by David P. Greisman
The result of the second fight between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Marcos Maidana was decided in part before the first one was even over.
Mayweather’s strategy for the rematch was founded in the opening three minutes of that May 3 main event at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, when Maidana pressured Mayweather to the ropes and began an onslaught of hard shots that looped from out wide and up high, hammering away with thudding blows upstairs and below, wailing away with punches and forearms that occasionally hit Mayweather in the back of his head.
His approach was borne out of the adjustments made over the course of those 12 rounds, as Mayweather began to limit the frequency and effectiveness of those barrages. He moved more to establish distance, clinched when he couldn’t, made Maidana fight going backward, boxed better and landing more clean leads, combinations and counters down the stretch.
The result of Mayweather-Maidana 2 was also decided in the 19 weeks since.
Mayweather pushed himself harder in training, knowing he needed to use his footwork to keep off the ropes and prevent Maidana from trapping him and catching him. He planned to negate Maidana’s relentless wildness with grabbing and holding, just as Devon Alexander had gotten away with doing against Maidana back in early 2012.
He and his team commented again and again on the illegal tactics Maidana had employed the first time around, including low blows and head butts — with one of those clashes drawing blood from above Mayweather’s right eye — and even an attempted kneeing. Mayweather criticized the officiating of Tony Weeks, who is often described as one of the best referees in the sport, though he did so with relative restraint, saying Weeks merely “had a bad night.”
Mayweather lobbied publicly in a manner that could influence the refereeing in the rematch. Describing his opponent as dirty could draw attention toward what Maidana was doing. Complaining about the job done by Weeks could mean that the Nevada Athletic Commission would assign another referee as the third man in the ring on Sept. 13.
Mayweather had won the first bout by majority decision. One judge scored it even, while the other two had him comfortably ahead, eight rounds to four and nine rounds to three. Nevertheless, people spoke of the tough fight Maidana gave him. He wanted to leave no doubt in the sequel. For a man whose zero at the end of his record is treasured as much as any of his other material possessions and whose legacy is based on calling himself “The Best Ever,” the rematch’s conclusion would need to be, well, conclusive.
The result of Mayweather-Maidana 2 was also decided in Maidana’s camp.
They were emboldened by the success Maidana had in the first fight and believed it could be built upon in the second.
“He’s the same,” trainer Robert Garcia had said of Mayweather in the weeks before the bout. “We are not the same.”
“I know I can beat him. I was so close the last time,” Maidana had said. “I feel more prepared than the first time. The first time I was waiting for my baby to be born. I was training in Argentina [instead of in California with Garcia]”
Their strategy was based on thinking that the Mayweather they saw on May 3 would by and large be who Maidana faced in the ring this past Saturday.
Mayweather had won the fight before it even began. He still would need to perform once the bell rang.
He moved well for much of the first half of the first round, boxing and bouncing and making Maidana reset. Mayweather did get backed up to the ropes once, defending a pair of Maidana’s shots before grabbing Maidana’s right arm with one hand and his head with the other, pulling him down and tying him up.
Kenny Bayless, another highly respected referee in Nevada, quickly broke them up.
Mayweather kept moving, at times jumping left, then right and then left again, sending out individual jabs or left hooks. In the final moments, his back once again touched the ropes. He leaned down, come forward and hugged Maidana, his arms hooking up underneath Maidana’s armpits and pulling Maidana close to immobilize him.
Mayweather was credited by CompuBox with throwing only 23 punches in the opening round, landing 11. Yet it was Maidana who was truly limited, going just 2 of 16 in those three minutes, which contrasted with the 26 punches he’d landed and 100 punches he’d thrown in the first round of the first fight.
That meant Maidana would come out with more urgency in the second round of this second fight.
That played, literally, right into Mayweather’s hands.
Mayweather continued to move in the opening minute, flicking out a jab or a lead hook, jumping in once with a combination, all establishing distance or making Maidana hesitate for a moment. He grabbed ahold of Maidana as a form of offense, and he did so as a little bit later as a form of defense. But Mayweather’s movement was also drawing Maidana forward, lulling him in a manner that set up left-handed “check hooks” and lead hooks, short right crosses in counter and lead fashion, and quick one-two combinations.
And on the rare occasions when Maidana got Mayweather on the ropes, Bayless was watching closely and acting quickly.
Early in the third, Mayweather’s back was on the ropes, and he moved toward a neutral corner, weaving as Maidana wailed, blocking blows and then tying up.
Bayless called for them to stop and then for them to break.
Robert Garcia had predicted as much.
"Break! Break! Break! Break!" Garcia had barked, mimicking Bayless during the last episode of Showtime’s marketing miniseries for this pay-per-view. “Anytime you find your rhythm — break!"
