LAS VEGAS >> Floyd Mayweather Jr. is enough of a businessman to know his latest fight would be a tough sell, especially after setting records with Canelo Alvarez his last time out.
But sell he must, even though oddsmakers and nearly everyone else give Marcos Maidana little chance in their welterweight title fight Saturday night. A full house is already guaranteed at the MGM Grand hotel arena, but Mayweather needs people at home to pay $64.95 for the fight if he is going to recoup his guaranteed $32 million purse.
So Mayweather hinted this week that this might be his last fight, though few in boxing believe that. He also said he planned to stand in front of Maidana and trade punches with the hard-hitting Argentine, though his history in the ring suggests he won’t.
Oh, and he wants to score a knockout, something he’s done only once in the last seven years.
“I want to look impressive,” Mayweather said. “I want to put on a good show. We don’t expect this fight to go the distance.”
Mayweather returns to the ring for the first time since dominating Alvarez in boxing’s richest bout, taking on Maidana in a fight that even Mayweather seems to have trouble expressing much enthusiasm about. He’s a bigger, much more skilled fighter than the Argentine, just part of the reason oddsmakers make him a 11-1 pick to remain undefeated in the 46th fight of a pro career that has made him the richest fighter ever.
Still, Mayweather (45-0, 26 knockouts) says he has to be wary of the power Maidana brings into the ring.
“He’s got an 80 percent knockout ratio so I can’t go to sleep on this guy,” he said. “But guys can’t go to the mental level I’m at. I can beat them many ways.”
The fight is part of a pay-per-view card that features former champion Amir Khan moving up to welterweight to fight another former champion in Luis Collazo. Khan had campaigned to be Mayweather’s opponent and won an online poll set up by Mayweather, who ended up picking Maidana instead.
If Khan is impressive, though, and Mayweather wins as expected, the two could meet later this year.
“I would have loved to fight Floyd Mayweather, but I believe it’s really for the best,” Khan said. “It gives me a chance to get to 147 and feel my way.”
Maidana (35-3, 31 knockouts) earned the fight with a strong showing in his last bout, twice knocking down Adrien Broner on his way to a decision win in December. Though Maidana hits hard, he will be up against a fighter who is such a defensive wizard that he rarely gets hit with more than one punch in any exchange.
“It’s very difficult to land a punch against Mayweather,” Maidana said. “But when I land a punch I’m going to hit him and not let him go. I will go after him.”
Mayweather, who weighed in Friday at 146 pounds to 146 1/2 for Maidana, said he welcomes the challenge after easily beating Alvarez last September in a fight that was supposed to be his toughest test.
“If he brings his best maybe he will be the first guy that actually makes me dig in my bag of tricks and pull out my ‘A’ game,” Mayweather said. “Hopefully he will make me bring out my ‘A’ game because my whole career all I had to use was a ‘D’ and ‘C’ game to beat every guy.”
If the Alvarez fight showed anything other than Mayweather’s talent for making money — and tons of it — it was that a conventional fighter stands little chance against him. He’s been dodging punches since before he could walk, and he’s a wizard at exploiting whatever weakness he finds in the fighter in front of him.
“I can feel when a guy’s gonna punch. I can feel it,” Mayweather said. “I don’t even have to see it; I can feel it. You know, this is just with experience and being around the sport so long.”
Maidana says he can become the first to beat Mayweather because he will be the first to treat him just like any other fighter in the ring.
“Other fighters they show respect, they show fear,” he said. “That’s one thing I won’t show against Mayweather.”