It’s the oldest, but also the truest cliché in the sport of boxing. “Styles make fights.”
And if we take it a little further it can be said that styles also determine the outcome of most fights. In boxing you have fighters who fight as boxers/technicians, boxer/punchers, counter-punchers, swarmers/maulers and sluggers.
This weekend welterweight Floyd Mayweather 46-0 (26) will fight a rematch with former junior welterweight title-holder Marcos Maidana 35-4 (31). When they last tangled four months ago, Mayweather won a 12-round majority decision which in reality should’ve been unanimous. After eight rounds Maidana was getting the better of it against Mayweather. Maidana’s non-stop reckless aggression was suffocating Mayweather and totally nullified his ability to move, box and counter-punch. Floyd was under duress and didn’t have the time or needed space to box or set any traps for Maidana. In the main, Mayweather, in-spite of tagging Marcos with some big shots, was basically fighting for his life and just hoping to fight Maidana off of him with the intent of stabilizing the action and tempo.
In essence, Maidana was fighting his fight almost to the letter. His aggression was effective and because of it along with his unorthodox mauling tactics, Floyd was out of his comfort zone. That said, Maidana was paying a price and getting nailed with some of Mayweather’s Sunday best in the process. And as much as Maidana was dictating the pace and had Mayweather uncomfortable, he wasn’t physically strong enough to break his will or shut down his skill. Even after getting worked over for the better part of eight rounds, Mayweather was able to box and pot-shot Maidana during the last third of the bout because Marcos needed a breather after trying to sustain his all-out assault. And once Maidana was forced to take his foot off the gas a little so he could conserve his energy in order to make it through the final four rounds, that was all Mayweather needed to fight his fight and pick his spots and go on to win three of the last four rounds to seal the decision in his favor.
Think of it like this: as long as Maidana was fighting full throttle and wide open, you could say he more or less got the better of it. But he’s just a man and is only so strong. Asking him to fight all out for 12 complete rounds is not realistic for anybody. He recently said that he did tire and was forced to conserve his energy during the final third of the fight. And this was against a version of Mayweather who I believe took him a little lightly and didn’t train and prepare with the needed urgency he will in training for the rematch.
What many have missed regarding their last fight is how much it took out of Maidana physically hitting Floyd and trying to beat him up. And if you’re honest, as hard as Maidana hit Mayweather, he never really had him in real trouble or badly shaken during the entire bout. Again, this was against Mayweather who didn’t go into the fight on alert mode and who probably viewed Maidana as nothing more than a crude and unorthodox mauler who he could side step and counter at will. This time Floyd will be much more focused and purposeful. I also believe that like it was the case when he fought Miguel Cotto, Mayweather held his ground a little more than usual and wanted to prove he could beat the rough and tough aggressor at his own game.
Obviously, what Maidana did during the last fight worked, but not enough for him to leave the ring as the winner. Marcos Maidana is an attacker/swarmer. His style and pressure are only effective when he’s forcing the fight and pushing his opponent back to the ropes or into one of the corners. As long as he had Mayweather on the defense, he was in the fight. Nothing bothers a boxer or technician like being cut off and forced to fight and trade. However, there is a price to pay if you’re the attacker pushing the fight – and that is you are walking directly into the firestorm. If the boxer cannot hurt you, then it’s worth the price so you can get inside and work him over……But if he’s cable of blunting and stunting your pressure, you’ve got to be more judicious with your aggression if you’re the attacker. And we saw during the first fight, Maidana did pay a price for taking it to Mayweather, and eventually it slowed him down right at the point to where the fight was being decided.
Maidana also said that you have to respect Floyd’s punch, which is really code for saying Mayweather hits hard enough that he can’t just go at him like he’s handcuffed and unload the kitchen sink on him. He’ll be reminded of this when Mayweather catches him real good for the first time in the rematch. Couple that with Maidana tiring during the last fight because he was worn down by the constant strain of trying to force the fight on the inside, which will more than likely be the case against a more focused Mayweather.
If you’re Marcos Maidana, what adjustments can you realistically make in order to tilt the rematch in your favor? The only way he can be effective is if he can turn the bout into a street fight. I’ve heard some say he has to jab and be more measured this time in order to set up his power shots. To that I say – yeah, in the cookbook world that sounds plausible. But in the ring it won’t be so easily applied. Mayweather is the boxer, there’s nothing he’d love more than for Maidana to try and wait and react to what he does. In that scenario Maidana would get off second and lose every exchange during the fight. If Marcos tries to fight measured, that’s not who he is. He has one advantage over Floyd if you discount that he’s a few years younger, and that he is the bigger puncher. The problem is, he can’t deliver his punch to where he needs to if he’s watching and waiting to see what Mayweather is going to do. Furthermore, we saw that even his Sunday punch didn’t detonate enough to drop or stop Mayweather. If he waits there’s much less of a chance of him ever landing anything consequential because if Floyd isn’t fighting for his life, despite Maidana’s unconventional delivery, Mayweather will see everything Maidana lobs at him.
Conversely, Mayweather can change a little stylistically like he did versus Jose Luis Castillo in their rematch. This time Floyd will try to keep Maidana more in ring center and look to get off first while there’s a lull in the action. He’ll also look to get off first instead of countering this time because he knows Marcos can’t handle the effects of continuously getting tagged and stunned on the way in. And once Maidana starts to think and become slightly hesitant with his aggression, it’s over.
Attackers have to attack and go for the knockout three minutes a round to be effective. That’s the only way their style works. If Maidana tries to all of the sudden be a thinking fighter, he’ll be a fish out of water against a sharp assassin like Mayweather. Think of it this way, what if Joe Frazier waited and reacted to Muhammad Ali, or if Roberto Duran didn’t bring it to Sugar Ray Leonard? Under that scenario, both Joe and Roberto would be second every time thus they’d lose every exchange and probably never land a meaningful punch because they’d be fighting more as a boxer or counter-puncher. Well, Mayweather would love for the fight to come down to speed and reflexes, because without pressure, his superior speed and reflexes will shine.
The bottom line for Mayweather-Maidana II is, Floyd can adjust a little or fight the same style he did last time and win. As opposed to Maidana, who can only hope to bring a little more of what didn’t work the last time but still gives him his only chance to win. Maidana must go for the knockout from bell-to-bell as long as he can. Either he goes all out and stops Floyd, or he runs out of gas and maybe gets stopped in the process. However, it’s better to fight your fight and give yourself the best chance to win and getting stopped, than it is just watching Floyd waiting for the ideal time to cut loose. If Maidana’s been convinced that he can do better this time by boxing and fighting more measured, Mayweather will eat him up and never experience one close call during the fight and will win going away.
There’s a reason why if the better boxer or technician beats the attacker the first time, the rematch is usually a rerun of the first meeting. Fighters who adopt the mauling/swarming style like Marcos Maidana do so for a reason, and that’s because they can’t box and be effective. Maidana’s only chance to beat Mayweather is for him to fight like he always does and hope that Freddie Roach was right when he suggested that Floyd’s legs are gone and he’s showing physical signs of a fighter on the decline.
That, I wouldn’t bet on. No, not this weekend.
Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com
Photo credits:Stephanie Trapp/Mayweather Promotions