Is Maidana a better fight for Mayweather than Khan?
(Photo credit: Ester Lin/Showtime) By Thomas Cowan: Ever since former IBF/WBA light welterweight champion Amir Khan pulled out of negotiations to face then-IBF welterweight titlist Devon Alexander, rumors have been rife that Khan had been lined up to fight pound-for-pound, pay-per-view king Floyd Mayweather Jr. Since then, Marcos Maidana’s sensational victory over the man nicked named “little Mayweather”, Adrien Broner, has propelled him into contention. So which is the better fight?
I’ll start with the proposed Khan fight. It’s obvious to anyone who follows boxing that Khan doesn’t deserve the fight. He is coming off two wins against the practically unknown Carlos Molina (not to be confused with the IBF light middleweight champion) and an aging Julio Diaz, who dropped Khan on the way to losing a very close decision. Khan eked the win out but it was far from impressive. Before that, Khan was dropped several times and stopped by Danny Garcia and beaten, albeit controversially, by Lamont Peterson. Khan had a decent reign as light welterweight champion before those losses, including a win over Maidana, but the fact is his last significant victory was almost 3 years ago. That isn’t good enough to get a shot a Mayweather, which is as close as you can get to winning the boxing lottery.
However, Khan does have some points in his favour. From a business point of view, Khan does bring in revenue from the UK and the Middle East. Whether this revenue is enough to make up for potential poor pay-per-view buys in the US, where the vast majority of the revenue for Mayweather fights comes from, I do not know. But the revenue is there. Also in Khan’s favour as he has been telling anyone who will listen, is his speed. Mayweather, for one reason or another hasn’t really faced a fast fighter since 2006, where Zab Judah gave him a few problems early in the fight. Khan can match Mayweather’s hand speed, but matching his jab, defensive skills, ring generalship, chin and footwork seems unlikely. If Khan’s hand speed wasn’t enough to convincingly beat Lamont Peterson or Julio Diaz, it would take a brave or stupid man to suggest it will be enough to take the welterweight title for Mayweather. However, if Khan’s punch resistance is improved at welterweight as he believes it will be, his speed might cause Mayweather some issues.
So, what about Maidana? In what was possibly the highest profile network fight of 2013, Maidana dethroned the heavily hyped three-weight world champion Adrien Broner and took the WBA welterweight title by unanimous decision. Knocking “little Mayweather” down twice and at times battering Broner led to some calling for Maidana to have a shot at the “big brother”.
Comparing their last 4 fights, it seems Maidana deserves the fight more. He worked his way up the WBA rankings by stopping Jesus Soto Karass, Angel Martinez and Josesito Lopez to earn his shot at Broner. In the Broner fight, Maidana was exciting and put in a excellent performance that may mean he would bring in better pay-per-view buys than Khan. It’s no guarantee because Maidana doesn’t have a big fanbase like previous Mayweather opponents Miguel Cotto and Saul Alvarez, and he doesn’t offer the same overseas revenue as Khan does, but it’s possible that his performance against a high-profile opponent Broner could boost sales. However, the fact Maidana won’t be able to talk up the fight because he can’t speak English will probably hurt his case because Khan talks a good fight and will help to create pre-fight hype among casual fans.
Another issue with the Maidana fight for me and any other fans who look him up prior to a potential fight against Mayweather is that his record lacks substance. While Broner was heavily hyped and his potshotting style was enough to bully lightweights and super featherweights he had only had one fight above the 135lbs limit before he faced Maidana. That was a horrible performance against Paulie Malignaggi where Broner only just got the decision in a fight that some (not me) thought he lost. I like Paulie a lot, but a top fighter beats him comfortably as shown by Ricky Hatton and Khan. Broner never hurt Malignaggi, didn’t throw enough shots and looked too easy to hit. It was a great win for Maidana but Broner isn’t Mayweather, he never was and never will be.
When Maidana faced a fighter that is defensively very good, he lost every single round against Devon Alexander in 2012. Maidana’s lack of success against Alexander doesn’t bode well for a potential fight against Mayweather, who is much stronger, much slicker and much cleverer. He also struggled to beat a shot Erik Morales, lost to Andriy Kotelnik and was defeated by Khan. His best wins other than Broner are against Victor Ortiz and DeMarcus Corley. Khan has wins over Kotelnik, Judah, Malignaggi, an admittedly shot Marco Antonio Barrera and Maidana himself. Granted those wins came at 140lbs, not 147 and his form has declined since but his record is better than Maidana, whose win over Broner is his only win in an actual world title fight (Maidana’s light welterweight title was one of the WBA’s regular paper titles).
Maidana is a stylistically easy and boring fight for Mayweather. Much like he did against Alvarez last September, Mayweather’s speed and movement will make a fight against Maidana a glorified sparring session. Maidana has changed trainers since the Alexander fight and he has improved but his style is still tailor-made for a slick, defensive fighter. Maidana will not be able to hit Mayweather with the big shots that hurt Broner and it’s unlikely he can pressure him the way Miguel Cotto did. You simply can not hurt what you can not hit. Can Khan beat Mayweather? Almost definitely not, but he has more chance of winning a few rounds than Maidana does.
In conclusion, due to the lack of fighters available to fight Mayweather, neither fighter has particularly earned the fight, although Maidana has clearly has the edge in current form and neither is a great from a business point of view, with Khan possibly edging that category. Neither fighter has more than a 5% chance of winning but because styles make fights and he has a slightly better overall record, Khan is the fight I would rather see. Whether enough fans feel it is worth paying for, is another matter.