Later in the third round, Mayweather landed a right hand, then ducked down, jumped in and stood back up with his arms around Maidana’s body. Maidana’s hands were still free, and he began to throw, but Bayless began to move in to split the fighters up, stopping only once he realized doing so was unnecessary.
On numerous occasions throughout the night, Bayless acted prematurely and inappropriately.
“My objective was to not let them get tied up because if they get tied up, then you have to deal with the possible fouls. The objective was to maintain control of the fight,” Bayless told Lem Satterfield of RingTV.com the day after the fight.
“Knowing going into it what had happened in the past in the first fight, I had told them in the dressing room that if they were going to clinch, that I would give them the opportunity to fight out of it, but the clinches that they were in were hard clinches. So, with that, I got in as quickly as I could and separated them so that they wouldn’t get into any fouling or into even any unintentional fouls. I just wanted to start out the fight that way. So that’s the reason that I was getting in as quickly as I did, because I didn’t want them to get tangled up.”
Mayweather’s lobbying had worked. Bayless rarely allowed them to fight out. He broke them up even when the clinches weren’t hard clinches, or before there was even a chance for the clinches to become so. He also didn’t warn Mayweather about what was clearly an excessive and intentional tactic.
It was a smart move by Mayweather, but also one that shouldn’t have been allowed. He got away with it, just as Wladimir Klitschko, Bernard Hopkins and Andre Ward have.
“He kept holding and pushing, but the referee never did anything about it,” Maidana said in a post-fight interview, according to translation from Garcia.
This in turn conditioned Maidana to stop trying to maul Mayweather when in close. He knew that he’d be tied up. He knew that they’d be broken up. He also knew he couldn’t expend too much energy freeing his arms or unleashing his hands. Stamina had been an issue in the second half of the first fight. Maidana came in lighter on fight night than last time to help with this, but he also sought to conserve energy. His barrages were already coming less, partly due to Mayweather’s movement and offense. Now he would need to throw more from a distance, as that was where he was still able to do so.
Through six, Mayweather was 97 of 184, including a characteristically accurate 57 of 93 with power punches. Maidana had been limited to just 64 of 296 in total, including a meager 44 of 179 in power shots.
Mayweather’s output matched up closely with that in May, when he was 98 of 180 at the halfway point. Maidana, however, had already landed 67 total punches by the third round of the first fight — and 44 power punches by the second round.
The best shot Maidana had landed through six on Saturday was a right hand as the bell rang to end the third.
There also was a bizarre moment in the eighth, when Mayweather had Maidana’s head pushed down, using his glove to cover Maidana’s mouth. Maidana appeared as if he might have bitten Mayweather’s hand. Mayweather complained, and he claimed afterward that his fingers were numbed by the gnawing.
As for the clinching and holding, while they weren’t everything, they were clearly something. Mayweather was still faster with his hands and feet. His reflexes and timing showed him to still be capable of fighting at a high level despite being 37 years old with a lifetime spent in the sport.
As with Hopkins as he aged, and as with Klitschko after a pair of devastating stoppage losses earlier in his career, Mayweather has adjusted. He uses ring generalship, defense and well-placed leads and counters so that he doesn’t need to work a full three minutes of every round. He is of course slower than he was when he was younger and lighter, but the condition he keeps his body in allows him to remain faster than nearly all of his foes.
He’s still incredibly intelligent in the ring. This is the same boxer who dealt with Zab Judah’s early moments and then took over down the stretch; who got staggered by a Shane Mosley right hand in the second round of their fight, only to recover, do well in the remainder of that very same round and then dominate for the rest of the night; and who withstood Maidana in May and went on to win the decision.
Mayweather drew boos from some in how he got the win this past Saturday. But he did get the victory. Maidana threw 286 fewer punches in total than he had in May, landing 93 fewer than before. Maidana threw 205 fewer power shots, landing 98 fewer than he had in May.
The scores were clearly in Mayweather’s favor: Two judges had it 116-111, or eight rounds to four, with an additional point taken from Maidana in the 10th after he put a forearm to Mayweather’s neck and pushed him backward, causing Mayweather to trip to the canvas.
Maidana again disagreed with the verdict.
“I thought I won the fight,” he said.
He hadn’t. Mayweather had been better than Maidana when they first fought 19 weeks ago. This time, Mayweather was faster on his feet, smarter with his strategy, better prepared with his approach, more in control of the action — and he had a referee who wouldn’t allow Maidana’s illegal tactics while still permitting Mayweather to get away with his own.
The 10 Count
1. I give credit to Showtime’s announcing team for criticizing Floyd Mayweather’s holding and Kenny Bayless’s refereeing throughout the night.
I’m still disappointed, though not surprised, that the final episode of “All Access” didn’t at all mention the latest allegations of domestic violence against Mayweather, who also got headlines for his comments on the case involving NFL football player Ray Rice.
