Floyd Mayweather Jr.: Mayweather gave one of his better performances on one of his more difficult nights. Marcos Maidana, his opponent on Saturday in Las Vegas, has the swarming style and physical strength that can give a good boxer like Mayweather some difficulty. That’s what played out early in the fight, as Maidana muscled Mayweather to the ropes and pounded away. And many of the Argentine’s shots landed. Maidana connected on 221 punches, the most of any Mayweather opponent in fights tracked by CompuBox. None of that mattered in the end, though. Mayweather, the consummate pro, calmly weathered the early onslaught, adjusted (surprise!) and dominated the second half of the fight by landing the cleaner, more precise punches for a hard-fought victory that wasn’t as controversial as Maidana supporters might believe. One could argue that Mayweather struggled more in this fight than any since he eked past Jose Luis Castillo in 2002, a fact that could be used to criticize Mayweather. Some might suggest he’s finally starting to slip at 37 years old. I prefer to think that Maidana brought the best out of Mayweather, who fought off an inspired challenge from a menacing slugger and not only won but gave the fans an entertaining evening. I don’t know if Mayweather (46-0, 26 knockouts) is as good as he ever was. I do know he remains the best fighter in the world.
BIGGEST WINNER II
Marcos Maidana: Maidana missed a tantalizing opportunity to score one of the biggest upsets in boxing history, which would’ve made him a national hero in his native Argentina and an indelible part of boxing lore. Still, the fact he was able to give Mayweather a serious challenge added to the elevated status he achieved after upsetting Adrien Broner in December. Maidana (35-4, 31 KOs) came in with a similar game plan to that which he used against Broner: get inside by any means necessary, throw wild punches from weird angles and generally play rough. The strategy worked surprisingly well for the first half of the fight, which everyone would agree was competitive. Judge Michael Pernick had it 4-2 in rounds for Maidana after six while Burt Clements and Davie Moretti had it 4-2 for Mayweather. I had it 3-3. Then Mayweather adjusted and pulled away. Pernick scored it a draw while Clements and Moretti had it 9-3 and 8-4 for Mayweather, respectively. I had it 7-5 for Mayweather. Afterward, Maidana claimed he won and he had the support of many fans in the stands at the MGM Grand and worldwide. That’s a stretch. I thought Mayweather clearly won seven or eight rounds. That doesn’t mean Maidana left the arena a loser. Far from it. El Chino left no doubt in a compelling setback that he has become one of the sport’s most important stars.
Amir Khan: Khan (29-3, 19 KOs) did exactly what he needed to do to resurrect his status as an elite fighter, dominating Luis Collazo (35-6, 18 KOs) from beginning to end before a large audience on the Mayweather-Maidana card. Khan fought more cautiously than he has the past yet put Collazo down three times in what many believed beforehand would be a competitive fight. Khan won all 12 rounds on two cards (119-104) and 10 of 12 (117-106) on the third. I had it 117-106. That’s saying something considering Khan’s struggles the past few years and the ability of Collazo, a capable former welterweight titleholder who had rebuilt his own career and was coming off an impressive knockout of Victor Ortiz. The winner clearly has adapted well to new trainer Virgil Hunter, who tailored a game plan to take full advantage of Khan’s unusual speed and athleticism. I personally could’ve done without Khan’s excessive holding, leaning and pushing, which frustrated Collazo and cost Khan a point, but I don’t think it spoiled an outstanding performance in a do-or-die situation for him. The Briton now is back in position for a truly big fight, and the possibilities abound.
What’s next for Mayweather?: Khan appeared to be Mayweather’s opponent for May 3 but ultimately was passed over for Maidana, a tragic turn of events in his eyes because of money lost. His chance could yet come … just not in September, when Mayweather is expected to fight next. Khan has said that the date conflicts with the month of Ramadan, during which Muslims must fast during the day. So who does that leave for September? One possibility is a rematch with Maidana. I would be surprised if that were to happen because Mayweather dominated the second half of the fight and won without significant controversy. Among the other possibilities: Danny Garcia, Lucas Matthysse, Shawn Porter, Keith Thurman and the winner of the Sergio Martinez-Miguel Cotto fight on June 7. A case can be made for any of the above but I believe the Martinez-Cotto winner makes the most sense from a business standpoint. Mayweather-Martinez (at a catch weight) would be fascinating, while Cotto, who gave Mayweather some trouble in 2012, has a strong following. Porter’s swarming style and Thurman’s quickness and power would pose problems for Mayweather but they probably will have to wait.
Adrien Broner: Don’t read too much into Broner’s unanimous-decision victory over Carlos Molina on the Mayweather-Maidana card. Molina, known as the “other Carlos Molina” because of his junior middleweight namesake, is a solid, tough fighter but a light puncher with limited ability. He obviously was selected to fight Broner – as he was for Khan in 2012 – because he had almost no chance of winning. That doesn’t mean Broner’s victory is meaningless. He looked strong at junior welterweight after dropping down from welterweight, the division in which he lost to Maidana. He withstood some surprising moments from Molina in the second and third rounds and took firm control of the fight with hard, accurate punches thereafter to win going away. The scores were 98-92, 100-90 (a shutout) and 99-91. Mission accomplished. Broner rebounded from a significant beating from Maidana by winning a fight convincingly on international television. He took a step in the right direction, built some momentum and restored any confidence that might’ve been lost in December. In other words, Broner had a productive night.
I thought that Moretti’s score in the Mayweather-Maidana fight (116-112) was the best of the three. And Pernick’s score (114-114) was better than Clements’ (117-111). I can’t see how anyone thought Mayweather won all but three rounds. … One had to feel badly for Collazo. The New Yorker had battled so gamely to re-establish himself as a marketable fighter the past few years only to be pounded into defeat by Khan. Then, after the fight, he said he broke the pinky on his left (power) hand in the fourth round. That’s a bad break (no pun intended) if true. Collazo is only 33. I believe he has more success ahead of him. … J’Leon Love (18-0, 10 KOs) looked solid against tough Marco Antonio Periban (20-2-1, 13 KOs) on the Mayweather-Maidana card. I was particularly impressed with his ability to survive after he was nearly knocked out in the fifth round. That said, I can’t see Love beating the top 168-pounders. He’s only 26, though. Time will tell. Periban is always fun to watch. A fight between him and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. would be entertaining. … Arthur Abraham (40-4, 28 KOs) keeps rolling along. The Armenian-German was more or less written off after a poor performance in the Super Six World Boxing Classic in 2009-11 but won, lost and regained the WBO super middleweight title and is 8-1 since. Abraham isn’t among the top few 168-pounders but is a very good second-tier fighter. He outpointed Nikola Sjekloca (26-2, 8 KOs) on Saturday in Berlin.