Friday, May 2, 2014

Previews: Mayweather-Maidana, Khan-Collazo

Pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather (45-0, 26 KOs) returns to the ring on Saturday to take on rugged Argentine welterweight titlist Marcos Maidana (35-3, 31 KOs) at the MGM Grand Arena in Las Vegas. As is often customary during a Mayweather fight week, non-boxing items have dominated much of the lead-up to the fight. Mayweather has talked about another retirement, expressed interest in buying the Los Angeles Clippers and provided details about his breakup with his ex-girlfriend. But come Saturday, an actual fight will take place. Or at least two men will be in the ring. Boxing fans hope that a fight does indeed occur.
Mayweather is a significant favorite over Maidana, who according to conventional wisdom lacks the finesse, foot speed or ring savvy to cause much of a problem in this matchup. But Maidana does have a punch and he's a relentless fighter. Maidana received his opportunity to face Mayweather by defeating Adrien Broner in December, and Broner is a boxer who possesses some similar characteristics to Mayweather. Maidana sent Broner to the canvas twice and won a comfortable decision victory. But is what worked for Maidana against Broner applicable to Mayweather? Will Maidana be able to land with the same kind of effectiveness?

In the ring there are three major separators between Mayweather and Broner. Most distinctively, Mayweather uses his legs a lot more to fend off aggression. Many boxing observers see the Philly shell defense and immediately point out the similarities between the two fighters. However, Broner is essentially a pocket fighter; Mayweather uses the whole ring to his advantage. He is a master at resetting action, tying up on the inside, dictating pace and flow and picking spots to potshot or initiate combinations. 

Another important distinction is Mayweather's refusal to engage in toe-to-toe battles. It's a question of temperament. Staying in the pocket, Broner believed that his accuracy and power would grind down Maidana. Instead, it was his own chin that betrayed him. Mayweather does a much better job of using angles, spacing, clinching and movement to reduce action. He gets personally offended when hit with a good shot and he tries to shut down those instances. Broner is much more of a give-and-take fighter.

Finally, Mayweather's defense is just much better than Broner's is. He's wonderful at using his arms and elbows to pick off shots, rolling with punches to minimize their impact, turning his body away from incoming power and spinning out from trouble. In short, they are very different fighters. 

Let's not sugarcoat this. Maidana is up against it on Saturday. Mayweather's accuracy, conditioning and intelligence will put him in an excellent position to win, and win comfortably. But Maidana is not without hope; however, he must create opportunities for himself. Here are three things he needs to do to have a chance of winning:

1.     Sell out with big shots early 
2.     Target the body
3.     Use both hands to initiate offense.

Mayweather will often give opponents the first few rounds. He takes time to study his foes, see what they have and get a feel for their timing, punch sequences, power and speed. Usually by the third or fourth round he has seen enough and starts to open up offensively. From that point on his opponents often run out of luck. 

Against Broner, Maidana faced a fighter who employed a similar strategy. However, Maidana was able to knock down Broner with a left hook in the second round that changed the complexion of the fight. Broner was clearly rattled and wasn't able to get into his usual comfort zone. 

Maidana needs the same kind of impact in this fight. He does hit very hard. If he lands a big hook or right hand, he could certainly hurt Mayweather or even get him down to the canvas. Immediately, Maidana would have an early advantage in the fight. 

Too many boxers have this silly notion that they are going to outbox Mayweather from mid-range. They give Mayweather undue respect and within a short time they get carved up and psychologically demoralized. Maidana can't get caught up in that trap. He has to realize that he can't win by boxing. Power will be his only salvation. If he misses a few shots, gets tagged on counters or finds himself out of position, he must not lose faith in his game plan. He only needs to land one huge shot to change the fight. 

However, landing that big punch is easier said than done against Mayweather. Maidana will have to set it up. His straight right hand upstairs is his best weapon but he often telegraphs it. A fighter as alert as Mayweather is will see that right hand coming before it is even released. Maidana's best bet is to work downstairs as often as possible. Single jabs or right hands to the body will change Mayweather's eye level and make him conscious of a different approach. If Maidana can land a few shots to the body, opportunities for headshots will open up, specifically his left hook and his overhand and/or looping right hand. Now, it won't be easy to land much on Mayweather's body but Maidana must stay with it. 

Trainer Robert Garcia has done an excellent job of improving Maidana's jab and incorporating feints and disguises into his attack (the first knockdown of Broner was actually Maidana feinting a left jab to the body but instead coming upstairs with a left hook). Maidana will need to use these weapons on Saturday. 

