Monday, September 15, 2014

Opinions and Observations: Mayweather-Maidana II

In politics, the power of incumbency provides significant advantages for the current officeholder or ruling party. In the U.S., congressmen get free franking (mailing) privileges for official business. They have access to sensitive information and special interest groups that outsiders do not. Fundraisers backed by powerful lobbies and well-heeled donors ensure that elected officials amass significant war chests for future campaigns, often before challengers even emerge. Officeholders can generate free media publicity throughout their terms, appearing at public events and on television, hosting town halls, and releasing official statements – all of which better connect them with their constituents. Gerrymandering (the drawing of legislative districts) helps make it easier for members of the U.S. House of Representatives and state legislators to win election after election. Incumbents can limit the number of official debates with political foes, reducing opportunities for an opponent to gain exposure. It's not that challengers never win, but the political system is rigged against them.  

Now boxing isn't merely politics. A fighter must beat the other in the ring. All the power, influence and special interests lined up behind a big star cease to matter if the boxer is knocked out into another galaxy.
But political factors certainly can help a fighter in a match. Where will the fight take place, home or on the road? How big is the ring? Who are the officials? All of these deal points can help or hinder a fighter – the more power that a boxer commands in the sport, the more that these factors are negotiated by his management to create an advantage. And for Floyd Mayweather, boxing's number-one star, these negotiations can lead to significant advantages. By generating the most money in the sport, Floyd is always in the position to dictate terms to his opponents.
Backed by the strongest management in the business and a television network owned by an enormous media conglomerate, Mayweather has a power of incumbency in boxing that is unrivaled. His influence in his home jurisdiction of Nevada has delayed prison sentences and curried favor with the state athletic commission. Turn in a bad card against him and a boxing judge will lose her job (which never happens in the sport). He'll pick the gloves, the size of the ring, an opponent's financial split and how and when fights will officially be promoted. Team Mayweather will lobby successfully for the assignment/removal of specific referees and judges for his bouts.
The money and power behind Mayweather directly help him win fights. Somehow his team convinced the Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) to ban Marcos Maidana's custom-made Everlast MX gloves (which favors power punchers) before their first fight in May. For the rematch, Maidana again had to wear Everlast Powerlock gloves (a more neutral model). And the ring looked enormous on Saturday. Although I didn't see an official measurement, from TV it seemed to be larger than the 20-ft. standard, which helps a boxer like Mayweather, who relies on movement.
Perhaps Team Mayweather's most successful lobbying effort for the rematch was the NSAC's assignment of Kenny Bayless as the referee. In the first Mayweather-Maidana fight, the referee was Tony Weeks, who is known for being laissez-faire. He'll let fighters work on the inside and isn't necessarily keen on deducting points. His style of officiating helped Maidana, who was successful in the trenches at many point of the fight. Using a mauling style and a free hand to hit Mayweather with right hands and left hooks, he gave Floyd a very tough – and rough – fight.
Team Mayweather voiced its displeasure with Weeks' performance in the bout, castigating the ref for permitting an MMA-like atmosphere within the ring. Mayweather's side constantly worked the media about Maidana's roughhouse tactics. Even though Team Mayweather had won the fight, these public exclamations were designed to affect future proceedings; and they certainly did.
In Saturday's rematch, Kenny Bayless broke up the action at the first sign of a clinch, often when one of the fighters – almost always Maidana – had a free hand and could still do work. Bayless' actions helped to change the tenor of the rematch significantly. With fewer opportunities on the inside, Maidana had to spend more time at range, where he is far less effective. In addition, Bayless took an unnecessary point away from Maidana for low blows.
Yes, the deck was certainly stacked against Maidana for the rematch, with Team Mayweather winning the Fight Before the Fight. But both boxers still needed to perform in the ring and Maidana just didn't do enough to win. His punch volume was significantly lower than it was in the first match and he lacked his customary ferocity. With the action mostly in the center of the ring, Floyd landed the better shots, used his defense and legs to avoid prolonged skirmishes and was very sharp with power counters. It was the typical late-period Mayweather performance.
In essence, Floyd fought on Saturday the way that he should have done in May: avoiding the ropes and inside exchanges, tying up whenever possible and using the ring to his advantage. Without a target directly in front of him, Maidana often looked feckless. However, when Mayweather stood in front of Maidana for brief periods on the ropes, he got hit hard. Mayweather used his athleticism against Maidana because he had to; he needed to minimize a war at all costs. At the end of the match, Mayweather won a unanimous decision with scores of 116-111 (x2) and 115-112 (I had it for Mayweather 118-109).
It was a pedestrian fight, with the lone exception being an incident in the eighth round where Maidana appeared to bite Mayweather's left hand during a clinch. Interestingly, Bayless deducted no points for this foul, or for Mayweather using his forearm to hold down Maidana's head during the clinch.  

Ultimately, the night was unsatisfying. With a terrible undercard that featured cynical matchmaking, unworthy challengers, little action and an egregious scorecard that smacked of incompetence or corruption (more on that later), boxing did not shine on Saturday. The pay per view card was another reminder to boxing fans of how their fandom can often resemble masochism. There was "Mayhem" on Saturday, but only in an internal sense, with boxing fans beating themselves up about why they paid $75 for such mediocre entertainment. The one saving grace of the evening was the gallows humor found on social media, but that can only stave off fans' self-flagellation for so long.
On a final note, judge Robert Hoyle's 119-109 scorecard in favor of Mickey Bey over Miguel Vazquez in one of the undercard fights was the single-worst scorecard that I have seen since Dr. James Jen-Kin's 120-106 tally for Abner Mares against Anselmo Moreno in 2012. Vazquez-Bey was a lightweight title fight. Bey, who fights out of the Mayweather gym in Las Vegas and was an undeserving challenger, did very little in the first nine rounds of the fight. Bewildered by Vazquez's herky-jerky rhythms and movement, Bey landed hardly anything of substance throughout most of the fight. Yes, the match was awful to watch but it was thoroughly impossible to give Bey 11 rounds of the bout legitimately. I scored it 116-112 for Vazquez and most observers had Vazquez winning a close fight.  

Hoyle, who is from Las Vegas, has a significant bias in favor of Las Vegas-based fighters. His 116-111 scorecard in favor of hometown challenger Diego Magdaleno against Roman Martinez was egregious (Martinez won the decision) and his 117-111 card for Jessie Vargas (another Vegas-based boxer) over Khabib Allakhverdiev was far too generous to the local fighter.
Hoyle's performance on Saturday was worse than C.J. Ross' draw card for Mayweather-Alvarez (Ross was the aforementioned judge who lost her job after turning in a terrible score for a Mayweather fight). However, Vazquez doesn't have Mayweather's political juice behind him. Senators and state officials won't be calling the NSAC demanding action. In all likelihood, Hoyle will face no repercussions for his malfeasance. If there were any equity in boxing, Hoyle would never work again. But this is no time for fantasy. In truth, wagons will be circled. Political in-fighters will continue to in-fight. The train will keep on a-rollin'. It makes me want to scream. 

Adam Abramowitz is the head writer and founder of
He is also a member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board.
Contact Adam at
@snboxing on twitter
Follow Saturday Night Boxing on Facebook:

No comments:

Post a Comment