Maidana Needs to Play Mayweather’s Game

Marcos Maidana has several advantages heading into his rematch with ring king Floyd Mayweather. He’s stronger, younger and has enough wild punching to catch the wily vet. In order to win, he’ll need to harness something not easily attainable in an eight-week training camp: smarts.

Unless Maidana has done his studying, the cards are stacked against the upset. Usually, when the better boxer wins the first dust-up rather convincingly as Floyd did, things go according to form in the second chapter. There’s a reason that Vegas oddsmakers opened the line at -800 for Mayweather. 

That line, conversely a +500 for Chino, doesn’t do the Argentine justice. He gave Floyd one of the toughest fights of his career and succeeded in making Mayweather look vulnerable. If any great claim can be made of Mayweather's stage-crafted decision to play the villain and indulge in the idle pleasures of these days, it's that he's the most cynical boxing champion since Mike Tyson.

The question is whether Marcos Maidana is merely a foil, a reason to get beat up for the fans' pleasure, as Floyd suggested after winning the narrow decision, or if the man from Argentina may possibly possess enough luck and brains to match his. How can the man whose fight plan is to attack nonstop every single time get over the hump? He’ll have to continually surprise the crafty and experienced Floyd Mayweather. A tall order, and one that Maidana does not appear savvy enough to pull off, if the pre-fight verbal play yields any clues.

More boxer than showman, Maidana stole a page from the Macho Handbook of Obviousness, repeatedly mentioning on a conference call that he hopes  Floyd will stand and “fight him like a man” and even offered, “don’t be a little b—-, like a woman.” Perhaps Maidana is playing to his audience in Floyd, a serial woman hater, but the misogyny handshake is hardly a promising chess move if the goal is to unnerve the unbeaten Mayweather (I’d much rather like to see Chino mock Mayweather for his jail time served in 2012 or steal a page from his countryman Sergio Martinez’s playbook and dedicate this fight and portion of proceeds to victims of domestic violence).

Mayweather responded by posting a video of himself getting stretched out by the controversial trainer Alex Ariza, who some whisper may know his way around the darker arts and methods of athletic enhancement. Having Ariza in camp with or without knowledge of any ill practice used by the Argentine brawler is sure to unnerve Chino more than limp remonstrations aimed at Mayweather’s manhood. It’s Mayweather’s favorite taunt, one gleaned from the corporate world: counter criticism by pointing to success. He's got the money to pay Ariza whatever fee it takes to both keep him away from Maidana while striking a clean salvo across the internet celeb news cycle that Mayweather is infatuated with, this time with the added bonus of distracting viewers from watching embarrassing videos of Floyd reading.

Maidana isn’t one for going out of his way to make waves before a fight. In an age of calculating star athletes obsessed with their brand and endowed with a full team of PR-reps and advisors, Chino is something of a throwback. It's enough for him to show up on fight night looking like a wind-up toy with no fear.

I mean this in the most complimentary way possible: Maidana has been one of the most predictable fighters in the sport. He comes forward and never stops throwing punches, many of them from unconventional angles. Under the tutelage of Robert Garcia, Maidana has improved his jab enough to allow him to compete with a fighter of Mayweather's caliber.

He’ll have to box intelligently. In their first fight he used his jab effectively to set up power punches, this time he'll have to use his jab again to buy space and time in order to execute a twelve round fight plan. And he has to count on Mayweather not choosing to trade with his more powerful return fire. Floyd will move and Maidana must be able to make the ring smaller and pressure the champ into the ropes.

It doesn’t matter what grade-level Mayweather can read at, as TSS’s Frank Lotierzo pointed out, as a boxer he's as shrewd as they come. Mayweather always seems to have a plan and follow the plan, even after being punched him in the mouth, the jaw, and the groin as Maidana did repeatedly in May.

It cuts against Maidana's fighter instinct, which is to be fearless and attack, but if he wants to hand the champ his first loss he will have to do something awkward and simply box Floyd in the early rounds, using his jab from the outside to get in position to throw his trademark short chopping hands on the inside.

Mayweather’s only possible weakness is his age. If Maidana can box effectively enough and save his stamina for the late rounds, he may be in position to test those 37-year-old legs with uncompromised power.

And it certainly wouldn’t hurt if Maidana could script an original criticism or two aimed at one of the many fatal character flaws in possession of Floyd Mayweather, and give him some of his own medicine. But for the Maidana fans, hell, for all boxing fans that just want to see something different, pull for the intrepid pugilist to return Mayweather's favor by out-thinking him come fight night.



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