LAS VEGAS – It was Marcos Maidana's night even though Floyd Mayweather came out on top yet again. The gritty Argentine pushed the unbeaten Mayweather like he had been pushed few times before in his career, firing punches from every angle.
Maidana threw more than twice as many punches – 858 to 426 – but Mayweather outlanded him by nine, 230-221.
That was the slim difference in a majority decision for Mayweather on Saturday night before a sold-out and raucous crowd at the MGM Grand Garden. Judge Michael Pernick had it 114-114, but he was overruled by Burt Clements (117-111) and Dave Moretti (116-112), who had it for Mayweather.
Yahoo Sports had it 115-113 for Mayweather.
Mayweather claimed the WBA belt from Maidana and retained his own WBC belt with his 46th consecutive victory, but it was one of the toughest fights of his career.
Mayweather closed as a 6-1 favorite, as most of the late money came in on Maidana, but Mayweather couldn't get the blowout most expected.
"I was in a tough competitive fight," Mayweather said. "I normally like to go out there and box and move. But he put pressure on me, so that's when I decided I'd make it competitive and fight differently. I wanted to give the fans what I know they wanted to see, so I stood there and fought him.
"He's a good fighter. I take nothing away from him. I couldn't see for two rounds after the head butt, but that's what champions do: They survive and they adjust. True champions adjust to anything."
Maidana pressured Mayweather from beginning to end and made it a rough, tough, physical fight. Mayweather struggled to keep Maidana off him and get the distance he wanted. Frequently, they fought along the ropes and battled hard.
As the fight wore on, Mayweather was able to catch Maidana more cleanly, using a sharp lead right hand and a right to the body, hook-to-the-head combination.
But no matter what he did, Mayweather couldn't discourage Maidana. He didn't show Mayweather the kind of respect most opponents had showed him and kept trying simply to lay his hands on him no matter the angle.
He was winging the overhand right, his money punch, frequently and connecting often, especially early.
The fight wasn't without controversy either as Maidana was forced to wear Everlast Powerlock gloves instead of the Everlast MX gloves he wanted to wear. The MX gloves are more of a puncher's glove and Maidana said it was a difference.
"I feel I was robbed," Maidana said. "I feel I won. When they took away my gloves, they took away my advantage. If I had my gloves, I would have knocked him out. He never hurt me with a punch. He wasn't that tough. I thought I won."
Referee Tony Weeks did a great job under difficult circumstances, as the fighters were often grappling, with elbows coming up and heads swinging, with holding and low blows.
Mayweather showed remarkable conditioning for a 37-year-old, able to keep up a strong work rate and fend off his younger challenger despite his years.
Mayweather fought far more flat-footed than he had in many years and, as a result, it turned into an exceptionally exciting fight.
Most of the time, Mayweather is so far ahead of opponents going down the stretch that the decision is just a formality. Such, though, was not the case on Saturday.
The 221 punches Maidana landed were the most landed on Mayweather in 38 fights tracked by CompuBox. When ring announcer Jimmy Lennon read the verdict, the loud crowd went silent.
It erupted in boos when it went in favor of Mayweather, who seemed more relieved than anything else.
Maidana said he wanted a rematch and Mayweather said, "If the fans want to see us do it again, we'll do it again."
It's hard to imagine boxing fans not wanting to see a rematch of that bout, because few Mayweather opponents ever came as close to beating him as Maidana did.
Video from the Mayweather-Maidana undercard: