By Tim Smith
If there is one major asset that Marcos Maidana carries with him every time he steps into the ring it is power. If there is one trait that he combines with that awesome power it is durability. And if there is one intangible that he adds to all of that it is an indomitable will to win.
That is the triple threat that Floyd Mayweather will contend with when he faces Maidana over 12 rounds in the welterweight world championship unification bout at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on Saturday, May 3 (live on SHOWTIME PPV).
Some of Maidana’s former opponents believe it is enough for the hard-hitting Argentine to do something that none of Mayweather’s other 45 opponents have been able to do – erase the zero on the right side of his professional boxing ledger.
Maidana’s best chance at beating Mayweather will be to employ the same shock and awe strategy he did in his victory over Adrien Broner. Maidana attacked Broner right away, hurting him in the first round and knocking Broner off his strategy, which was to box and stay away.
Jesus Soto Karass, who lost to Maidana on an eighth round TKO in 2012, believes the Broner fight was a template for the way that Maidana will attack Mayweather. In the battle of Maidana’s power versus Mayweather’s speed, Karass believes the power will win out.
“Broner had the same style as Floyd, but Maidana’s punching power will play a big role in the fight. His (Mayweather’s) speed will not be able to affect it,’’ Karass said. “Floyd’s style is very comparable with Broner’s style and look what happened to Broner. He got knocked down a couple of times.’’
Lucas Matthysse was a teammate of Maidana on the Argentine national team as an amateur. They fought three times with Maidana beating Matthysse twice and one fight ending in a draw. Matthysse has tremendous respect for Maidana’s power.
“Marcos has the power to hurt Mayweather. We saw that in the Broner fight,’’ Matthysse said. “He was able to be in the right spot and he was able to penetrate Broner’s defense. He connected and he continued to punish him. If he connects with the right shot and has a chance to connect with more shots, he will be able to beat Mayweather.’’
Matthysse watched Maidana (35-3, 31 KOs) progress through the amateur ranks by adapting his power to suit the circumstances of each fight. Matthysse also watched Maidana blossom into another outstanding pro from the Santa Fe region of Argentina. There have been seven world champions from Santa Fe, including Matthysse, former undisputed welterweight champion Carlos Baldomir and Hall of Fame middleweight Carlos Monzon.
Power, durability and dogged determination must be in the drinking water in that region because it is a common trait among the outstanding boxers that hail from there. Maidana showed all three in his victory against Victor Ortiz in 2009. Maidana was down once in the first round and twice in the second round before stopping Ortiz in the sixth.
Josesito Lopez is no slouch in the power department himself. It was one of the reasons he was able to keep Maidana at bay for the first few rounds of their match last June 8. But as the fight progressed Lopez wore down from the pressure and Maidana got stronger. It made it easier for Maidana to get in position to land his bombs and punishing left hooks.
“For the most part the first few rounds were what I expected,’’ Lopez said. “He was applying pressure but I was able to keep him at bay. He started closing the gap. He has tricky shots. It seems like a jab is coming and he comes over the top with a left hook. You don’t always see the shots coming.’’
Eventually Maidana landed so many telling shots that the referee stopped the match in the sixth round, giving the Argentine bomber a technical knockout victory.
Lopez watched Maidana discombobulate Broner with his power and pressure. Broner was knocked down in the second and the eighth rounds, but he managed to finish the fight on his feet.
“I think Broner wasn’t expecting that,’’ Lopez said. “He wasn’t expecting to be in a dogfight and he couldn’t hang in there with a big puncher at welterweight.’’
Broner isn’t Mayweather and Lopez knows that. But he does think that Maidana is the hardest puncher that Mayweather has recently faced. Whether it is enough to carry the night for Maidana is another question.
“I think it’s going to be a good fight while it last,” Lopez said. “Mayweather’s speed, his footwork will come into play. The fight against me and Maidana I should have won and I could win. That’s why I think Mayweather will pull it off.’’
Amir Khan, who dropped Maidana in the first round on the way to a 12-round unanimous decision in the 2010 Fight of the Year, thinks Maidana’s chances of winning will hinge on his ability to punch when Mayweather punches.
“Speed is something that a lot of fighters have problems with. Mayweather is a quick fighter with quick reflexes,’’ Khan said. “Maidana is going to have to find a lot of ways to give Mayweather problems and the only way to give him problems is to punch with him at the same time. That’s the only way that he might be able to land any shots.’’
Khan and Devon Alexander were two of the best pure boxers that Maidana faced and he lost decisions to both of them. Some believe that Maidana has honed and sharpened his boxing skills since joining trainer Robert Garcia. They point to how Maidana was able to cut off the ring, apply pressure and land hard, pinpoint punches against Broner.
Kevin Cunningham, Alexander’s trainer, doesn’t see any changes in Maidana’s style since he lost a lopsided 10-round decision to Alexander on Feb. 25, 2012. Two of the judges didn’t have Maidana winning a single round and one judge gave him one round against Alexander.
“People are saying that he’s progressed,’’ Cunningham said. “He’s the same fighter that fought Devon. Maidana is lucky that Broner fought the wrong fight. Broner took the fight to Maidana which was absolutely the wrong thing to do. Broner had been walking guys down in the lower weight classes. But he couldn’t do that against a real welterweight. His punches had no affect there. That fight was not a case of what Maidana did. It was a case of what Broner didn’t do.”
Alexander’s strategy against Maidana was to keep him in the middle of the ring and throw counters when he got set to punch. Cunningham said that Maidana has to get set to throw those powerful punches, but if you time him and nail him before he gets set you can neutralize the power. If Alexander was able to shut him out over 10 rounds, Mayweather should be able to do that and more.
“I think Mayweather stops him in the eighth or ninth round, because Mayweather is so smart. Mayweather is going to have him so confused. Devon was on the way to stopping him. Floyd is going to really sense that. When Floyd senses that he’s ready to go, he’s going to get him out of there. I think in the eighth or ninth round he’s going to get potshot and counter punched and Floyd is going to start digging into the body. He’s either going to quit or Floyd is going to knock him out and stop him.’’
There will be more than a few people hoping that won’t be the case. Matthysse said all of Argentina will be rooting for Maidana to pull off the upset. And even Karass will be pulling for Maidana, even though he knows that the Argentine will have to fight the fight of his life to beat Mayweather.
“I’m a Mexican and a lot of the Mexicans are going for the Argentine in this fight,’’ he said.