Taking a break from rapping, crapping, and whatever else he does to resonate with those who bookmark WorldStarHipHop in their web browsers, welterweight Adrien Broner returns to action Saturday night, facing Marcos Maidana at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas.
Broner is making his second foray into the welterweight division, having outpointed Paulie Malignaggi in June. To many—including judge Tom Miller, who scored the fight for Malignaggi—Broner struggled in his first performance at 147 pounds. But while Broner never even sniffed danger against Malignaggi—the feather-fisted Brooklynite did little more than dust Broner for prints—he also presented less of it than anticipated. Perhaps Broner overlooked Malignaggi, a fighter long enough in the tooth to expose the root; perhaps the physical advantages Broner used to undo smaller men were mitigated by moving up two divisions. Whatever the reason for the twelve anticlimactic rounds that were Broner-Malignaggi, it was almost certainly not the arrival Showtime and Golden Boy Promotions hoped for. And that makes the selection of Maidana as an opponent interesting. Is Maidana a step up, a step back, or a lateral move? And what does the answer to this question say about Broner’s prospects?
The brick-slinging Maidana operates at the opposite end of the spectrum from Malignaggi. However he fares Saturday night, Maidana will present Broner, 24, with problems Malignaggi never could. He has the power to put Broner’s lights out, and the toughness to take second and third helpings of whatever leather he is served. Maidana, 34-3 (31), also boasts the puncher’s resolve, that stubborn arrogance that concedes damage to reciprocate it exponentially. He will not temper his aggression simply because he is punished for it, and he has crawled off the deck to practically invade two other prematurely anointed superstars. Despite dropping him on a perfect body shot in the first round of their 2010 fight, Amir Khan barely survived a harrowing tenth against the madly-hatcheting Maidana. And it is Maidana who, after dusting off two knockdowns, first forced Victor Ortiz to reconsider his vocation. Moreover, under the tutelage of Robert Garcia, Maidana, Margarito, Sante Fe, Argentina, is starting to set up his power with his jab instead of his face. He is never an easy out, and if Broner has slacked in his preparation Maidana will bring those cut corners to bear. If one were looking for a purpose in Broner’s matchmaking—beyond maximizing profit and minimizing risk, of course—Maidana represents the test of resolve and poise that fellow roughneck Antonio DeMarco did at lightweight.
DeMarco—who Broner hammered over eight uncompetitive rounds last November—is an earnest yet limited brawler who made his name outlasting fragile phenom Jorge Linares. But he peaked at the right time. Broner’s reputation was suffering from the weight debacle that preceded his fight with Vincente Escobedo. Fighters outgrow divisions, sure, but Broner, Cincinnati, Ohio, outgrew lightweight while tweeting pictures of himself eating ice cream during training camp. Probably overvalued for the Linares win, and, as it played out, nowhere near Broner’s league, DeMarco represented the perfect PR move. Considering both Maidana’s reputation for cracking heads, and the criticisms lobbed at Broner since the Malignaggi fight, Maidana could very well be Broner’s latest Demarco. And odds are he suffers a similar fate.
For all his power, there is nothing dynamic about Maidana, which perhaps explains why—outside of psychological eggshell Victor Ortiz—he’s come up short against his best opponents. The bloated, one-eyed, carcass of Erik Morales gave Maidana hell, and the limited but game duo of Josesito Lopez and Jesus Soto Karass rang his bell before being bombed out. Most effective in a rumble, where volume can trump technique and activity begets opportunity, Maidana, 30, losses much of his fury when the fire dies down. In his first fight at welterweight, a dreary decision loss to Devon Alexander last year, Maidana was disarmed by little more than fleet feet and clinching. Unlike Alexander, Broner, 27-0 (22), is neither skittish nor clinch-happy, but he knows how to use his legs when he needs to. When on the attack, he is a sharp, accurate, committed puncher, and it is easy to envision Broner chopping Maidana up in the same manner he did Demarco, reclaiming some of his shine in the process.
What then, do we make of the selection of Maidana? He is a step up because, unlike Malignaggi, he can crumple men with his fists; he is a step back because he is as tricky as a monochromatic Rubik’s cube. And isn’t he also a lateral move, since beating Maidana says no more about Broner’s prospects against the best than beating Malignaggi did? If Maidana and Malignaggi represent opposite ends of the spectrum, the real threats to Broner lie somewhere closer to the mean. That he has yet to face such a foe says that there are bigger plans for Broner. It also says there may be reservations. Just not about Maidana; not about Saturday night.