LAS VEGAS (AP) — Floyd Mayweather Jr. was all smiles as he headed up an escalator with his large entourage, turning to flash a thumbs-up at fans greeting him.
Mayweather escaped to fight another night, and the fight may be against the man who came closest to handing him the first defeat of his 16-year pro career.
Marcos Maidana nearly did what 45 other fighters couldn't, taking the fight to Mayweather before losing a 12-round majority decision that angered both the Argentine and the fans at MGM Grand arena.
Mayweather was hit more than any bout in his career, and needed to rally from the middle rounds on to keep his unbeaten record. Maidana called the richest fighter in the world an ordinary boxer and said he deserved a rematch in September.
"If the fans want to see us do it again, we'll do it again," Mayweather said.
Maidana threw twice as many punches, but Mayweather was more efficient in landing more than half his shots in a fight where the 37-year-old was tested to the limit. Mayweather won five of the last seven rounds on two scorecards and six of the last seven on the third to pull out the win.
Bleeding from a cut by his right eye from a head butt in the fourth round that he said blinded him for two rounds, Mayweather had to reach deep into his bag of tricks to salvage what had been expected to be a relatively easy $32 million pay day against the 6-1 underdog.
Maidana landed more punches against Mayweather than any fighter ever had, showering him with overhand rights that often found their mark on the top of his head. Mayweather countered with straight right hands and left hooks, but was never able to hurt his challenger in the welterweight title fight.
Mayweather said he decided to stand inside and fight Maidana to please the fans.
"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."
In the end, though, Mayweather got the win — just as he did in his previous 45 fights. The decision was met with disbelief by Maidana and booed heavily by the crowd. He retained his welterweight title by winning 117-111 on one scorecard and 116-112 on another. A third judge had it even at 114-114.
The Associated Press scored it for Mayweather 115-113.
Mayweather is in the middle of a six-fight deal with the Showtime network and is supposed to fight again in September. The one possible opponent other than Maidana would be Amir Khan of England, who looked good in his welterweight debut on the same card when he won a decision over Luis Collazo. But Kahn can't fight in September because his training would be interrupted by the Muslim holiday Ramadan.