Floyd Mayweather Jr. gave himself a 37th birthday present on Monday: an opponent. The pound-for-pound king announced on Twitter that he will next fight fellow welterweight titleholder Marcos Maidana on May 3.
- Floyd Mayweather (@FloydMayweather) February 25, 2014
The 147-pound unification fight will be carried by Showtime PPV and take place at a venue to be determined -- either in Las Vegas at the MGM Grand, the front-runner, where Mayweather has had his last eight fights, or the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., which came into the picture in recent weeks and is making a strong push for the fight.
Golden Boy Promotions chief executive Richard Schaefer, who has worked with Mayweather since 2007 and also promotes Maidana, told ESPN.com that he hopes to have the venue locked in "in the next couple of days along with the ticket information."
The fight will be the third of a 30-month, six-fight deal worth $200 million-plus that Mayweather signed with Showtime and parent network CBS last February. Mayweather has said he plans to retire at the conclusion of the contract.
Mayweather (45-0, 26 KOs) holds world titles at junior middleweight and welterweight but will return to welterweight to make his second defense when he faces Maidana (35-3, 31 KOs), a 30-year-old crowd-pleasing slugger from Argentina who will be making the first defense of his belt. Maidana, who landed the fight over fellow former junior welterweight titlist Amir Khan, won his world title in dramatic upset fashion by scoring two knockdowns in a unanimous decision against Adrien Broner in their Dec. 14 brawl at the Alamodome in San Antonio.
"Marcos Maidana's last performance immediately brought him to my attention," Mayweather said. "He is an extremely skilled fighter who brings knockout danger to the ring. I think this is a great fight for me and he deserves the opportunity to see if he can do what 45 others have tried to do before him -- beat me."
Said Maidana, "I am extremely happy to be facing Floyd Mayweather because it will give me the opportunity to show the world that I am the best welterweight in the division. I just handed a great defensive fighter his first loss and I plan to do the same to Mayweather. I don't care whether he's the best and undefeated. I will bring some real Latino power to him on May 3rd."
In his last fight, Mayweather easily outpointed Saul "Canelo" Alvarez on Sept. 14 to unify junior middleweight titles in a fight that set numerous records, including the biggest pay-per-view gross in history ($150 million) and biggest live gate ($20 million). The bout sold 2.2 million pay-per-view units, second-most all time behind the near 2.5 million subscriptions sold for Mayweather's 2007 showdown with Oscar De La Hoya.
The May 3 fight does not figure to come close to that sort of business because Maidana is not nearly as popular as Alvarez and will be an even bigger underdog. But Maidana, one of the best punchers in boxing, does possess fight-changing power.
"Marcos Maidana is, without question, one of the most exciting fighters in the sport," Schaefer said. "He is must-see TV and one of those guys who people keep asking me, 'When is he fighting again?' because you know he is never in a boring fight. What we're going to see May 3 is two game-changers in action. Floyd Mayweather is the game-changer. He has the biggest pay-per-views and the biggest fights. He's changed the game. Marcos Maidana has the game-changer in his punch, in his fists. With one punch he can change the game of boxing.
"Mayweather is undefeated but with that one punch, Marcos Maidana can certainly change it all for Floyd. Floyd has to fight the perfect fight. Is he capable of doing that? Of course. But can Maidana connect for that one moment? Yes, of course. We saw it in the Broner fight. How is Floyd going to react once he gets hit by Maidana?"
Maidana got the nod as Mayweather's opponent over England's Khan, who barely edged Maidana in a 2010 junior welterweight title fight. Khan was so sure that he was going to get the fight that he pulled out of negotiations for a welterweight title fight with then-titleholder Devon Alexander in December.
But without a world title or an impressive performance in the past few years, combined with Maidana's eye-opening victory against previously undefeated Broner -- Mayweather's buddy -- Khan's chances of landing the fight were doomed.
"Maidana has been in a lot of exciting fights and then he had the fight with Broner and there was a lot of fan reaction," Schaefer said. "So I think the fans had something to do with Floyd's decision. People want to see that fight. Maidana is a 147-pound champion, Floyd is a champion. A lot of people believe if Maidana connects, it's goodnight Floyd. But the question is can he connect?"
Said Leonard Ellerbe, chief executive of Mayweather Promotions, "This is an extremely dangerous fight for Floyd as Marcos Maidana is a technical knockout artist and continues to show us that he gets better with each fight. Maidana showed so much in his last performance, he's clearly at the top of his game and a great matchup for Floyd."
Since a lopsided 10-round decision loss to Alexander in February 2012, Maidana has won four fights in a row, three by knockout, to put himself in position to get Mayweather, whom he has wanted to fight -- like every other fighter between 140 and 154 pounds. He has the power to hurt Mayweather, but Mayweather's speed and defense could be big problems for him.
"Maidana is like the Energizer Bunny -- he keeps coming and coming and you can't stop him," Schaefer said. "Since he added Robert Garcia as his trainer, he has been even sharper."
A few weeks ago, Mayweather unveiled a poll on social media for fans to vote on his next opponent, Maidana or Khan. Although Khan won Mayweather's poll (57 percent to 43 percent), many other outlets conducted their own polls, including ESPN.com, and Maidana was the lopsided choice.
"I feel very disappointed for Amir. He is a terrific fighter," Schaefer said. "I think he has the necessary skill set to beat Floyd Mayweather because of his speed. Amir Khan will have a big fight. There are a lot of exciting opportunities in the 147-pound weight class.
"If you would have a crystal ball, you would say he probably should have fought Devon Alexander. But even if he did, Maidana looked spectacular in his fight with Adrien Broner."
On Friday, Khan, idle since getting dropped in a shaky decision win against faded former lightweight titlist Julio Diaz last April, sent a series of tweets in which he said he had been passed over by Mayweather.
"No response from Mayweather or his team," Khan tweeted. "Fights not happening. I should of taken the title fight last December against Alexander. Very disrespected by [Mayweather's] team. Wasted my time. Good luck to Maidana against Mayweather. Can I apologize to the thousands of people who are let down. You me and everyone wanted the Mayweather fight. He's running scared."
After Maidana defeated Broner, Broner had a contractual option for a rematch, which he exercised. However, powerful adviser Al Haymon, who works with Mayweather, Maidana and Broner, worked things out so Mayweather could face the opponent of his choice.
"What it took was conversations with all the parties and, in the end, all the parties were happy with the outcome," Schaefer said. "Adrien will certainly have another big fight ahead of him, but the situation [with the Maidana-Broner rematch] was worked out among the involved parties. Adrien wasn't really jumping up and down about it, but it was explained to him and worked out. I have to thank Al for making it happen."