This coming weekend we’ll see one of boxing’s best pound-for-pound fighters, Floyd Mayweather 46-0 (26) fight the aggressive and tough contender Marcos Maidana 35-4 (31) for the second time in four months.
Back in May, Floyd won a 12-round majority decision (which should’ve been unanimous) over Maidana in what turned out to be one of the toughest bouts of Mayweather’s career.
Over the last 40 plus years there have been some compelling rematches between boxing’s biggest stars and their career rivals. What makes those bouts different than Mayweather-Maidana II is the fact that the star fighter lost. And the whole intrigue regarding the rematch in the eyes of most boxing observers and fans was to see if the superstar fighter could come back after being decisively defeated.
However, that’s not the case going into Mayweather-Maidana II. Mayweather, who was an overwhelming favorite before the first fight, won cleanly. No, it wasn’t decisive in favor of Mayweather. But it was conclusive enough that it’s nearly impossible, at least for me, to give Maidana even a punchers’ chance to score the upset this time. And that’s because he can’t change his style or adjust better to Mayweather this time without sacrificing his aggression. If Maidana is not on the attack against Mayweather, he’ll be a fish out of water and will lose a very one sided decision.
Below are five rematches that were much more compelling going in than Mayweather-Maidana II. And that is because the loser in each of the first meetings had a legitimate and realistic chance to avenge the loss suffered the first time they met. In fact the loser was actually favored three times going into the second bout.
Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier II: What made the Ali-Frazier trilogy so great were the contrasting styles between Muhammad and Joe. One’s strength was the others’ weakness and vice-versa. Frazier won a 15-round unanimous decision over Ali on March 8th 1971, the first time they met, when both were undefeated. During their first bout Frazier cut the ring off on Ali beautifully. He forced Muhammad to fight with his back to the ropes and in the corners. And as long as Joe waged war with Ali on the inside, it was to his advantage. When Ali was able to keep Frazier at center ring and turning in the corners, he was fine. But Ali’s low right hand left him a sitting duck for Frazier’s faster than he thought left hook.
When they fought again almost three years later, Ali was in better shape and wasn’t coming off only two fights after 43 months of inactivity. He also learned from the first fight that he couldn’t fight Frazier off of him without occupying his big left-hook on the inside. So he tied Frazier up once Joe had him cornered and against the ropes. Once the referee broke them apart, Ali moved and pot-shotted Frazier from outside. Another adjustment he made was, he didn’t throw many hooks and uppercuts at Frazier, especially when they were fighting from a clinch. The net result was, Ali won a 12-round unanimous decision in a far less action packed bout and knotted their rivalry 1-1.
Muhammad Ali vs. Leon Spinks II: When Ali fought Leon the first time; Spinks was only a veteran of seven professional bouts. Muhammad was 36 years old and fighting for the money at that time. He barely trained and had a hard time getting up for Spinks. Ali was certain that Leon, who never fought more than eight rounds as a pro, would fade and tire during the second half of the fight. Only it didn’t happen. Spinks threw punches nonstop at Ali’s arms, shoulders and head while he was resting against the ropes. Ali seldom fired back at Leon. During the last third of the fight Ali staged a huge rally and had Spinks on his heels more than a few times but Leon weathered the storm and hung on to win the heavyweight title via a 15-round split decision.
Six months later the rematch set an indoor attendance record and Ali showed up in better shape. Realizing that he couldn’t fight Spinks on the ropes for 15 rounds, Ali circled Leon and nailed him with quick lefts and rights from outside, thus impeding Spinks’ aggression. Whenever Leon tried to bull Ali to the ropes, Muhammad wrapped him up and pulled him in, then reset and pushed him off of him. This nullified Leon’s attack as the routine was repeated throughout the fight. Ali, despite not looking spectacular physically, went on to win a 15-round unanimous decision to regain the title and knotted their series 1-1.
Sugar Ray Leonard vs. Roberto Duran II: The Leonard-Duran trilogy had a lot in common with the Ali-Frazier trilogy. Duran, like Frazier, wanted to force the fight on the inside. Roberto taunted and mocked Leonard before their first fight. This did a number on Leonard psychologically and had him thinking that he wanted to take Duran’s head off. Since Duran was moving up from lightweight to welterweight, Leonard thought he could fight it out with Duran. For 15 rounds, Leonard fought Duran inside and tried to knock him out. Only that was Roberto’s fight. Duran got the better of Leonard by ultimately forcing Ray to trade punches with him. The fight was close, but Duran deserved the unanimous decision he was awarded after 15 fast paced rounds that saw back and forth action.
