Boxing

Floyd Mayweather finally announces next opponent

Kevin Iole
Boxing

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Floyd Mayweather collects his title belts after a 2013 win over Canelo Alvarez (AP)

For months, Floyd Mayweather Jr. has toyed with the boxing world. Less than an hour after he defeated Canelo Alvarez on Sept. 14, he said at the post-fight news conference that he would next fight on May 3. He simply didn't identify his opponent.

From that moment until late Monday afternoon, Mayweather toyed with boxing media and fans like a marionette, with a crescendo building for an answer.

Finally on Monday, Mayweather's 37th birthday, he announced via Twitter that he would face Marcos Maidana (35-3, 31 KOs) in a welterweight title fight. The announcement ends months of feverish speculation, including numerous ridiculously erroneous reports that a deal was done.

Mayweather did not announce whether the fight will be in Las Vegas at the MGM Grand Garden, where he has fought his last eight matches, or in New York at the Barclay's Center in Brooklyn.

"Marcos Maidana's last performance immediately brought him to my attention," Mayweather said in a statement. "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."

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WBA welterweight champion Marcos Maidana (AP)

Earlier this month, Mayweather (45-0,26 KOs) said on Twitter he'd let the fans decide who he should fight and conducted the voting on his web site. Amir Khan, a silver medalist in the 2004 Olympics and a former world champion, won that voting, but fans loudly protested on social media, seeming to vastly prefer Maidana. ESPN.com conducted a similar poll and Maidana won it by nearly a 2-to-1 margin.

But Leonard Ellerbe, the CEO of Mayweather Promotions, said Mayweather has more than 11 million followers on various social media outlets and the poll was just one vehicle used.

"Bottom line, we took a look at everything that was coming through on the various outlets and we're fighting the very best guy out there," Ellerbe said.

Maidana is coming off of a rousing upset victory in December over Mayweather pal Adrien Broner. Khan hasn't fought since struggling to a decision victory over the faded Julio Diaz in April.

The horse race, as fighters lined up to plead for the big with the top-selling pay-per-view star in the sport, got almost comical at times. Fighters were pleading for the match on Twitter as Mayweather sat back and saw them promote his fight for him. Mayweather sold 2.2 million on pay-per-view in the Alvarez fight, the second largest PPV total ever and the highest grossing fight in history.

[ Related video: Broner vs. Maidana highlights ]

The expected huge sales for any Mayweather fight has led to boxers taking to Twitter to beg Mayweather for the match or to try to rally fan support. A late entrant into the derby was Cuban Erislandy Lara, who never was remotely in the running, but generated a campaign on Twitter that led to his fans demanding that Mayweather give him the shot.

By choosing Maidana, Mayweather picked a hard-hitter who is coming off the most impressive win of his life. Most boxing experts believe Khan has the better physical skills, but Khan rarely lived up to his vast potential and he hasn't looked good in quite a while.

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Former world champion Amir Khan (AP)

Khan complained about Mayweather in an interview with The National, a newspaper based in The United Arab Emirates. Khan is from the United Kingdom but is of Pakistani descent.

He told the paper he could have made the fight even bigger by taking a press tour to the Middle East.

Everyone says Mayweather is a genius in promoting fights. I offered them to take this fight to parts of the world where boxing has never been tapped in such a big level.

Press and public training tour in UK, Dubai … I have spoken to the prime minister in Pakistan and they have even agreed to provide military security for the press tour there. That’s how big I can make this fight.

But nothing came of it and Khan was left without a fight. He turned down a proposed December title fight against Devon Alexander with the hope he would get the Mayweather fight.

As with his 2013 bouts with Robert Guerrero and Alvarez, the match with Maidana will be distributed via Showtime pay-per-view.

Ellerbe said the venue will be decided by the end of the week. He said, "We love the MGM, and we don't have a thing against the MGM, but this is business and it's about making the best deal."

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Floyd Mayweather Jr. walks the red carpet at a New York news conference last year (AP)

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