Moments of vulnerability rarely have been found in a Floyd Mayweather Jr. performance.
But Mayweather navigated through arguably the deepest waters of his professional career, and it nearly cost him late Saturday.
Opponent and prohibitive underdog Marcos Maidana pressured, bullied and threw combinations from awkward angles that could have resulted in boxing’s biggest upset since Buster Douglas knocked out Mike Tyson 24 years ago.
Mayweather, however, found his escape by utilizing the skills that have made him the sport’s top pound-for-pound fighter.
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Mayweather landed the cleaner and sharper punches, especially in the second half of the bout, and won a majority decision in the welterweight unification title fight in Las Vegas.
“I had to tighten my game,” Mayweather said. “That’s the difference between me and any other fighter. I can make adjustments.”
Mayweather uncharacteristically allowed Maidana to dictate the action from the opening round.
Maidana repeatedly kept Mayweather pinned to the ropes and was effective with combinations to the head and body.
Another unimaginable situation occurred in the fourth round when an accidental clash of heads opened a cut above Mayweather’s right eye.
The gash in a delicate area, as well as Maidana’s brawling style that resulted in repeated clinches and punches below the waistline, failed to affect Mayweather.
Although Maidana was credited for his aggression, Mayweather moved the bout’s exchanges to the middle of the ring and connected with left jabs and rights to the head.
Judges Burt Clements and Carl Moretti scored the fight for Mayweather, 117-111 and 116-112.
Florida-based judge Michael Pernick scored the bout 114-114.
With the victory, Mayweather (46-0) retained his World Boxing Council title and won Maidana’s World Boxing Association belt.
“I’m always going to find a way to win,” Mayweather said.
“You’ve got guys that go to the body, but I always find a way to win. You’ve got guys who have a good jab, but I always find a way to win.”
Mayweather, 37, said the pace of his early round difficulties was dictated on his terms instead of a possible erosion of his superb boxing skills.
“I was going to give the fans what they wanted to see,” Mayweather said. “I got some bumps and bruises, but that comes with the territory.
“Sometimes you do things for the fans. It was exciting. It was give and take.”
Not surprisingly, Maidana (35-4) disputed the decision and called for an immediate rematch.
“It was a very good fight; I did everything possible to win,” Maidana said. “For the judges it wasn’t sufficient.
“Nobody has attacked him like I did. Nobody has landed punches on him the way I did.”
As a result of a dominant 18-year career, Mayweather would only have his second rematch if he faces Maidana again. Mayweather, who’s planning his next bout for September, won consecutive hard-fought decisions against Jose Luis Castillo during his lightweight-title reign in 2002.
“In September, if we fight again, would it be the same fight? Absolutely not,” Mayweather said. “I can make a fight a whole lot easier if I want to.”