BUENOS AIRES – Oblivious to the social media frenzy surrounding Floyd Mayweather’s Instagram poll destined to choose his next opponent, Marcos Maidana took a call from his advisor Sebastian Contursi with low expectations and high hopes.
Minutes later, he would find himself embarking in an impromptu roadwork session and getting ready for a career-defining challenge.
“We were waiting for Mayweather to choose an opponent,” said Maidana during a farewell press conference in front of a couple of hundred-strong local press corps (an improvement from the usual couple of dozen hardcore boxing writers who have seen him go from local hero to worldwide attraction), “and then Contursi called me and let me know. I was very happy. And then, I hit the road and started running right away.”
While taking a break in his small rural hometown in northern Argentina, Maidana had only a handful of worries in mind, and a special one rising above all others in the imminent birth of his daughter Emilia (who was finally born on Monday, March 10). But upon learning that he had been chosen to face the number one pound-for-pound fighter in the world on May 3 in Las Vegas, he immediately began training under local coach Ignacio Doldán in a hangar turned into an improvised boxing gym. Soon enough, conditioning coach Alex Ariza joined the group and started devising a plan for Maidana to arrive in optimum condition for his challenge.
And this coming Sunday, March 16, Maidana will be joining his head coach Robert Garcia in Oxnard, Calif., to hand him the unenviable task of devising a winning strategy to beat the finest boxer on the planet.
So far, Maidana admits to being unable to pinpoint as much as a ding in Mayweather’s armor.
“I watch his fights looking for mistakes, but he hardly makes any mistakes at all,” said Maidana, capping the sentence with a hollering laugh echoed by the fans and media in attendance. “He’s too good, but we’ll see.”
On second thought, he seems conscious of the fact that beating Mayweather will require, at the very least, the use of every bit of his skills and power in full swing.
“I have to fight Mayweather with all my tools, just like the way he fights: a little bit dirty, but very intelligently,” said Maidana, who is also aware of the expectations generated by his KO power against a fighter who has been seldom tested in that department. “He has fought many great fighters. I don’t know how hard they punched him. But on March 3, I am going to check him,” laughed Maidana, eliciting the same response from his audience.
The event was sponsored by Argentina’s Ministry of Tourism, which appointed Maidana as good-will ambassador for the country, an honor he now shares with fellow athletes Lionel Messi, Manu Ginobili and many of the country’s top personalities. Unlike those athletes, who have received that distinction after achieving a career-defining victory, Maidana is receiving it before he embarks on his toughest challenge, a testimony of the expectation generated by a fight that is already being seen as one of Argentina’s biggest boxing events ever, right up there with Jack Dempsey-Luis Firpo and Muhammad Ali-Oscar Bonavena among others.
In those occasions, the local fighters came up short in their efforts, but Maidana seems determined to turn that situation around and become the one Argentine fighter who will take on a top pound-for-pound champion in his prime and come back home with a historic win notched in his gunhandle.
“I want to win this fight to be a part of history in Argentine boxing,” said Maidana. “Many people believe I am in this just for a payday, but I am in this to win it. I am fighting to get those belts back to Argentina with me”.
Contursi: “The training is right on track”
A serious concern was raised in regards to the amount of preparation that Maidana will be getting for this particular fight, and Contursi took the mike to clear things up.
“The training is right on track,” said Maidana’s advisor, providing some revealing math to prove his point.
“The training for Broner was seven weeks and four days. What we agreed, after talking to (conditioning coach Alex) Ariza, is that what (Marcos) needs is one month and a half of sparring, which is the usual, because sparring is very tough. But in the physical aspect, according to Ariza, (Maidana) cannot keep up with the intensity of his training regime for more than six and a half weeks. Any more than that would be counter-productive and result in over-training. We made a training program that started in Argentina and it took three weeks, and we’re in the right track.”
Maidana himself backs his handler’s words with some data of his own.
“I even have some training ‘left over’ from the Broner fight, because I took only one month off and the training for that fight was very intensive,” said Maidana. “I am training again with all the energy and all the desire.”
The intensity of that training was visible in the Broner fight, in which Maidana averaged about 90 punches per round, a feat he aims to repeat this time around.
“Robert helped me a lot. In the last few fights he helped me quite a bit and I did my part to learn a few things,” said Maidana, who put an end to the training camp duration controversy with another joke.
“Yes, for the Broner fight I was in California for three months,” said Maidana, “but I only trained two, and the rest of the time I just fooled around.”