Floyd Mayweather, Marcos Maidana And The Nature Of Fighters

I’m not here to write about the Floyd Mayweather-Marcos Maidana welterweight fight that aired on pay-per-view May 3 and re-aired on Showtime last weekend. Browse any major boxing website or social media threads and you’ll read plenty of opinions on how it went. If it helps, I had the fight 8-4 for Mayweather with plenty of swing rounds in between. You could make a strong argument for Maidana snatching the W, but I’d make an equally strong argument for Floyd. Either way, that’s not what this article is about.

What I’m more interested in is not in comparing the scorecards, the punch output, or even the fighting styles, but instead comparing the life conduct of each fighter and what that represents for the current state of boxing. From the pre-fight build up to the post-fight presser, one can see the dramatic difference in character, but what is perhaps less present is how that chasm affects the broader representation of the sport. Perhaps it’s cliché to ponder for an entire article how these seemingly different personalities clashed two Saturdays ago, but I’d also say that Maidana’s performance was not only one of an underdog fighter trying to make a name for himself, but a plea for what boxing ought to be.

I’d argue hard against the notion that Floyd Mayweather Jr. is the greatest fighter to have ever lived, but if you made a case for him being the savviest businessman in the game, I’d give it to you. I can’t think of any other fighter gaining as much promotional autonomy in the sport’s history or grossing the paychecks that Money May earns after each fight. This is easily seen in his amassed display of wealth from having million-dollar homes to million-dollar cars to million-dollar wristwatches. Nowadays, Mayweather’s behind-the-scenes training camp footage has been more about flaunting his standard of living rather than him actually training. Or perhaps more fairly stated, his training regime has more or less remained the same so in order to fill the airtime, we’ve been subject to witness his ever-growing exorbitant lifestyle. Now, the biggest challenge to filming each new pre-fight series featuring Mayweather seems to be finding fresh ways to display how much further he has used his money to make the world his playground.

In the other corner you have Marcos Maidana, a fighter who comes from equally, if not more, humble beginnings, but has managed to retain his simple lifestyle in the midst of finding success, albeit not nearly as much. But it has been already said by many observers (and clearly shown in all the All Access shows) that while Maidana has reached a point of financial independence, he appears to still enjoy simple things like hunting, hanging out with friends and spending time with family. This transparency of this attitude revealed itself early on fight night, starting with each boxer’s respective ring walks.

Maidana trotted quickly to the ring to some relatively anonymous ring music. Mayweather, on the other hand, postured with a sideshow, literally, by opening with a circus troupe, accompanied then by live music performed by Lil’ Wayne, and walking beside the clown of all clowns, Justin Beiber. When you stop and think about how much planning and money probably went into the ring-walk alone, well, it begins to get a bit ridiculous.

Fast-forward through the fight to the post-fight presser and more of that difference unveils itself. I’ll put it this way. The post-fight presser lasted roughly thirty-two minutes, twenty-five of which was spent by Mayweather rambling on about his hard work, berating critics for never having fought in the ring and his painstakingly flawed argument regarding the glove selection. Five of those minutes were spent on formalities and official announcements, and finally, two minutes (and this is a generous estimate) were actually spent by Team Maidana just wondering if they’d get a rematch.

It has been said by experts throughout the history of the fight game that the truth can be seen in the ring, that when all the glitz and sideshow has passed, we see the true nature of a fighter by how they fight. Maidana’s rugged, straight-forward style is very much a symbolic search for the truth. In terms of boxing, that truth is very simple: who is the better man in a contest of fistic combat.

To Mayweather’s credit, he delivered the fight that he promised by staying in the pocket, fighting more often toe-to-toe, and danced less around the ring than his ability could have permitted. And that truth sought by the Argentine’s fists still pointed to the Pretty Boy in the end, at least in my estimation. But it is fighter’s conduct and attitude afterward that was troubling, and the fact that Mayweather has become (and perhaps for a long while) the last internationally recognized boxer on the planet, the situation becomes a bit more troublesome.

With Mayweather continually dominating the lists of highest-paid athletes, it is only natural that fighters climbing the ladder will follow suit. It is also natural to accept that the survival of boxing — like any other sport — is dependent on viewership, which is ultimately dependent on entertainment. But in a game that has at its core been about grit and perseverance, about picking yourself up when you hit the canvas, Mayweather has made that entertainment more about comparing paycheck size or PPV buys and who has hit the canvas least. The worry then is that more fights will be negotiated off these terms, and that more time and money will be spent on the preparation rather than the fight itself. But thankfully Maidana, through his performance and comportment throughout all stages of the fight, ignored all the distractions and gossip, and brought it back to what mattered.

I don’t claim to be a boxing historian or even say I’ve followed the sport for a significant amount of time, but there’s something about Maidana’s straightforwardness that is refreshing, something that maybe the old-heads are talking about when referring to the “good ol’ days.” Don’t get me wrong. Watching Mayweather fight is a true display of art. His performances fall in the perfect crossroad of technique and style. But with all that skill and fighting ability, sometimes I wish he’d be a fighter more like Maidana, a fighter that just shuts the hell up and fights. We’ll see what kind of fighter Mayweather wants to be in whether or not he warrants the much-deserved rematch.

Mayweather may have won the fight on May 3, but Maidana came out the better fighter.

About Nick Wong

Nick Wong is a freelance writer and photographer exploring the world through the culture of fighting. He is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and his work has appeared in Gawker, Complex Magazine and the Fightland blog of Vice Media. To find out more, please visit his site here.