LAS VEGAS — Marcos “Chino” Maidana was coming off a one-sided unanimous decision loss in his welterweight debut against southpaw Devon Alexander in February 2012 when he arrived at the Oxnard, Calif. gym of trainer Robert Garcia.
Although Maidana was a determined, hardnosed puncher, his mental constitution for the game of boxing had all but left him.
"To me, it was a challenge bringing him in. Very few people thought that he could even come back and win another fight. His manager told me that he even thought about retiring. So, those were challenges for me and my team," said Garcia during an interview last Saturday at the MGM Grand.
"But we like challenges and in his last four fights, we've been able to help him to do better and better. I don't know if before he had good sparring partners or if he had a trainer that was teaching him the right things. I wasn't a part of it, so what can I say about it?"
Maidana (35-3, 31 knockouts) takes a four-bout winning streak that includes three knockouts into his Showtime Pay-Per-View-televised clash with RING and WBC 147-pound champion Floyd Mayweather Jr. (45-0, 26 KOs), whom he will meet at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nev. on May 3.
Although the new Maidana retained his unorthodox style, he employed a tighter defense as well as crisper, more accurate punches in addition to suffocating pressure that cut off the ring during December's unanimous decision over previously unbeaten Adrien Broner.
"Chino's been with me for four fights and for two years and every fight that he's had, he's been getting better and better. He looked really good against Broner. He dominated the way that was supposed to. The punches that he throws are actually punches that the fighters don't see," said Garcia of Maidana, who dropped Broner once each in the second and eighth rounds for the WBA's belt.
"If you see Chino shadow box, that's the person that you want to spar. If you're there in the gym, you don't see him show that much at first when he's shadow boxing. But when they're sparring with him, it's the punches that you don't see that bother you. He's hurting his sparring partners a lot. His style is his style and I think that it will be effective against somebody like Mayweather."
Maidana agrees he made the right move in choosing Garcia after falling to Alexander.
"I lost to Alexander and after that, I made a lot of changes," said Maidana. "I changed trainers and, mentally, I've prepared myself better and now, we're where we're at."
Gone are many of the deficiencies that were there in the losses to skilled boxer-puchers such as Alexander and Amir Khan, technicians like Andriy Kotelnik and plodding tendencies which hindered him in close decision victories over ex-beltholders Erik Morales and DeMarcus Corley.
"Chino used to be a little bit wild and he still has that tendency of making those mistakes. But I honestly believe that being that awkward and being a little bit wild and throwing punches from all angles, that's something that could be good against somebody like Mayweather," said Garcia. "When we get Mayweather against the ropes…Chino throws a left to the body followed a right hand behind the ear, stuff like that. We'll do things that nobody else has done to Mayweather. This will be different."
Among Maidana's sparring partners is former titleholder Steve Forbes, along with two other fighters, a junior middleweight and a middleweight, according to Garcia.
"We've had three different sparring partners, one of whom was Steven Forbes, who helped us with Broner. It was really good sparring. Then we have two guys who are fighting at junior middleweight and super middleweight. They're doing a really good job," said Garcia.
"They're really fast and they're doing what we ask them to do. So far, things are good. We're trying to get more speed…Chino is looking faster and throwing his combinations a little faster and throwing a lot of punches and combinations and throwing them from different angles."
For his part, Maidana vows to bring nonstop action to Mayweather, who chose to face him over a potential bout with Khan.
"My fight against Amir Khan was one of the biggest fights of my career and I lost but I've learned from it," said Maidana. "I think that Khan versus Mayweather could have been a very boring fight. They're both boxers and neither of them attack, which is something that I'm going to do to Mayweather on May 3."