LAS VEGAS – A big welt shone brightly over one eye. A patched-up cut over the other was unmistakable.
This was something rarely seen at a Floyd Mayweather bout as he had come out almost completely unmarked in at least 40 of his previous 45 matches.
But he came out of this one wearing the signs of battle for one of the rare times in his career.
A fight – a competitive, two-way, close contest – unexpectedly broke out in the welterweight title unification bout between Mayweather and Marcos Maidana, sending the sell-out crowd into near delirium.
Mayweather won, as expected, but this was anything but a by-the-script bout. The majority decision clearly deserved to go Mayweather's way, as he pulled away down the stretch to win the fight. Michael Pernick called it 114-114, but he was overruled by Burt Clements (117-111) and Dave Moretti (116-112).
For most of his brilliant career, Mayweather has been vastly better in the ring. He was hit more than normal – Maidana's 221 connects were the most ever landed on Mayweather in a bout charted by CompuBox – and he looked more vulnerable than ever.
"He's getting older now, and that's why a lot more people want to fight him," said Amir Khan, who defeated Luis Collazo on the undercard.
But for a guy who was once derided for being unable to sell tickets early in his career, Mayweather has become boxing's best showman. It was a show inside as well as outside the ring on a night in which Mayweather engaged in perhaps his most competitive fight ever.
He was led to the ring by clowns, jugglers and entertainers Justin Bieber and Lil Wayne while confetti rained down from above.
But when the first round began it was all business as he engaged Maidana in a toe-to-toe flurry that was a sign of the type of fight that was to come.
Maidana, who had been more than a 10-1 underdog for most of the week, had barely been given a chance by most media, who thought Mayweather would run away and hide.
And Mayweather said he could have done that had he followed the instructions of Floyd Mayweather Sr.
"Of course, the main person here I have to take my hat off to is my father," he said. "He was giving me the best instructions in the world, but I was doing what I wanted. The instructions he was giving me were totally correct."
He was asked if he'd followed his father's plan more precisely whether it would have been a boring fight.
"It wouldn't have made it a boring fight; it would have made it a more one-sided fight," Mayweather said. "He wouldn't have won any rounds."
When Maidana arrived at the post-fight news conference, trainer Robert Garcia came clutching the pair of Everlast Powerlock gloves that he wore in the fight.
A controversy erupted following the weigh-in Friday when Mayweather's team objected to the gloves Maidana wanted to wear. Leonard Ellerbe, the CEO of Mayweather Promotions and Mayweather's point man on the glove issue, said the debate over the gloves went six hours on Friday.
It wasn't resolved until sometime on Saturday, though nobody involved would say when.
When Mayweather was asked why he objected to Maidana wearing gloves that had been approved by the chairman of the Nevada Athletic Commission, he seemed offended.
Garcia said, "The commission accepted our gloves, but we were not allowed to use them."
That got Mayweather on a roll talking about safety in the ring. Maidana is known as a hard puncher, and the Everlast MX gloves, which are filled with a combination of horsehair and foam, are considered punchers' gloves.
"The thing is this: I have a life after boxing," Mayweather said. "He has a life after boxing. This is already a brutal sport. Of course we're here to please the fans, but what about our health when boxing is over? Half of the boxers who are in the fight game now can't articulate well. So do we care about the fighters' health? You're always asking the questions, 'Why did this guy die? Why is he in the hospital? Why did he lose all his money?' "
Ellerbe said, "You had to see the glove," three times when he was asked why he objected to both the custom blue pair and a stock red pair Maidana wanted to use. Commission chairman Francisco Aguilar said he was not happy with the way the padding was distributed in the blue pair, but approved a stock pair of red gloves for use.
But Ellerbe wouldn't agree to allow those gloves to be used, either.
"There was a lot of discussion going back and forth and we were there probably six hours," Ellerbe said.
But this night wasn't about the gloves, but rather the men wearing them. Maidana pressured and fought and gave everything he had and turned what was expected to be a blowout into a thriller.
Mayweather, though, as he usually does, made the adjustments he needed to. Mayweather won five of the final seven rounds on two cards and six of the last seven on the third.
"Marcos Maidana proved and showed all the doubters, even though he didn't get the win, that he could make it tough on Floyd Mayweather," said light heavyweight champion Bernard Hopkins, a partner in Golden Boy Promotions. "Floyd made the adjustments like we do, like veterans do. The IQ is the edge that Floyd needs and he used that to make his adjustments."
Mayweather complained about Maidana's tactics. He said Maidana arm barred him early in the fight, cut him with a headbutt, hit him illegally several times and punched him low.
"He's the guy who was holding me with one hand and hitting me with the other," Mayweather said. "He was trying to knee me. I thought the guy was a boxer, but he was a WWE wrestler."
At the end of the day, it was a highly entertaining night and one of the few Mayweather fights where there was at least a little suspense when the scores were read.
He was willing to rematch with Maidana, but told Maidana he'd better be careful what he wished for.
It was a rough fight for both parties on Saturday, but Mayweather wasn't complaining.
"When the numbers come in," he said with a wry smile, "I'm pretty sure it will all be worth it."
- Sports & Recreation