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Floyd Mayweather Jr.'s still got it

9/14/2014

LAS VEGAS -- It was an intense yet very different 12 rounds of action between pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Marcos Maidana in Saturday’s rematch at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.

But after Mayweather (47-0, 26 KOs) defended his welterweight and junior middleweight titles via unanimous decision to remain unbeaten, here are five things that we learned from the rematch:

1. Mayweather stuck to his strengths

After how close their first fight was in May, as Mayweather stood and traded with Maidana before making adjustments and hanging on by a slim margin, we figured Mayweather would go back to the basics and use his legs to create separation.

We were right.

Mayweather largely avoided confrontations and spent the whole night backpedaling and circling away from Maidana’s advancements. But that doesn’t mean Mayweather wasn’t brilliant in his execution.

Outside of a few dangerous situations early on, Mayweather stuck to the basics of hit and not be hit, never allowing himself to get pinned for too long against the ropes or in the corner. Mayweather sought preservation over retaliation and by doing so showcased the clear gap in ability between the two fighters.

2 Floyd had some help too

It was easy to predict that the change in referees from Tony Weeks in the first fight to veteran Kenny Bayless would have an impact on the rematch. And boy did it.

Weeks’ liberal stance on dirty tactics from both fighters in the first meeting clearly favored Maidana’s strategy and gave him a distinct advantage. In the rematch, Bayless’ conservative handling of clinches did exactly the opposite, and Mayweather was the beneficiary.

The fight was still plenty dirty, with Mayweather claiming he was bit on the left hand in Round 8 and Maidana losing a point in Round 10 for shoving Mayweather to the canvas. But the quickness with which Bayless separated the two fighters at even the first sign of a clinch had a major impact on how the fight played out. As did the blind eye he appeared to turn by failing to police -- or even warn -- Mayweather for his constant holding.

3. ‘Money’ was all business

Gone was Mayweather’s elaborate ring entrance from their first fight in May. There weren’t any dollar bills with Mayweather’s face on them falling from the sky or celebrity rappers performing by his side during the ring walk. We didn’t even see Justin Bieber.

Instead, Mayweather entered the ring with a stoic look and his head down. With two fights left on his lucrative Showtime/CBS deal and the potential of retiring undefeated, there was little room for error. Even though Mayweather helped build up the fight’s promotion by talking about wanting to stop Maidana in recent weeks, his mentality turned to that of surviving and advancing when he entered the ring.

Considering the dangerous and unpredictable nature of Maidana, it was a mindset he needed to have. But credit Mayweather for blocking out the many distractions that have followed him in recent months and removing any lingering doubt created by the first fight.

4. Mayweather showed his age in subtle ways

Checking the pulse of social media after the fight, it was clear Saturday’s rematch was deemed a disappointment by many looking for a repeat of the drama and uncertain ending from the first fight.

Mayweather took home a much wider decision in a fight mostly void of two-way exchanges. But that doesn’t mean the second fight lacked for intensity to those watching from ringside.

A case could be made that Mayweather, who largely avoided getting hit cleanly to head and face in the first fight, had to work much harder in the rematch, finding himself in specific situations that were much more dangerous and compromising.

Maidana landed a flush left hand at the bell in Round 3 that clearly appeared to hurt Mayweather. Maidana followed it up with a brilliant Round 4 in which he routinely backed Mayweather up to the ropes and landed clean and heavy shots from close range.

Although Maidana was never able to quite duplicate that level of success later in the fight, he created a real sense at times that Mayweather was one clean punch away from real trouble. It’s a feeling that is foreign to most fans of Mayweather fights and one that didn’t show up as much in their first fight despite the close nature of the scorecards.

Mayweather may have proved Saturday that, at 37, he’s still got it. In fact, he connected an astounding 51 percent of his punches overall and 58 percent of his power shots. But he appeared legitimately vulnerable to Maidana’s pressure and rarely put forth a posture that screamed of poise and control.

Clearly we hold Mayweather to a different standard than others due to his greatness. But there were times he appeared to be surviving as much as he was thriving in the later rounds.

5. Floyd is (somewhat) open to a Pacquiao fight

It was sure nice to hear Mayweather handle questions about a fight against Manny Pacquiao without instantly shooting the idea down. But does this mean the fight actually happens in 2015? Based on the history between the two (not to mention the ongoing beef between Al Haymon and Top Rank’s Bob Arum), I wouldn’t be so sure.

But Mayweather didn’t dodge Pacquiao’s name when asked by Showtime’s Jim Gray after the fight, saying, “If the Pacquiao fight presents itself, let’s make it happen.” Moments later, when asked the same question by ESPN’s Bernardo Osuna, Mayweather said the fight would have to take place on Showtime PPV.

Later in the evening at the news conference when asked again, Mayweather said, “You can keep asking the same questions, and you can keep getting the same answers.”

So the results are somewhat inconclusive. But if the pay-per-view numbers from Saturday’s fight come back lower than expected for the third time in four fights since Mayweather signed the exclusive deal with Showtime, the hurdles that would need to be cleared to make the Pacquiao fight could have a better chance of actually happening.

A lot more red tape would need to be sorted out than even mentioned above, and considering the proven stubbornness of the parties in question, it’s hard to gain too much confidence. But it would appear we are a heck of a lot closer than we were in the recent past.