Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Mayweather-Maidana II: Keys to the Fight

Saturday brings the rematch between pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather (46-0, 26 KOs) and hard-charging challenger Marcos Maidana (35-4, 31 KOs). In their first fight in May, Maidana had significant success early on by pushing Mayweather against the ropes and landing his overhand right in close quarters. By the second half of the bout, Mayweather kept the action in the center of the ring and consistently landed the better punches. Mayweather wound up winning the match by a majority decision, and he deserved the nod. However, boxing fans were unaccustomed to seeing Mayweather take the type of punishment that he did against Maidana. 

For the rematch, Maidana has emphasized better conditioning and a lighter fight-night weight. Maidana and his trainer Robert Garcia believe that these changes will give their team a better chance to win a decision. On the Mayweather side, Floyd's trainer and father, Floyd Mayweather Sr., has suggested that they also will use different tactics in the rematch but Floyd Senior has been coy about specifics. (I would imagine that a major change would involve staying off of the ropes). 

Will Maidana's improved conditioning be the final piece of the puzzle for him to earn a victory over the sport's best or will Mayweather's intelligence, accuracy and adaptability be enough to keep him on top of the boxing world? Read below for the keys to the fight. My prediction will be at the end of the article. 

1. What can Maidana do in the center of the ring?

It's pretty clear that Mayweather will try to keep the fight in the center of the ring. In the second half of their fight in May, it was Mayweather who had more answers from distance. From range, Maidana was able to land some jabs but he couldn't consistently connect with power shots. 

For Maidana to have a prayer of winning a decision (he still has the crushing right hand that can knock anyone out at welterweight), he's going to have to figure out how to hit Mayweather at mid-range and from distance. His best approach will be to vary his attack – he’ll need to use his whole arsenal, including feints, jabs (to the head and body) lead right hands and the occasional left hook, to have some success. 

I'm sure that Maidana will still look to push Mayweather to the ropes and/or get him in close range whenever possible, but Mayweather will try to limit these opportunities. Without sustained effectiveness from the outside, it will be very tough for Maidana to win a decision. 

2. Does Floyd still have his legs?

At 37 and with 46 professional fights under his belt, can Floyd still maneuver himself around the ring to avoid trouble the way that he did earlier in his career? On paper, Maidana seemed like a fairly easy opponent for Mayweather. A straight-line fighter with a limited arsenal, Maidana was the type of foe that Floyd should have been able to defeat with his superior athleticism and ring generalship. However, that certainly wasn't the case early in their first fight. 

For Mayweather to win the rematch more comfortably than he did in May, he needs to reduce Maidana's punch volume and take away his best weapons – by that I mean anything from close range. Mayweather can best do that by staying away from the ropes and using the ring to his advantage. When Maidana has to track down an opponent, he can look ordinary. But with a willing fighter standing in front of him, Maidana morphs into a beast. I'm sure that Floyd and his camp know these things but can Mayweather still execute such an athletic game plan at his advanced ring age? If not, he is in for a dogfight, like their first match. 

3. Switching tactics.

Yes, Floyd got beat up pretty badly on the ropes during the first third of their fight in May. Part of that can be attributed to Maidana's fearlessness, unrelenting pressure and odd-angled power shots. However, I also believe that Floyd went to ropes on purpose. He thought that he could hurt Maidana coming in and that success in this area would dissuade the Argentine from mounting an aggressive attack later on in the fight; he wanted to beat Maidana at his own game. Obviously, that approach wasn't altogether successful. Mayweather ate a ton of flush shots in the first four rounds, something that he certainly looks to avoid. 

In the second half of the fight, Mayweather did a fine job of spinning out of trouble along the ropes, demonstrating that it wasn't just Maidana trapping him there. Floyd could get away from Maidana when he wanted to; his insistence on fighting toe-to-toe early enabled many of those successful moments from Maidana. So, let's credit Maidana for landing a lot of hard shots in the first fight, but let's also attribute some of that success to a rare case of poor tactics from Mayweather. 

For the rematch, Maidana has talked about pacing himself better throughout the fight. The punch stat numbers from their first match showed a noticeable drop-off in activity after the first six rounds. In assessing his performance from May, Maidana correctly realized that his conditioning was one area that he could certainly improve upon in the rematch. 

I expect that we will see far less grappling and fewer clinches along the ropes on Saturday. In theory, that should be beneficial to Mayweather. However, if Maidana can retain his firepower in the second half of the fight, then it's certainly possible that the complexion of the rematch will be significantly different from their first meeting. 

4. Body shots.

The one piece of coherent advice that I heard from Floyd Mayweather Sr. during the first fight was "Keep going underneath." And frankly, Mayweather's body shots were devastating and may have had as much to do with Maidana's drop in effectiveness in the later rounds than any potential conditioning issues. In the rematch, I expect to see Mayweather continue to go the body with jabs, right hands and left hooks. Maidana does have the heart of a true warrior, but not always the physique. Mayweather will keep going to the body, but will Maidana be able to take those shots better in the rematch?

Maidana is a vicious body puncher at close range. Maidana's left hook to the body was a real weapon early in their first fight. Although Mayweather took those punches pretty well, Maidana should keep going to the body on Saturday whenever he gets a chance. At 37, who knows when Mayweather's body might betray him and punishing him downstairs will be great way to find out.

5. Conditioning.

Part of what makes Mayweather so tough to beat is that he is always the better conditioned fighter. He almost always gets stronger as fights progress. He looks for signs of degradation in his opponents' conditioning and after spotting them he starts to unload more of his offensive arsenal, providing yet even more complications for his foes. 

For Maidana to win on the cards, he must maintain his work rate and pressure throughout 12 rounds. He can't conserve energy and fight in 45-second spurts, which he has often done against other opponents. But can Maidana successfully close the conditioning gap? Can he still be a factor late in the fight? Will he have enough left to win the championship rounds? He'll have to make a marked improvement in his conditioning from the first fight to beat Mayweather late in the match. 


There are a number of factors to consider for the rematch: 1. Floyd may have overlooked Maidana in their first fight and/or Maidana's pressure and determination surprised him. 2. Maidana has vastly improved under Robert Garcia. 3. Floyd was able to adapt fairly well to Maidana in the second half of the bout. 4. Mayweather most likely won't spend as much time at close range as he did in May. 5. Floyd is 37 and not getting any younger. 

My prediction will ultimately be splitting the difference of these countervailing trends. I think that Mayweather pulls the fight out with superior accuracy in the center of the ring and sharper punching. However, I'm not sure that he will be able to keep Maidana away from him for 12 rounds. Ultimately, Mayweather's tactical changes from the first fight, superior hand speed and punch placement will lead him to victory. 

Floyd Mayweather defeats Marcos Maidana 116-112, or 8 rounds to 4.

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