can learn new strategy and execute it to a certain level, but even with a strong gameplan, can we logically expect him, as a brawler, to out-think a chess master for 12 rounds? On the flip side, Mayweather has carefully crafted a reputation built around great conditioning and durability. That being said, there was a hint of truth to criticism by Freddie Roach and others who feel “his legs aren’t the same”. When we honor that reality, can we truly expect him to ‘dance’ for 12 rounds against a young, relentless opponent?
Neither option comes with certainty, but Mayweather’s change of diet and decision to hire a controversial conditioning coach does shed light on the only truth among many variables. That truth? Something about his first encounter with Maidana made him acutely aware that he too is mortal. For Roy Jones Jr., that reality led to his most humbling moment in the sport, and it also came on the heels of a rematch he didn’t have to take, and later openly admitted that he should not have. We’ll all have to see what that means on the night of September 13th, when all questions raised will be questions answered! Stay tuned.