This Saturday, American Floyd Mayweather met Argentine Marcos Maidana in the ring in what promoter’s had cheesily dubbed “The Moment”. It was an exciting boxing match. After twelve rounds, the 37-year old Mayweather won on points, improving his record to 46-0, and Maidana gained plenty of respect and the prospect of many well-paying matchups in the future. Mayweather’s been criticized lately for picking fights against a certain type of opponent—the slow kind that plods forward and throws heavy, inaccurate shots—and Maidana’s certainly that guy, but unlike Robert Guerrero, whom Mayweather outclassed last year without breaking much of a sweat, Maidana actually stuck to his assets and used them about as well as he could have. The result was a competitive fight that, thanks to Maidana’s consistent forward pressure made possible by the boxing improvements he’s made under trainer Robert Garcia, turned into a brawl along the ropes at times, especially in the opening half, before Maidana tired and Mayweather took technical control as he almost always does. As usual, Mayweather’s accuracy proved superb and his defence sound. Maidana did land some thudding body shots below Mayweather’s elbows, but many of his punches ended up hitting air or Mayweather’s guard. And Mayweather landed quite a few powerful shots of his own: clean, crisp punches that snapped Maidana’s head back or stopped his momentum in the chest, highlighting the stylistic differences between the two boxers. Maidana was an impressive bulldozer, throwing walls of punches with fists that fellow Argentine Sergio Martinez once described as hammers, while Mayweather waited and pounced, counterattacking to slow Maidana’s progress and to win rounds rather than to score a knockout. In the later rounds he also held and clinched, and by then Maidana was too gassed to keep firing away with his free hand as he’d done in the first four rounds (often recklessly and to the back of Mayweather’s head). The announcers on Showtime wondered if Maidana would get credit for his body work along the ropes and in the corners; I wondered if he wouldn’t get too much of it for looping shots that looked more threatening than they really were. In the end, it went the full twelve rounds, one judge scored it a 114-114 draw and Mayweather won by a majority decision. He got booed by some in the crowd. Some people online thought that Maidana should have won. There was talk of a rematch in September. I though the decision was correct, that just because Maidana performed better against Mayweather than almost all of Mayweather’s past opponents doesn’t mean he won, and that if the match ends up making enough money to warrant a rematch, Mayweather will be far craftier and his tactics will be more structured than they were on Saturday. Anyone can get caught by a punch and Maidana throws hard ones, but of the two men, it’s the boxer, not the brawler, who will learn more from the fight and make the decisive improvements if they fight again. Although I understand the appeal of wanting to see Mayweather lose, an appeal that he willingly uses to market his pay-per-view events, I think it’s a shame for boxing if we let ourselves get caught up in that to an extent that clouds our assessment of the skills in the ring. Trash talking, stare downs and ring entrances featuring Justin Bieber are part of the increasingly gaudy, tactless and embarrassing spectacle—in turn part of the business—of professional boxing, but just because it glitters doesn’t mean we can’t ignore it, especially if its for the betterment of the sport. Maidana wasn’t dirty. Mayweather didn’t lose. A fight doesn’t have to be controversial to be memorable. No one has to be knocked out. One fighter doesn’t have to hurt the other. We can applaud the winner as well as the loser of a boxing match as we can in any sporting event and say, simply, that it was an exciting competition, much more so than many of Mayweather’s recent matches, and that we hope to see more just like it.
In the co-feature, Englishman Amir Khan defeated American Luis Collazo in a strange fight that ended in a lopsided points victory for Khan. Khan had a long training camp and fought smartly, protecting what in the past had been his glaring weakness, a fragile chin, by refusing to engage in silly exchanges. He was the quicker, better boxer at distance and whenever Collazo managed to work his way his inside, Khan either pushed his head down or held his arms to force the referee to break. The referee allowed this to continue—at one point even telling Collazo to stop his “bellyaching”—until an understandably frustrated Collazo responded with a couple of low blows, the second of which earned him a point deduction. The referee later did also deduct a point from Khan for holding, but by then the fight was beyond Collazo’s reach. He stalked Khan back and forth across the ring trying to find a knockout while Khan nimbly escaped, sometimes throwing pretty combinations in the process. As a return to form for Khan, the fight was an undisputed success. Unlike some of Khan’s previous tune-up opponents, Collazo is a talented boxer and Khan frustrated him, knocked him down and easily defeated him within the rules insofar as the referee interpreted them. But as a possible audition for a match against Mayweather, I’m not sure Khan was successful. And, in a sense, it was Collazo who played the spoiler. For long stretches, he fought with his gloves down, coming forward recklessly unprotected, taking Khan’s best shots and not being significantly fazed by them despite seeing the canvas three times. Collazo certainly has defence, he just didn’t care to use much of it, and I don’t know how easily Mayweather can sell a fight against a boxer who was unable to put away an opponent who was right there to be put away. Khan gave a sympathetic post-fight interview and a smart performance, but he wasn’t as flashy as he’s been in his past fights (some of which he lost), and if he didn’t pose much of a danger to an at times amusingly bold Collazo, he sure won’t pose it to Mayweather.
I would add something about Adrien Broner, but given what I wrote above about sometimes needing to put on blinders to maintain the integrity of boxing as a sport, I’ll pass, and I wasn’t able to watch the match first undercard bout between J’Leon Love and Marco Antonio Periban.