By Cliff Rold
After (or maybe it was before) getting the TMZ chatter going with whatever who-the-hell-cares happened with TI’s girlfriend, lineal World Welterweight and Jr. Middleweight Champion Floyd Mayweather casually announced during a pre-BET Awards interview that September 13th will feature a rematch between himself and his near conqueror in May, Marcos Maidana.
While the fight isn’t official just yet, it was the next best thing.
If and when it is signed, it will also be the right thing.
For Mayweather, there is no shortage of intriguing opponents. Excluding fighters associated with Top Rank because at this point that’s just the way it is, there are fresh talents from Jr. Welterweight to Jr. Middleweight who would make for good matches. Jr. Welterweight Champion Danny Garcia, even after the near miss against Mauricio Herrera, is one. Shawn Porter and Keith Thurman, both undefeated and holding belts Welterweight, are two more.
While it wouldn’t be the most likely future option, if Erislandy Lara defeats Canelo Alvarez later this month he would be another.
None of those men have faced Mayweather before. Porter, Thurman, and Lara might all be seen as live by the time they have the chance to hear their number called. They might give Mayweather a run for his money.
In a long career, only a handful of fighters can say they did. Marcos Maidana is one of them.
Maidana should come first.
Since the still-debated win over Jose Luis Castillo in their first fight in 2002, Maidana came the closest of anyone to unseating Mayweather. While their numbers were less than in Castillo I, there were plenty of folks who thought Maidana did enough to win in May. There were more, including this scribe, who saw it all even after twelve entertaining rounds.
The consensus of press, and two of the official judges, favored Mayweather but it was worthy of a sequel. Now we’ll get one.
It’s at least the second best fight announced for September after the signing of Akira Yaegashi-Roman Gonzalez for the Flyweight crown.
For Maidana, it’s a testament to the value of being the sort of fighter he is. While he hasn’t won them all, Maidana has a way of making everyone work. He doesn’t do boring. His style won’t give him the longevity of a Mayweather, but it keeps him dangerous for so long as his body can allow for the punishment he inherently takes.
We’ve seen Maidana seem to improve in fights under the tutelage of Robert Garcia. Can he evolve a little more against a Mayweather who might finally be seeing age catch up?
Mayweather spoke, after the first fight, about giving the fans a good fight where he could have made it easy. Was that really the case? Did Mayweather lose rounds and get into a firefight because he was concerned the paying customer needed a better show?
It all sounded a little preposterous.
In September, we get a chance to see whether that was really the case. Perhaps Mayweather can fight in such a way that Maidana never touches him and we get what many thought might unfold the first time around.
It seems more likely we get, at least, another entertaining affair. When Mayweather claimed a hurt shoulder as the cause of his struggles with Castillo, they did it again right away and, while more technical than the first, it was again a competitive affair. Mayweather found the gear he needed to close out and secure a clear win late against Castillo.
It was no blowout.
After his performances against Adrien Broner and Mayweather, it would be foolish to assume a blowout in this rematch. It could happen. It’s more likely that, at 37, a more flat-footed Mayweather is going to have to work against anyone with the attributes of Maidana. Heavy hands, a solid beard, and total disregard for Mayweather’s aura made for great theatre.
One of the things lacking from Mayweather’s career have been quality in-ring rivals. His best rivalry happened outside the ring with Manny Pacquiao and never culminated in a fight (debate fault where one will).
Rivals aren’t the same as good opponents. There have been plenty of those.
A rival is someone who is able to ask questions and bring out something extra. It doesn’t mean they have to be good enough to win. Rodrigo Valdez couldn’t beat Carlos Monzon but at the end of their two fights that wasn’t the point. Monzon had been further defined.
Mayweather, in his twilight, can only be helped in terms of his place in history by moments that define. Giving a rematch to a fighter who earned it in the ring is a step in that direction.
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 [email protected]