By Jake Donovan
The last time Marcos Maidana fought in rematch, he needed just 21 seconds to knock out countryman Omar Leon in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The April ‘06 battle came two months after the lone other rematch in his career, scoring a repeat 3rd round knockout of Sergio Benitez.
Leon became the first to drop the Argentine slugger, but paid the price in getting stopped in four rounds, or 10 more minutes than he lasted in the sequel. That trivia tidbit aside, neither rematch was entirely necessary. Maidana had already stopped both fighters the first time around in separate bouts in 2005.
As far as the former 140 lb. titlist is concerned, however, a rematch with Floyd Mayweather Jr. is necessary, and a chance to improve on his competitive loss to the unbeaten pound-for-pound king.
“I think it benefits me more having a rematch with him,” Maidana (35-4, 31KOs) says of this weekend’s welterweight title fight sequel, which headlines at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. “I'm able to correct the mistakes I made in the first fight and take advantage of his mistakes.
“Even though he makes very few mistakes I already know what they are, and I think I can exploit that and take advantage of them.”
Maidana pushed Mayweather to the brink in their first fight this past May, jumping out to a strong start but fading late to drop a competitive but clear majority decision loss. Mayweather was forced to sweat out close decision wins over Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez and Oscar de la Hoya in years past, but both of those bouts were generally viewed as fights featuring generous scoring for his opponents.
Such was not the case in this fight, with many believing Maidana was very much in the fight until the bitter end. It was the first time since a hard-fought - and strangely scored - unanimous decision win over Jose Luis Castillo in their first fight more than 12 years ago that the outcome wasn’t entirely clear the moment the bell sounded in a Mayweather fight.
Their rematch was far more conclusive; Mayweather boxed his way to a safety-first decision win, easily solving the riddle his opponent posed the first time around.
The odds for this weekend’s return go suggest that Maidana did as well as can be expected in May, and that the 37-year old Mayweather (46-0, 26KOs) - an 8-1 favorite - will ultimately prevail.
Naturally, Maidana and his team believe the opposite to be true.
“We've had a full training camp this time around,: reveals Robert Garcia, Maidana’s head trainer. “We're not short on sparring rounds. I'm not short on legwork. I'm not short on anything. We had our full eight weeks of training camp, so training camp is better than ever-I think the best training camp I've had with Chino since he got to me.”
Training camp for the first fight was shortened both by the late announcement of the fight and the birth of his daughter this past St. Patrick’s Day. The two factors resulted in a five-week camp, though still managing to deliver a performance even more memorable than any of his 35 wins.
Maidana became a cult favorite beginning with his gutty 6th round stoppage of Victor Ortiz in June ‘09, surviving three knockdowns to score three of his own before forcing the then-rising star to quit. A narrow loss to Amir Khan in Dec. ‘10 was equally celebrated, with Maidana rallying from an opening round knockdown to nearly stop the Brit late in their Fight of the Year-level war.
It would be another three years before the Argentine would see his career cast in such a positive light. The tail end of a four-fight win streak produced by far his biggest victory, twice flooring a then-unbeaten Adrien Broner en route to a shockingly wide unanimous decision.
The same bullying tactics served Maidana well through the first six rounds of his showdown with Mayweather earlier this year, cracking what Mayweather Promotions CEO Leonard Ellerbe refers to as “the May-Vinci Code.” The inspiring underdog never let up, but it was his unbeaten opponent who stepped up his game over the back six to escape with his “0” still intact.
It was enough to earn a rematch, but many wonder if a similar effort will be enough to sway at least two of the three judges. Given his strengths - including his natural strength and power - it is widely believed that his best, and perhaps only, chance to win is by knockout.
“No. I don't agree with that statement,” Maidana dismisses. “I think that I can win by decision or by knockout. The first fight was a very close fight. It was a decision that was a majority decision, so I feel that I just have to make a few adjustments, put a little more pressure on, land better punches, and yes I can win, I can win by decision.
“But obviously the knockout would be nice, and that's a possibility as well.”
As should be the case between any fighter and corner, his team sees things the same way.
“Like "Chino" just said, it would be very nice to get a knockout, but if we win the rounds the way we were doing the first half of the fight I think there's no question that we could also win the fight by decision,” Garcia firmly believes.
One advantage Maidana and Garcia believe they have is confirmation of what gloves they are ‘forced’ to wear. The issue was a point of contention that wasn’t fully resolved until mere hours before the fight, with Maidana forced to wear a pair of gloves with which he hadn’t previously trained.
That issue was resolved in time for the rematch, with Garcia taking precautionary measures. The mystery still existed until at least two weeks ago, but with Maidana training in the brand - Everlast PowerLock - they believed would be chosen by Mayweather.
Ellerbe confirmed the glove choice in late August, allowing Maidana to conduct the final weeks of training camp while further adapting to what he will be wearing on fight night. Now that’s left to do is fight, and hope the rest plays out as they expect.
“Look, when we agreed to the fight then we can't go back and say, "oh, we should have used the gloves." No, there's nothing we can do,” Garcia acknowledges. “We agreed, we're fighting in those gloves, so there's not going to be no excuses.
“The fight is going to be the fight, but it does make a difference, and Mayweather's the only fighter that can make those calls, make those decisions, and we also have to understand that that's the way it is. That's what business is. But no, we are not going to have any and we can't have any excuses.”
Then again, Maidana is firmly convinced he won’t need to make any once the final bell sounds. Whereas his previous two rematches came against journeyman he’d already dominated, Maidana now believes the 12 rounds he went with Mayweather four months ago served as the perfect audition to perfect his game plan the second time around.
“This time around I'm training to win. I know what to expect,” Maidana believes. “I know Mayweather now, his style, what he brings to the table. I'm coming to win. I have more concentration, no excuses whatsoever, and adequate time.
“I want to beat him this time. I'm going to do whatever it takes to beat him.”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene.com, as well as a member of Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and the Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox