by Cliff Rold
This weekend, like last weekend, appears to be all about the foregone conclusion. In back to back weeks, fans will see the literal best fighter in the world (Heavyweight Champion Wladimir Klitschko) and the mythical pound-for-pound best fighter in the world (Welterweight and Jr. Middleweight Champion Floyd Mayweather.
Alex Lepai’s chances against Klitschko were none. Marcos Maidana’s chances against Mayweather are slim.
Anyone seen slim in Vegas recently?
If slim hasn’t left town yet, it would be surprise if the car isn’t revved and waiting.
Maidana is a hard fighter not to be happy for. He fights hard, makes great shows, and arrives at the reward for his hard way of doing things.
Almost no one thinks he has a prayer.
In one of those ‘don’t bitch later’ moments boxing fans rarely cop to, there was loud public outcry for Maidana to be the selection over the other name bandied about: Amir Khan. Let’s ignore that this was a phony choice from jump.
These were not the two best available fighters Mayweather could fight.
They were the two best available he would fight.
Khan, mostly inactive since a loss to Danny Garcia, aggravated some with an attitude of entitlement about a Mayweather showdown. He didn’t have the sort of emotionally resonant win that Maidana did over Adrien Broner.
In the ring, Khan would have been an underdog to Mayweather just like Maidana is. Based on physical attributes and skill sets, he also would have had a relatively better chance at the upset. Fans who are disappointed by the ease with which Mayweather likely defeats Maidana might forget that they howled at the more competitive fight on paper.
Don’t let them.
…what if this line of thinking is all wrong? Maidana might be a huge underdog, but he’s no Lepai. He’s a legitimate top ten Welterweight, a reigning beltholder, and he’s faced a slew of top names. Only one man, Devon Alexander, has defeated him without any debate at the end. Fighters of superior speed and athleticism like Broner, Ortiz, and Khan (who eked out a win over Maidana in 2010) have had their hands full with Maidana before.
Mayweather is 37 and while this era seems to have more fighters lasting longer, 37 is still getting up there for a fighter.
There are many who see technical improvement in Maidana since the loss to Alexander.
Is the recipe there for an upset?
Probably not but…
…what if Maidana wins?
It’s an intriguing question and one whose answer, if the upset occurs, opens up a slew of additional questions about the immediate future of boxing.
Would There Be a Rematch?
One assumes Mayweather has an airtight rematch clause for any fight. If Maidana upsets him, he’ll be able to pull that card right away. This isn’t the rematch clause from Broner-Maidana. There is no bigger name to make it go away. In a loss, Mayweather might be an even hotter economic commodity for at least one fight. Recall that, after Evander Holyfield upset Mike Tyson in 1996, their 1997 fight was even bigger. Maidana, with a win, would become a folk hero in his native Argentina and with the masses long hoping for Mayweather’s Waterloo. The logical monetary answer is of course there would be a rematch.
What if logic doesn’t count? Mayweather has put so much public stock over the years in his undefeated mark. Given his age, and recently stated musings about retirement, would a defeated Mayweather want to continue on? The clearest path to victory for Maidana is either a knockout of sustained beating. Mayweather is already penciled in for a September date. If a Maidana victory took that form, would that be enough recovery time for him?
Would This Instantly End Chatter About Mayweather-Hopkins?
Mayweather-Bernard Hopkins seems to be a growing whisper campaign. It would make a lot of money. It would make interesting press conferences and All Access infomercials. It would probably be a grind to watch. The allure of that fight would come, as Hopkins has stated, from a build centered on Mayweather’s road to 50-0 versus a Hopkins who would be 50. Take that away and does the chatter go with it?
Would This Change the Game Board at Golden Boy?
Headlines are plenty covering the dispute between Oscar De La Hoya and Richard Schaefer over control of Golden Boy Promotions. Schaefer’s relationship with Mayweather gives him a powerful chip. Mayweather isn’t as Golden Boy fighter but he uses them as a proxy through Schaefer. If Mayweather loses this Saturday, even if he won a rematch, the future becomes much closer to now. After Mayweather and Pacquiao, the biggest pay-per-view vehicle in boxing right now is probably Canelo Alvarez and Alvarez is signed to Golden Boy. Canelo might have a loss to Mayweather but, only in his 20s, he also has time on his side. Alvarez has a huge test to get through this summer in Erislandy Lara. If he gets past it in the aftermath of a Mayweather loss, game on.
Would This Change the Looming Pacquiao Story?
Quietly, what could be the biggest business-side story of 2014 is emerging. Manny Pacquiao is reportedly being offered a four-fight extension by Top Rank with one fight still committed on his current deal. If Pacquiao rides out that last fight without signing an extension, he’ll be the biggest free agent in boxing in a long time; much bigger than Miguel Cotto was a few years ago. If Mayweather wins as expected this weekend, and wins against whomever should he fight in September AND if Pacquiao wins the last fight on his Top Rank deal without extending, we all know what’s coming. The volume will be as high as it’s been since late 2009/early 2010 for the only showdown everyone has ever really wanted to see. Given the amount of money the fight could generate, Pacquiao would be insane not to wait and explore his options.
If Maidana wins, would there still be an incentive to wait or does that push the extension and whatever guarantees it provides into a stronger position? Would Pacquiao wait to see what happens with a possible Maidana-Mayweather rematch? History says a loss can sometimes force men to a table. Lennox Lewis and Mike Tyson circled each other for years but, after Lewis split fights with the unexpected Hasim Rahman, they quit circling and made sure they cashed in.
Floyd Mayweather is going to win this weekend.
But if he doesn’t…
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org