Ultimately, for Maidana to have success he will have to make Mayweather respect both of his hands. If he just loads up on power rights, he will be a sitting duck for Mayweather's counters and potshots. Maidana must work his jab and left hook and mix in rights to the body, looping shots and straight right hands. The more punches that he can feature, the better shot that something hard lands. 

So, this is the blueprint. But is it likely? Honestly, I don't think so. Maidana has improved in the last two years but his hand and foot speed significantly lag behind those of Mayweather. If Mayweather wanted to make the fight a track meet, I don't see how Maidana could do well in that context. Similarly, Mayweather can feast on Maidana by using angles, turning him and getting in and out with quick shots and combinations. Maidana's relentless but he can be predictable. He also lacks the creativity that could really trouble Mayweather. 

I don't think that fans will be entertained by the fight. Mayweather will use Maidana's aggression and straight-line movements against him to coast to a fairly easy victory. I'm sure that Mayweather will be hit hard once or twice but I don't think that it will be enough to change the tenor of the fight. 

Floyd Mayweather defeats Marcos Maidana 118-110, or 10 rounds to 2.


On paper, the most interesting matchup of the night is the welterweight clash between Amir Khan (28-3, 19 KOs) and Luis Collazo (35-5, 18 KOs). Khan missed out on this round of the Mayweather sweepstakes but he has a chance to lock up that fight with an excellent performance against Collazo. Boxing had essentially left Collazo for dead at the end of 2011 after he lost to journeyman Freddy Hernandez. In that fight, Collazo was knocked down and looked like his best days were far behind him. But after some time off, Collazo rebounded and scored his best win in years earlier in 2014 by knocking out Victor Ortiz with a huge right hook in the second round.  

There are some interesting parallels between Khan and Collazo. Both have had opportunities on the big stage before and have come up short. Collazo dropped close decisions to Ricky Hatton and Andre Berto (many observers believe that Collazo won at least one of those fights) and was soundly defeated by Shane Mosley. Khan lost two of the biggest fights of his career, by fouling his way to defeat against Lamont Peterson (a fight many believe that Khan won) and by getting starched against Danny Garcia. For both Khan and Collazo, they were one or two wins away from much bigger things in the sport. 

Sizing up the matchup, Khan has a number of advantages over Collazo. His hand and foot speed are superior. He has a better work rate. He throws flashy combinations that appeal to judges. He's wonderful at building up early leads. 

However, he has some well-known drawbacks. Khan's chin is shaky. He's been down a half-dozen times in his career and there were other bouts (such as his matchup against Maidana) were he was almost as good as down. He also fades during fights. Khan can be one of the best frontrunners in the sport, but many of his bouts (such as Maidana, Peterson and Julio Diaz) find him holding on for dear life in the final rounds. He also has several technical flaws that can be exploited by intelligent opponents. He admires his work in the pocket after combinations, leaving himself vulnerable to counters. Khan also takes too long to return his hands to a defensively responsible position. In addition, he has no idea how to fight off of the ropes. 

Collazo can start slowly and, at times, waits too long before letting his hands go. He can be outworked. And although he is a sharp, accurate counterpuncher, it isn't as if his power is so special that judges feel compelled to give him rounds where he has been outlanded. 

Collazo is very proficient at using angles and footwork to land flush shots. He's a tricky guy in the ring. He employs a lot of quick lateral movement but he doesn't run. Despite not being a big welterweight, he is very adept at inside fighting and goes to the body well in close.  

Khan-Collazo is pretty close to a toss-up fight. Khan is fresher and will score with his jab and quick combinations. The essential question is whether or not his chin will hold up. If it does, he stands an excellent chance of winning. On the other side of the equation, can Collazo finish a hurt Khan? Before Ortiz (who, let's face it, didn't try his hardest to get up from that knockdown), you'd have to go a long way back to find an impressive stoppage win on Collazo's resume. He's not feather-fisted but the Ortiz knockout was an anomaly. Does Collazo have the killer instinct to finish Khan off? Will he sell out for the knockout if it's there?

Ultimately, a win for either fighter wouldn't be surprising. When all factors are considered, I just don't trust Khan's chin or his decision making. He was lucky to survive against Diaz and that fight was below the 147-lb. limit. I don't like how Khan refuses to tie-up when hurt. He exerts too much energy in these situations and falls prey to needlessly macho behavior. I think that Collazo comes from behind, steadily breaks Khan down and gets rid of him late for the biggest win of his career. But I could just as easily be wrong about this fight. We'll see. I'm definitely intrigued. 

Luis Collazo TKO 11 Amir Khan. 

Adam Abramowitz is the head writer and founder of
He is also a member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board.
Contact Adam at 
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