Before a raucous crowd at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas, welterweight Marcos Maidana gave Adrien Broner a lesson in what self-promotion in a bloodsport is really about, hammering out a unanimous decision over the self-proclaimed “future of boxing.”
That does not mean this lesson was absorbed mind you: Broner may be too lost in the swirl of his own hype and hype-men to ever learn from, or even acknowledge, his shortcomings. But Broner is unlikely to forget whatever he gleaned from the twelve painful rounds he shared with Maidana. Brought in yet again as a supporting player for another network star, Maidana, like he did to Victor Ortiz in 2009, threw the script in the garbage. Largely dismissive of Maidana in the build up to Saturday night, Broner, Cincinnati, Ohio, assured all that the plodding slugger was not on his level. The stoic Maidana promised only to do his part and to hit his opponent very hard. Which is what he did, for twelve merciless rounds.
Preferring to start slowly, Broner typically takes a round or two to measure his opponent before gearing up and walking him down. This approach hinges on the expectation that his opponent will present no serious threat during this investigation, and that, when he decides to go on the offensive, Broner’s pressure and punches will carry the day. Maidana, Santa Fe, Argentina, upended the first expectation in the opening rounds, shaking Broner with a left hook in the first, and dropping him hard with another hook in the second. Hurt badly on his first trip to the canvas as a professional, Broner managed to beat the count, and even scored with a few counters, but he remained on wobbly pins.
Down early on the scorecards, Broner was in the unenviable position of having to bring the fight to Maidana to regain control. At his best, Broner marches forward behind his guard and use his superior hand speed to tag his opponents, so pressuring Maidana would not put Broner out of his comfort zone. The problem was this strategy forced Broner to do the slower Maidana’s legwork for him. For the remainder of the fight Broner had to linger within range to have a chance, where the man with the revolver tattoo fired away.
Despite his calamitous start, Broner put his accuracy on display in the middle rounds. He scored with counter left hooks and sharp crosses, but his power, the evil he used to wipe out smaller men, was conspicuously absent. Maidana walked through Broner’s best shots, drove him to the ropes, and slugged him wherever he could. Here the second expectation in Broner’s strategy was thrown out the window. His offence was failing to produce the desired effect. Broner-Maidana had become a fight where the winner could very well be determined by who did more damage with his next punch, and Maidana had made his bones under just such terms.
Broner, 144 1/2, was decked again in the eighth, first by a left hook, then by a headbutt, the latter sending him to the canvas writhing in agony. In a flash of competence, referee Laurence Cole rightly deducted a point from Maidana (while allowing Broner’s many forearm shivers to go noted but unpunished).
To his credit, Broner dusted off his second knockdown and went for broke in the championship rounds. He scored to the body and ripped Maidana with uppercuts; but nothing in his arsenal could dissuade Maidana from stalking him, not even the sucker punch Broner caught him with after the bell in the eleventh. Exhorted by trainer Robert Garcia to not take a backward step, Maidana, 146, came out for the twelfth pounding his chest, daring Broner to swap leather. Broner obliged, trading ferociously with Maidana for the final minute of the fight, and, as he had throughout the previous eleven rounds, taking the worst of it. Scores read 115-109, 115-110, 117-109, for Maidana. Suffering his first loss as a professional, his jaw grotesquely swollen, Broner tottered woozily for the refuge of his dressing room.
What the future holds for Broner—outside of what should be a long rest—remains to be seen. This much, however, is clear: the physical advantages he imposed on smaller men have been mitigated by his move to welterweight, and he is no longer the bullying force he once was. Never as defensively responsible as the forced comparisons to Floyd Mayweather, Jr., made him seem, Broner, 27-1 (22), took a hiding from Maidana. Granted, Maidana is nothing if not a puncher, and Broner did his reputation a service by climbing off the deck and wading once more into the torrent of blows, but he could not punch himself back into the contest. His style, predicated on caliber not volume, will fail him again if he remains at welterweight. Of course, moving down in weight would be a second defeat of sorts, an admittance of weakness Broner is unlikely to concede. He is pushing for an immediate rematch with Maidana, which means somewhere, beneath the sequins, the jewelry, and the rest of the trash, beats the heart of a fighter. A fighter who will never make billions, mind you, a fighter who is not the heir apparent to Mayweather Jr., but one who might learn that what makes a fighter compelling isn’t rapping on the side, or wiping your ass with money, it is first and foremost delivering between the ropes.
This lesson never had to be imparted on Maidana: such violence was his only option. Brought in as the fall guy on numerous occasions, Maidana was invited back again and again not only for his vulnerabilities but because his appeal lay in the promise of carnage he unfailingly honors. Outside of the Broner rematch, there is talk of Maidana facing Keith Thurman, donning again the foil’s cap against another future star (one far more proven than Broner). He remains largely a puncher with an indomitable will, which means there are losses in his future; but Maidana, 35-3 (31), has the currency in boxing to endure a loss because for him the outcome of a fight is only marginally more important than the process that delivers it. And woe to those who overlook him, who see a mark in his wide punches, exposed chin, and lumbering pursuit: he is a fighter who refuses to go quietly, and his fists do all the talking.