In the final seconds of the bout, Showtime’s Mauro Ranallo said that people love or hate Mayweather, referencing his “personal issues.”
The more that Mayweather’s history is glossed over, the more that such behavior is enabled. When Mayweather appeared on a CNN interview last week and said that only God could judge him, it was par for the course for a man who has been unapologetic or flat-out denied allegations and accusations, even when there have been multiple convictions.
2. The undercard co-feature with 122-pound titleholder Leo Santa Cruz against Manuel Roman was expected to be a mismatch. And it was. Santa Cruz, after all, is an undefeated talent for whom Roman had previously served as a sparring partner, and the naturally lighter Roman had gone 3-2-2 in his previous seven appearances.
Santa Cruz got Roman out of there in less than two rounds, ending things less than a minute into the second. In all, the fight lasted 3 minutes and 55 seconds.
That’s less time than the four minutes it took for the national anthem of Argentina to be performed.
And that’s half the combined time of all three national anthems performed this past Saturday. The national anthem of Mexico was about a minute and a half, while the national anthem of the United States of America as performed by R&B singer Monica went an unnecessarily lengthy two and a half minutes.
Monica’s rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” was nearly as long as the record-setting 156.4 seconds it took for Alicia Keys to do the song before the Super Bowl in 2013.
3. June 28, 2014: Lightweight titleholder Miguel Vazquez’s signing with powerful boxing adviser Al Haymon is announced. A photo is released showing Vazquez, flanked by Haymon staffer Sam Watson, inking his contract while sitting inside of a McDonald’s.
Sept. 13, 2014: For his first bout with Haymon, Vazquez gets to appear on the televised undercard of one of the biggest boxing pay-per-views of the year, defending his belt against Mickey Bey.
In other words, Vazquez went from signing with Al Haymon in a Mickey D’s to fighting on a pay-per-view against Mickey B.
4. I didn’t score the bout between Miguel Vazquez and Mickey Bey — it was hard enough to keep my eyes open, never mind keep my eyes on it — so I can’t speak to whether Vazquez was robbed in coming up on the short end of the split decision.
And no, I’m not going to watch the bout again. I’m only so masochistic.
Two of the judges at least had cards within the vicinity of each other: Julie Lederman had it 115-113, or seven rounds to five, for Bey; Adelaide Byrd saw it 115-113 for Vazquez.
The outrageous scorecard was that belonging to Robert Hoyle, who turned in a tally of 119-109, seeing 11 of the 12 rounds as belonging to Bey. That is quite contrary to the scores several observers put forth on Twitter this past weekend.
I’m reminded of the majority decision from the first fight between Paul Williams and Sergio Martinez, though not at all in style or entertainment value. On that night, judge Lynne Carter had it 115-113 for Williams, Lederman had it a draw at 114-114, but Pierre Benoist turned in a completely bizarre card of 119-109 for Williams.
5. Vazquez-Bey was but an undercard fight involving two little-liked boxers on a major show involving much bigger names. Vazquez’s style hasn’t won him many fans. While it’s the style that brought him success and a four-year title reign with six successful defenses, I’m surprised that Vazquez didn’t try to add more entertaining elements to his approach.
“This is my style. My style is the style that took me to become a world champion, and I don't plan to make any drastic changes to my style,” Vazquez was quoted as saying last month. “This is why I've maintained and been victorious. I may modify a little bit more aggressive attack, but again, this is the style that's kept me here.”
That’s not to say Vazquez should’ve expected to be robbed, but rather that he should’ve understood the potential financial repercussions of performing in a crowd-deflating manner despite finally being on a grand stage in front of the biggest televised audience he’s probably ever had.
Bey, meanwhile, tested positive for extremely elevated testosterone levels in 2013, was still featured on Showtime due to his affiliation with Mayweather Promotions, and was putting on a good performance against John Molina Jr. last year until Molina came back to score the Hail Mary stoppage. He’d won twice since but wasn’t yet seen as being at an elite level. It was no surprise that a guy in Mayweather’s stable ended up on a title fight and on PPV against a Haymon signee.
It was an ugly bout that people would rather forget. But as Tim Starks of The Queensberry Rules boxing blog tweeted, bad decisions are bad decisions no matter whom they end up happening to:
“Hate the ‘I don't like the fighter so I'm happy he got screwed’ mentality that happens in boxing sometimes. I mean, screw justice, right?” Starks wrote. “He’s [Vazquez] far from one of my favorites — I dislike his style greatly — but if he deserved to win, it’s wrong that he didn’t.”
6. Robert Hoyle’s 119-109 scorecard in favor of Mickey Bey wasn’t the only questionable card during the broadcast. There also was judge Lisa Giampa’s tally for James De La Rosa’s unanimous decision victory over Alfredo Angulo.