Five months later Leonard moved and boxed this time and mocked Duran, who couldn’t really get going or find his rhythm. For the first six rounds Leonard boxed and kept Duran from bulling him to the ropes the way he did in their first bout. After seven rounds Leonard held the edge but the fight was a long way from being settled. In the closing seconds of the eighth round Duran turned his back and quit waving his glove in a sign of surrender and said “No Mas” to the referee. Roberto said he had stomach cramps and couldn’t continue and Leonard knotted their series at 1-1.
Aaron Pryor vs. Alexis Arguello II: Pryor and Arguello staged one of the greatest title fights in the history of the junior welterweight division. Arguello was a great boxer-puncher who had dynamite in his right hand. Pryor was a whirlwind fighter who not only could punch with both hands, but he was unpredictable and attacked in spurts. Sometimes he would circle and then come in recklessly throwing bombs. His unconventional style perplexed the orthodox and by the book Arguello. These two traded bombs for 14 straight rounds. At times it looked as if Arguello’s right to Pryor’s chin would ultimately be the difference. And then in the next round Pryor would rock and befuddle Arguello with his over hand rights and looping hooks. In the 13th round Arguello hit Pryor with a right hand that should’ve taken his head off. In the 14th round, Pryor trapped Arguello against the ropes and unloaded a barrage of rights and lefts from every imaginable angle and stopped Arguello.
When they fought 10 months later, Arguello, who could only fight one way, thought if he brought a little more of what he did last time, he’d knock Pryor out this time. And that was plausible. However, Pryor again had an extra gear to answer Alexis every time it seemed that he was on the verge of seizing the fight. In what was a virtual repeat of the first fight, Arguello was stopped in the 10th round. Arguello sat on the ring canvas and looked the referee in the eye as he was counted out realizing that Pryor had his number and there was nothing he could do to beat him.
Evander Holyfield vs. Mike Tyson II: Going into their first meeting Holyfield really looked terrible in his last two bouts, going 1-1. It’s easy to see that Tyson probably took him lightly. Evander came right out in the first round and showed Mike he wasn’t the least bit awed by him. Holyfield out thought, out fought and out muscled Tyson from the onset. In the sixth round he dropped Mike with a left hook to the chest. Tyson got up but the fight began slipping away from him as Holyfield was bettering him at every turn. At the end of the 10th round Tyson was out on his feet. In the eleventh round Holyfield picked up where he left off in the tenth and started battering Tyson again, which led to referee Mitch Halpern stopping the fight less than a minute into the 11th round.
In the rematch Holyfield came out strong again and backed Tyson up and was handling Mike when he was at his most dangerous. Tyson complained about Holyfield head butting him, but it looked as if he was losing his confidence with each passing minute. Tyson came out of his corner for the third round without his mouthpiece and was forced to put it in by referee Mills Lane. Tyson began the round in a fury, but Holyfield was no worse for it. With forty seconds left in the round, Tyson bit Holyfield on his right ear and Holyfield jumped up and down in pain. Lane deducted two points from Tyson and after restoring order the fight resumed. Then in the next clinch Tyson bit Holyfield’s other ear and was immediately disqualified. Holyfield retained the title via a third round DQ victory.
That is a quick recap of five of the more anticipated rematches over the last 45 years. Going into Ali-Frazier II and Leonard-Duran II, Ali and Leonard, who both lost the first fight, were slight betting favorites. And the reason for that is because it was perceived that they were versatile enough to change their style and reverse the result of the first fight against the attacker who overwhelmed them the first time. Ali was also favored over Leon Spinks before their rematch. And that was because he was viewed as the more adaptable fighter who could correct the mistakes he made the first time. And the odds makers were right again.
In the case of Pryor-Arguello II, Pryor was the slight favorite the second time. And that was because he was the younger fighter and his victory was so decisive. However, there were plenty among the experts who thought that Pryor could never be that great again and therefore Arguello would win the rematch. So even with Pryor being favored, it was almost split as to who would win because Alexis was so great and respected. As for Holyfield-Tyson II, Tyson was a 2-1 favorite because most thought Holyfield got lucky and Tyson wasn’t ready for him the first time. The thought was Tyson will be in great shape for the rematch and go through Evander like he should’ve the first time. As it turned out, both Arguello and Tyson, who had to force the fight, couldn’t adapt and ultimately lost to a great fighter who owned them stylistically.
Which leads us back to Mayweather-Maidana II. Mayweather is a monumental favorite again over Maidana because there was nothing that happened in the last fight to give anyone confidence that Maidana can beat a more focused Mayweather this time. The fight will do big numbers because Floyd is a big draw along with the fact that Maidana was in the last fight for eight rounds. But unlike some of the rematches above, the loser, Maidana, can’t change or be better than he was the first time.
More on Maidana’s style conundrum later this week.
Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com