Sunday, May 4, 2014 | 2:15 a.m.
Marcos Maidana succeeded in at least one area where Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s 45 previous opponents had failed: The Argentine contender flustered boxing’s pound-for-pound kingpin.
Mayweather was adamant no such thing happened in the fight, in which he defeated Maidana by majority decision (117-111, 116-112, 114-114) Saturday night at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. But no counterpunches or defensive stances could hide Mayweather’s unease after the fight, which several observers called the closest of the undefeated fighter's career.
The unified WBC and WBA welterweight champion arrived at the post-fight news conference angry, intent to spend the duration of the session patronizing Maidana.
Mayweather interrupted and demeaned Maidana for about 30 minutes before inciting a near-confrontation on the dais.
“Enough, Floyd,” Maidana said through his translator. “Just give me the (expletive) rematch and we’ll see what’s up.”
Mayweather has made a habit of thanking his extensive team of trainers and handlers after his bouts, but this time he went off script by challenging Maidana.
“We can take it down there right now and he can get it right now,” Mayweather snapped. “Go ahead and put the ring back up.”
Golden Boy Promotions and Mayweather Promotions won’t collaborate to reassemble the ring again until September. But when they do, it’s a safe bet that Mayweather and Maidana will be the fighters stepping into it.
Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer thought the Compubox-calculated 221 punches Maidana landed, a record for a fighter facing Mayweather, alone merited another meeting. Maidana’s corner believed he should have won the decision, and repeatedly emphasized he should be the one granting the rematch.
The situation annoyed Mayweather, ever concerned about his undefeated record and legacy, to the point that he but all signed the contract for a second fight.
“I don’t duck or dodge anyone,” he said. “If he feels won, in September, he can get it again. Did he win some rounds? Absolutely. But I can’t complain. I won’t cry or complain with how judges the score the fight.”
Before a crowd of 16,000-plus, many of whom were Argentines cheering passionately, Maidana came out from the opening bell holding nothing back. He gave Mayweather little space to operate and let punches fly non-stop for the opening round.
Maidana tagged Mayweather with a flurry of overhand rights, but the first round was his high point. It was one of only two that all three judges awarded to Maidana.
Mayweather began to get more comfortable as the rounds wore on, getting down his timing to clock Maidana whenever the challenger got overzealous. Maidana found his range in the fifth round, the other time he got the nod on every scorecard, with another right hand and an uppercut that staggered Mayweather.
But Mayweather slowed Maidana’s attack down from there, going on to win the next five rounds with precision punching and defense. Maidana’s only hope, it seemed, was a late knockout that couldn’t come to fruition with his punches losing the steam they carried earlier in the fight.
The difference in the outcome was effectiveness, as Mayweather converted 52 percent of the punches he threw to Maidana’s 26 percent. With 230 total connected punches, Mayweather only slightly out-landed Maidana overall.
Mayweather disregarded statistics, anyway, contending they must have included all of Maidana’s dirty shots. Mayweather complained that he was hit with low blows, elbows, knees and head butts throughout the fight.
“The toughest wrestling match,” Mayweather answered when asked if Maidana was his toughest fight. “It was totally different. One thing I’m not going to do is lie. Miguel Cotto was a tougher fighter, and he hit harder than him. Canelo hits harder than him. I take nothing away from him, but I could have made this fight a whole lot easier.”
Maidana could barely get a word in edgewise, but chose the right ones when he got a chance if the objective was to keep Mayweather seething. He accused Mayweather of not fighting like a man and predicted a knockout in the next rematch if permitted to wear gloves wihtout extra padding that Mayweather demanded for Saturday's bout.
“No one has ever attacked him the way I did and no one has ever landed punches the way I did,” Maidana said. “I don’t understand what he’s saying about it all being dirty.”
There’s precedent for Mayweather booking an immediate rematch. In 2002, Mayweather defeated Jose Castillo with a unanimous-decision in a lightweight championship bout at Mandalay Bay that many decried as controversial.
Mayweather wanted to prove the victory was no fluke, so he fought Castillo eight months later and beat him soundly. His motivations are identical this time around.
It was telling that not a single name other than Maidana came out of Mayweather’s mouth after the fight Saturday. For the first time in years, no one asked him about Manny Pacquiao.
Mayweather ignored a query on Amir Khan, who lobbied for a crack at him after beating Luis Collazo by unanimous decision in Saturday’s co-main event.
“It’s time for him to fight someone who brings something else to the table instead of the same style with someone who comes forward and is heavy-handed,” Khan said. “He’s never fought someone who’s explosive, quick and can box. He’s getting older now and people want to see him get beat. I think the only person who can beat him is me.”
But Khan will likely have to wait. Mayweather shook the hand of Maidana’s trainer, Robert Garcia, agreeing to the to-be-determined September date.
He said he had to make sure the money was right first. The emotional stakes are already high enough, as Mayweather is bothered by the perceived dent Maidana left on his legacy.
“I think everyone is just used to seeing me outbox guys, and beating them without them winning a single round,” Mayweather said. “So today you saw me in a competitive fight, and it’s a catch-22. If I’m in a competitive fight it’s, ‘Well, what’s going on with Floyd?’ If I beat a guy and don’t let him win any rounds it’s, ‘That was a boring fight.’”