LAS VEGAS – In one night, Marcos Maidana transformed himself from a hard-hitting but relatively unknown boxer into something of a minor celebrity.
Crowds gather wherever Maidana goes these days, which is likely a testament to the regard the public has for Floyd Mayweather's boxing ability rather than some great interest in Maidana himself.
But by coming relatively close while losing, which is more than anyone since Jose Luis Castillo in 2002 could say after fighting Mayweather, Maidana was suddenly bigger than he'd been after any of his 35 victories.
This, after all, is a guy who had lost to Andriy Kotelnik, Amir Khan and Devon Alexander before facing Mayweather and who'd been dropped three times by Victor Ortiz and once by Khan.
But after he'd finished 12 rounds with Mayweather on May 3, Mayweather left the ring bleeding, swollen and fairly exhausted.
It was, in many ways, a moral victory for Maidana, who still lost by a relatively wide margin. Judge Michael Pernick somehow managed to score the fight even, but judge Burt Clements gave Mayweather nine of the 12 rounds and Dave Moretti gave him eight of 12.
"I won nine of the 12 rounds, and you guys said it was close," Mayweather said. "But I get it. The bar is set higher for me than it is for other fighters, so it looked like it was a close fight."
And because it looked that way, it earned Maidana a rematch. Mayweather didn't have a lot of good choices as he considered his options for his September fight.
Though relations between Golden Boy and Top Rank have thawed since the first Mayweather-Maidana fight, such is not the case regarding Mayweather and Top Rank. So, none of Top Rank's fighters was an option for Mayweather.
The most logical choices were Khan, who'd thrashed Luis Collazo on the Mayweather-Maidana undercard, and Maidana. But Khan is a Muslim who observes Ramadan and because of that, he couldn't commit to fighting in September.
That really left only Maidana, and Mayweather went ahead with the rematch.
"He was forced to give us a rematch," Maidana trainer Robert Garcia said. "He was forced to fight Maidana. There were no other names out there that he could've fought in September that would make sense. A rematch with Maidana is the only fight that makes sense to sell pay-per-views, to please the fans, and he had no other options. That's what I think."
Garcia is correct, but that perhaps left Maidana with a skewed perception of how the first fight went.
The three judges cumulatively turned in 36 scored rounds, and Mayweather won 23 of those, or 64 percent. After Mayweather adjusted to Maidana's physical, brawling style, he cruised in the second half of the fight.
Yet Maidana seems to think he forced the rematch.
"I think that I got the rematch because it was a close fight," Maidana said. "It was a close fight. He probably wants to prove a point. He wants to demonstrate that he can beat me outright. It doesn't really matter. What matters is that the rematch is happening, and I'm very happy."
In the first bout, Maidana came out perhaps too aggressively. He was firing hard, and often, in the first round, but he was so intent on doing damage that he got too close.
One of the keys in any boxing match is to control the distance. Maidana's preferred distance was in the middle range, so he could reach Mayweather with his hooks and his shots to the body, but he frequently was so close to Mayweather that it would have been too tight to slip a credit card between them.
When he was close, Maidana fought a rough, brawling style in an attempt to make Mayweather feel every one of his 37 years.
He threw forearms, used his head and shoulders and once even kneed Mayweather.
It clearly took a physical toll on Mayweather, but it hurt Maidana in a way because he was at the wrong distance. He understands that's something he must correct in Saturday's rematch.
"The first fight, I think that my attack, the pressure, was very good, but I didn't do well with my distance control," Maidana said. "I think I smothered a lot of my punches. I wasn't able to really catch him with good, solid shots, being able to extend my punches, and that's one of the things that I'm working on.
"Because I smothered my punches, I don't really think I ever hurt him, but this time around, if I get him with good, solid shots, work my distance control, I think I can hurt him."
Mayweather has rarely been hurt in a fight. Most notably, he was wobbled late in the third round of his May 1, 2010, fight with Shane Mosley. But Mayweather quickly regained his senses and dominated the remainder of the fight.
Maidana's biggest hope, of course, is that Mayweather is nearly 38 now, and not as quick, not as nimble and not as athletic as he was four years ago.
But in the end of the day, the team is convinced that pressure is the key.
"Look, we are fighting the way we did the first fight with the pressure," Garcia said. "But like Chino is saying, we need to have a little more distance, a little more control in his punches, and we are working on that. His punches are thrown a lot more accurately, straighter punches, and our sparring partners are telling us that this time around they feel the power even harder than they did the first time. So he's actually listening and doing the job that he's supposed to to be able to make those changes."
If he makes those changes, and they work, it will go down as one of the most significant upsets in boxing history. Mayweather is 46-0 and, including Saturday's bout, has three more matches left on his Showtime contract.
Since Rocky Marciano retired at 49-0 in 1956, no boxer has been able to exceed that mark. Mayweather needs four more wins to surpass Marciano.
Larry Holmes was 48-0 in 1985, but was upset by Michael Spinks. Brian Nielsen, not regarded as an elite fighter, was 49-0 but was upset by journeyman Dicky Ryan in 1999 in his 50th match.
A Maidana win would be historic, but he has a long way to go to get there, despite the perception that the first fight was close.
If he pulls it off, his accomplishments will finally match his newly found celebrity.