By Jason Keidel
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Half of boxing’s dynamic duo fought Saturday night. And, as always, it left the pugilistic cognoscenti with as many questions as answers.
Floyd Mayweather Jr. won a majority decision over Marcos Maidana at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, successfully defending his physical title and his symbolic crown as the sport’s best fighter and biggest draw.
The fight was close, but not close enough to award the decision to Maidana, a typically tough, Latin fighter who isn’t intimidated by the Mayweather machine that seems to steamroll many opponents long before they duck under the ropes and enter the ring.
Maidana earned the title shot by pummeling Mayweather disciple Adrien Broner, who had all of Mayweather’s bombast but half of his mentor’s dedication to the craft.
Mayweather threw half as many punches as Maidana (425 to 858), yet landed nine more. The 221 shots Maidana landed, however, were the most that Mayweather has allowed in 38 fights, according to CompuBox numbers.
For the first time since Mayweather splashed on the scene and outlasted the icons of his youth — Roy Jones, Bernard Hopkins, Oscar De La Hoya, and Felix Trinidad — the bloom seems to be fading from his rose. Mayweather, true to his “Money Team” mantra, made $32 million for a night’s work, but he did not emerge as pristine as we’ve become accustomed. There were bumps and cuts across Mayweather’s brow and cheeks.
In light of the narrow decision, some are clamoring for a rematch between Mayweather (46-0, 26 KO) and Maidana (35-4, 31 KO). But all that would do is reinforce what we already know: Maidana is a rugged, dangerous brawler and Mayweather, who would have dispatched Maidana with greater ease five years ago, is approaching 40.
Others want Mayweather to fight Amir Khan. But anyone with any sense of the sport and its history wants the only fight that can make history. And that would be a bout against the other half of boxing’s celebrity twins.
That would be Manny Pacquiao, who recently handled his business against Timothy Bradley, coasting to a unanimous decision in a rematch that should not have been necessary. Pacquiao and Mayweather still have the stage to themselves, though probably not for long, as Father Time is draining the vitality from both men.
There’s been endless bickering over money and minutiae, from gate splits to weight to steroid testing. They’re the same size, share equal status, and bring their own, colossal congregation to each event. Yet they haven’t fought, which probably means they will not fight, at least until the world no longer cares.
It’s become so sickening that pundits don’t even ponder a megafight between Mayweather and Pacquiao, a bout that would break box office, pay-per-view, every other monetary metric we use these days.
For all his flaws — and you could short-circuit your computer listing them — Mayweather has been a great boxer and pulls eyes and dollars to a dying sport that so many of us remember as so fertile. His corporate coda of 24-hour flash, the ring and bling and his newfound harem, only works as long as he makes his mark inside the squared circle. And with each fight, the 37-year-old Mayweather is looking more human.
Each year we have fewer fighters on whom we can hang the tag of unlimited potential. It wasn’t long ago that you could easily recall three or four fighters in each weight class, bona fide princes from the former sport of kings. Maybe it has been that long and we’re just getting old.
Mayweather is scheduled to fight again in September. Whether it’s against Maidana, Khan, or Miguel Cotto, it will leave us hungry for a more meaty fight against Pacquiao.
Part of the boxing tragedy, beyond the corruption and dearth of decent talent, is the fact that today’s fighters don’t have a proper command of yesteryear. Robinson had LaMotta. Leonard had Hearns. Ali had Frazier. Yet with two top draws at the peak of their earning powers, we won’t have a Money/Manny dance on canvas. And a year from now it won’t matter, as two genuinely great boxers and the sport that made them rich all twirl down the drain of history.
Though he won this weekend, Floyd Mayweather Jr showed us, for the first time, that he’s not that far from losing. And while millions of us have been waiting for that very moment, it seems we will get it for all the wrong reasons.
Follow Jason on Twitter at @JasonKeidel
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