Giampa had it 99-89, or nine rounds to one, with two additional points docked from Angulo due to a knockdown he suffered and from low blows he threw. Her colleague Glenn Trowbridge had it 98-90, or eight rounds to two, while Patricia Morse-Jarman had it 96-92, or six rounds to four.
Giampa and Trowbridge were only separated by one point. So why was her scorecard seen as questionable?
Because Angulo clearly won the final two rounds, six minutes in which De La Rosa was reeling and fortunate to remain on his feet until the final bell.
7. Alfredo Angulo came up on the losing end of a war with James Kirkland back in November 2011. He soon spent about eight months in an immigration detention center. So while his comeback in 2012 included a first-round knockout of Raul Casarez and a 10-round decision over Jorge Silva, we would later wonder whether the combination of damage and incarceration had taken something out of him.
We wondered this during the opening rounds of Angulo’s fight with Erislandy Lara in June 2013, when Angulo looked slow and uncoordinated in the early rounds. This turned out to be just Angulo’s usual slow start. He proceeded to battle back and put Lara down in the fourth and ninth rounds, losing an otherwise competitive fight via stoppage. The end that night came in the 10th after a shot from Lara immediately raised massive swelling around Angulo’s eye and caused Angulo to turn away.
There’s no questioning now whether the accumulation of damage is having an effect on Angulo.
He was largely a punching bag during 10 rounds with Canelo Alvarez earlier this year, which only exacerbated his condition. And he lost a bout with James De La Rosa that he never would’ve lost in the past.
De La Rosa is young, at 26, and may still be coming into his own. But he was a naturally lighter man whose career had been racked by multiple periods of inactivity and whose two defeats showed his limits.
For the first eight rounds, De La Rosa showed himself to be better than this shell of Angulo.
“If you don’t knock him out, your career is over,” trainer Virgil Hunter told Angulo after the eighth. And he was right.
But it might’ve been better for Angulo had he not been able to hurt De La Rosa, had he not been one combination away from the come-from-behind victory. Those opening eight rounds still happened, as did the loss itself.
Angulo, his family and his team need to have a long conversation.
8. Speaking of which, I’m glad to see that Juan Manuel Lopez has decided to hang up the gloves.
I was sad to see that it took another brutal stoppage for that decision to be made.
Heading into 2014, Lopez’s only losses had come against top foes in Orlando Salido (twice) and Mikey Garcia. Yet Lopez had looked so bad in the loss to Garcia that many wondered whether all those shots to his vulnerable chin had altered his balance and coordination.
Because of this, I was among those who incorrectly though Daniel Ponce De Leon would beat Lopez in their rematch earlier this year. And I thought I was going to be proven correct when Ponce De Leon knocked Lopez down in their second round. Yet Lopez still had his power, and Ponce De Leon still had flaws that Lopez could take advantage of. Lopez put Ponce De Leon twice during that second round and came out with the win.
It was a misleading victory. Lopez might have felt as if he had revitalized himself by moving from 126 to 130 and had proven it against Ponce De Leon. But in July he got bombed out in three rounds by Francisco Vargas. Lopez and his team got another fight for him just two months later.
“We know 100 percent that my career is at stake and I can't afford a loss, but that's why we came ready and in he best possible shape,” Lopez had said before last week’s bout. “I don't want my career to end on a note like the Francisco Vargas loss.”
He went back down to featherweight to face Jesus Cuellar, who ended things with a combination halfway into the second round.
Afterward, Lopez realized the truth: “This is over. I'm going to go to Puerto Rico and talk to my family, but it seems that this is it.”
9. A quick correction: In last week’s column, I mistakenly said that Michael Katsidis had gone from being the WBO’s interim titleholder at 135 pounds to being the sanctioning body’s “full” titleholder just ahead of Katsidis’s fight with Juan Manuel Marquez.
That was wrong. Marquez was still the WBO titleholder while also holding the World Boxing Association’s “super” world title at lightweight. Katsidis, by virtue of being the interim titleholder, was Marquez’s mandatory.
10. Speaking of errors, either the Fox Sports 1 production team made a spelling mistake during the broadcast of Luis Ortiz vs. Lateef Kayode — or the World Boxing Association has created something called the “WBA ITERIM HEAVYWEIGHT WORLD TITLE” to go along with its interim, regular and super world titles.
I’m 99.9 percent certain that it was just a typo. But none of us who follows boxing would put it past the WBA to try to do such a thing…
“Fighting Words” appears every Monday on BoxingScene.com. Pick up a copy of David’s book, “Fighting Words: The Heart and Heartbreak of Boxing,” at http://bit.ly/fightingwordsamazon or internationally at http://bit.ly/fightingwordsworldwide . Send questions/comments via email at [email protected]