No one is used to seeing Floyd Mayweather getting knocked around, especially not Floyd Mayweather.
Immediately after twelve of the closest rounds Floyd Mayweather has endured in almost ten years, during which he was roughed up, repeatedly fouled and visibly frustrated; he stood before the microphone to explain that this was the plan all along.
After volleying some hollow platitudes in Marcos Maidana's direction, he absurdly explained that he let it all happen to make the fight better for the fans. Basically, an admission that he knows everyone wants to see him get beat up.
Mayweather is already firmly entrenched in the long line of polarizing champions, but even this was beyond the pale. It gave the fans, who were surely entertained with a spectacular fight, and one Mayweather could put in his back pocket of great moments in his career, something else to think about entirely. IF it's true, that Mayweather took a page from Timothy Bradley's Provodnikov playbook and accepted Maidana's fury in order to provide something more watchable than his last half-dozen fights, that it's essentially all a money grab and nothing more, where do we go from here?
Look, I get it. His name is Money, he likes it a lot (honestly I don't even think he cares about money, he just knows that you do). He likes to pay more for a ridiculous ring entrance than to his ring opponent so he can march under the umbrella of soulless American celebrity. He's the grand egoist in a sport that demands it, but don't pretend it's all about the money; the money is only a by-product of what he really wants and that is the power and attention it all affords him.
Even with fighting only twice a year and almost never getting hit, boxing is a mentally grueling sport to be in for 20 years. It demands constant repetition, constant attention to his body. Perhaps no other sport carries such an inequitable training to performance ratio. As long as there has been prize-fighting, there have been boxers who have grown numb to the routine mid-career. Adrien Broner beat up Carlos Molina on Floyd's undercard and looked visibly bored. He had WAY more fun opening his mouth AFTER the fight. If anything, I might believe that Mayweather taste-tested Maidana's power early, because it would have been simply too boring for him otherwise.
There were moments in the fight where Mayweather seemed perfectly able to do what everyone predicted: box Maidana on the outside and pick him off as he came in. If you were to make the argument that Floyd was toying with Chino the whole time, you could make a pretty compelling YouTube montage to prove the point. But the counter argument would be Maidana's relentless ability to back Mayweather into the ropes, going to the body from distance and attacking the head inside Mayweather's phone booth.
It would be criminal to give Mayweather sole credit for providing the fireworks on a main event that could serve as a celebration of all things boxing. Maidana's one of the sport's most consistent practioners: relentless, powerful, and fearless. He gave his greatest performance at his career's probable climax. He might not have the speed and reflexes to match the best boxer in the game, but he's everything else. He won the crowd and he almost won the fight.
The chants descended from the faithful at the top of the MGM Grand and slowly trickled down into newly-converted Chino fans, hastening to the invisible manna to replace the fake-money confetti that Floyd rained on the crowd during his circus entrance with Justin Bieber and Lil' Wayne.
Every fighter who legitimately can claim victory after 12 rounds, invariably does, and Maidana was no exception. When asked about a possible rematch, he put down the cookie he was inhaling and said without bitterness said that he should be the one granting the rematch, because he won the fight. The bad side of the boxing biz is scared to see their fighters to get beat. They need to think on thousands of fans staying in their seats to salute both fighters in Las Vegas on Saturday night.
The rematch negotiations commenced immediately inside the ring, with an obtuse Mayweather insisting he picks fights based on fan demand. All Maidana's camp wanted to know from the suddenly bubbly Golden Boy's Richard Schaefer was whether Maidana could wear his regular gloves next time. It was a perfect hidden moment: a bored fighter might be insisting instead on getting a better cut of the purse, but all Chino wants is a better chance to win. Mayweather can claim he carried Maidana, let him inside the inner sanctum for the fans' sake, but the truth is Maidana got nowhere near enough money to help make Money richer. That's a big reason Schaefer was so happy and immediately agreed.
Maidana, for now, is just happy to be here. The money will take care of itself. He's thirty years old and able to make hay as a network main event against the pool of great fighters at welterweight.
Mayweather can say whatever he wants about his performance, but I don't see the shame in admitting his legs didn't have their usual spring and that he had to gut a close one out. There's holes in his 37-year old armor either way.
Who will win #HOPKINSKOVALEV