Opinion: Mayweather vs Maidana proved that Mayweather vs Pacquiao is still relevant

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

James Foley returns to BLH with a look at the Mayweather-Maidana fight, the competitiveness proving that Manny Pacquiao remains a significant challenge for Floyd Mayweather.

Yes, he's back. Back again. Folo's back. Tell a friend. Pop quiz, hotshots: when attempting to write a comedic boxing column and overcome writer's block, your best bet for cheap laughs is:

  • The VO Skincare line
  • The gimp locked in Steve Smoger's basement
  • The gimp locked in Jay Nady's basement
  • Richard Schaefer's pact with the devil
  • Combination of Juan Manuel Marquez drinking his own urine and using a sombrero as a jock strap
  • All of the above, keep the hits coming

None of the above, I only like to read 10,000 word technical breakdowns with gifs and videos and any attempt at humor in boxing writing will be met with a face sterner and meaner than Nady's when his gimp tries to escape.
So, the unthinkable almost happened. Marcos Maidana, found frozen in a glacier somewhere south of Patagonia, thawed by scientists and out to unleash a millennia of angst on a generation of pampered pugilists, the crudest troglodyte brawler this side of Mama Provodnikov's baby boy, almost beat Floyd Mayweather, the world's most gifted boxer, in a boxing match.

Sure, Maidana, the physical embodiment of a cave painting, may have exposed the premature hype of Adrien Broner and Victor Ortiz, but Mayweather is the genuine article, the sport's finest practitioner. The thinking pre-fight was that Maidana's rudimentary tactics would be disarmed and turned against him in a dazzling, one-sided display of fistic science at its sweetest. Mayweather was expected to walk down this flat-footed, one-punch pony, land lead right hands and left hooks at will, and put his hard hitting but limited opponent out to pasture in the same dominant fashion as nearly all his other hapless foes. Apparently nobody mentioned that to Maidana, who veered further from the script than a drunken Nic Cage insisting on breaking the fourth wall with lengthy, improvised monologues to bookend Bangkok Dangerous 3.

Mayweather wound up in the fight of his life, and came as close to actually losing since his 2002 bout with Jose Luis Castillo, when the Mexican lightweight nearly upended the budding money train with a relentless festival of body punches and unbridled aggression. Maidana, unlike his recent predecessors who brilliantly tried to outbox the master boxer, employed the Castillo blueprint, walking forward and launching punches from all angles, disrupting Mayweather's rhythm and forcing him to fight moving backwards. Had the last eleven rounds mirrored the first, rather than a tale of a valiant effort, this might be a post-script on Mayweather's first defeat (and a guy with a painted-on goatee in a white suit would be getting talked down from a ledge somewhere).

Mayweather's smoke-and-mirrors defense, shoulder rolls and upper body contortions perfectly timed to match the rhythm of his frustrated attackers, is probably the biggest source of contention in scoring his fights. It's easy to see a guy walking forward throwing punches. It's not as easy, in real time speed, to see the defender ducking, dodging, and parrying 90% of those punches. And how do you score sequences like that anyway? The perception of aggression, with no offensive resistance coming back, generally outweighs whatever points the defense amounts to. This may explain why Oscar De La Hoya won seven rounds on one judge's card against Mayweather, or why many fans and pundits gave Maidana anywhere from five to seven rounds.

There were many times, especially early, when a flustered Mayweather, back against the ropes, was offensively impotent, focused on defending himself from Maidana's furious, unorthodox attack, with blows coming from two feet overhead in some kind of Argentine caveman version of whack-a-mole. Yet not a single one of those punches cleanly landed or appeared to result in any kind of substantive damage. And for all of Maidana's blustery advances, over the last seven rounds of the fight it was Mayweather, on top of exhibiting superior defense, landing the eye-catching, cleaner punches and controlling the landscape of the ring. Maidana's aggression became less and less effective. There is zero shame in giving Mayweather the toughest fight he's had in a decade. Maidana's stock rises considerably, but he just didn't do enough to seal the deal. He squandered the early lead and let Mayweather put a stamp on several crucial swing rounds with big punches in the final seconds.

Maidana came up short in the eyes of all but those with an agenda to see Mayweather lose. And who can blame them for having that agenda? Mayweather has been great for Mayweather and his band of merry men, "The Money Team", but not necessarily the sport of boxing. Mass perception will always point the finger a little more in his direction for the failure to meet his greatest rival, Manny Pacquiao, when the two were in their primes and the fight would have been among the biggest, certainly the most lucrative, in the history of the sport. Mayweather's businessman mentality, along with sublime boxing ability, has brought him wealth and fame, but it also created an image of a man more concerned with pumping his box office numbers than staking a real claim to be considered among the all-time greats.

In Pacquiao's case, it's hard to imagine the guy who fought the legendary trio of Marco Antonio Barrera, Erik Morales, and Juan Manuel Marquez a whopping nine times maneuvering his way around a dangerous opponent. It's not so difficult to speculate that someone who opted for Arturo Gatti over Kosta Tsyzu and Ricky Hatton over Antonio Margarito would make a calculated decision to put dollars and cents over legacy and risk. Hey, in many ways that's commendable. Mayweather will likely leave the sport with more money and more of his health than the vast majority of his peers.

But alas, I've broken the first rule of #Boxinghead club: don't mention Mayweather-Pacquiao. Gee, I wonder why those pesky talking heads on mainstream sports shows keep bringing it up? Maybe because it's the only fight that elicits anything but a yawn or a confused look from a non-hardcore fight fan? The boxeratti elite have swung so far against that failed mega-fight, the now stock, dismissive response is to simply assume Mayweather would beat Pacquiao, and quite easily at that, therefore we're no longer interested in it---because if Robert Guerrero won two rounds, an older Miguel Cotto three or four, and Maidana took four, five, or six, it only stands to reason that Pacquiao would get blanked or stopped, right?

Well, unless you're Leonard Ellerbe or the pretty girl who walks Mayweather to the ring, there's no reason to tow that party line for some fake credibility on social media and mythical boxinghead points. I will never let Mayweather off that hook or give him credit for beating an opponent he spent years avoiding. Even with Pacquiao on an apparent downswing, how can you dismiss his chances coming off another clear victory over Tim Bradley, who was almost unanimously considered among the five best fighters in the entire sport? Maidana wasn't regarded as a top five fighter in his own division prior to the Mayweather clash. If you don't want to talk about Mayweather-Pacquiao because you're sick of it and you may feel it's wasted breath and type space since it will probably never happen because of the politics and massive egos involved, fair enough. But can we stop the "Mayweather would dominate Pacquiao anyway" tripe? It doesn't make you sound like a savant or an expert, just a presumptuous, pound-for-pound dick. We'll never know, and that's the tragedy.

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