By Cliff Rold
Some don’t care for his antics outside the ring.
Regardless of those reactions, Adrien Broner has quickly figured out how to get both fans and detractors to care about what he does inside the ring. If “The Problem” has one, it is that question marks remain. With 27 wins and belts in three weight classes, there are still questions about just how tested Broner has been.
Saturday night’s main event on Showtime (8 PM EST/5 PM PST) is the next step in answering those questions. Only 24, he’s making his progressions more organically than might be realized given the fog that belts provide.
His run at 130 lbs. didn’t feature much in the way of top-flight competition. It did feature a pair of questionable decision wins on his way up against Fernando Quintero and Daniel Ponce De Leon. It also featured an initial title win against a foe so hapless that Andre Berto and Canelo Alvarez had to wonder why they had it so hard getting their first belts.
Broner’s last three fights have seen the challenges and chances for growth increased. Broner was excellent is walking through Lightweight titlist Antonio DeMarco and handled game former titlist Gavin Rees. While it was competitive, he fairly beat Paulie Malignaggi a two-division jump later for another strap. Now, Broner gets the puncher.
Marcos Maidana has been a reliably tough test for almost everyone he’s faced at 140 and 147 lbs. A lopsided loss to Devon Alexander is a lone outlier in a career full of crowd-pleasing brawls. He broke the will of Victor Ortiz and proved the will of Amir Khan while pushing him to the brink. Entering this title opportunity, he has three straight stops but this is clearly the worst style match for him since the Alexander bout.
Can he punch through the style?
Let’s go the report cards.
Title: WBA Welterweight (2013-Present, 1st Attempted Defense); WBC Lightweight (2012-Present, 1 Defense); not on the line
Previous Titles: WBO Super Featherweight (2011-Present, 1 Defense)
Weight: 144.4 lbs.
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 135.75 lbs.
Hails from: Cincinnati, Ohio
Record: 27-0, 22 KO
Rankings: #4 (ESPN), #5 (BoxRec), #6 (ESPN), #8 (BoxingScene), #9 (TBRB)
Record in Major Title Fights: 5-0, 4 KO
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Defeated: 4 (Daniel Ponce De Leon UD10; Antonio DeMarco TKO8; Gavin Rees RTD5; Pauli Malignaggi SD12)
Previous Titles: WBA Light Welterweight (2011)
Weight: 146.2 lbs.
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 145.5 lbs.
Hails from: Jose Leon Suarez, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Record: 34-3, 31 KO
Rankings: #6 (BoxingScene), #7 (ESPN), #8 (TBRB), #9 (BoxRec),
Record in Major Title Fights: 1-2, 1 KO (6-2, 4 KO including interim title fights)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Defeated: 3 (Andriy Kotelnik L12; Victor Ortiz TKO6; DeMarcus Corley UD12; Amir Khan L12; Erik Morales MD12; Devon Alexander L10)
Pre-Fight: Speed – Broner A; Maidana B-
Pre-Fight: Power – Broner B; Maidana A
Pre-Fight: Defense – Broner B; Maidana C-
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Broner B; Maidana A
Alexander isn’t the only time Maidana has struggled with a slicker, quicker man. Corley, well past his prime, gave him fits and Broner can emulate much of what made those men successful. While he often fights flat-footed, Broner keeps his jab working and fires an assortment of punches behind it. He has been exact about his output, picking up the volume as the rounds go by. If he can consistently pop Maidana, step around, and force the Argentine to follow him, he could make this an easy night.
Maidana has to take advantage of the openings he can find and make it count. There have been those who, because of Broner’s mini-Mayweather marketing, compare Broner to Mayweather defensively. He’s good, but he’s not that good and gets caught in most fights. Rees hit him often early, though perhaps that was more a case of Broner not caring about what came back. DeMarco found him with single shots but couldn’t hurt him or take the return fire. De Leon and Malignaggi both touched him enough to keep the fights close on the cards.
Maidana has power and size none of those fighters have. If anyone Broner’s faced so far can get him in trouble, it’s Maidana.
But if anyone is going to make him look defensively brilliant, it’s also Maidana. The reason is simple. Maidana is slow. He puts punches together well, possesses rare spirit, and has better timing than he gets credit for but he needs those things because he’s unlikely to surprise with a single shot.
Maidana can be hurt. He appeared weary against Alexander, was dropped by the quicker Ortiz and Khan, and was shaken in several other fights. So far, no one has kept him down and one wonders how Broner will respond if he finds a hurt Maidana bearing down and throwing harder. Broner is apt to shake his head when fighters catch him to say he’s not hurt. Maidana isn’t going to be bothered by a shaken head.
Can Broner hurt him? One would assume so but how much power he has at Welterweight remains to be determined. He never really had Malignaggi in trouble and for now it’s wait and see on Broner’s power in higher classes. He might not get a lot done with a single shot early, but if he keeps tagging Maidana and isn’t taking much back, the chance to be the first man to stop Maidana increases.
Both men make for fun offensive fights and Broner, betraying the hype, isn't the defensive wizard some think he is. He gets hit in most fights and Maidana can hit with the best of them. Unfortunately, he still gets hit much more than Broner and the fledgling porn star knows how to use his feet for space. Devon Alexander multiplied the offense on Maidana and had him looking on the verge. Broner has more firepower than Devon and, while Maidana may have some fun moments, Broner breaks him down before it’s over. The pick here is a stoppage in the last third of the fight.
Report Card Picks 2013: 60-29
As for the rest of the Showtime card…Welterweight Keith Thurman (21-0, 19 KO) is the fresher man and Jesus Soto Karass (28-8-3, 18 KO) has miles on him. This looks like fun but hard to imagine the pressure of Soto Karass breaking him down the same as Berto (or even getting the same opportunities)…Cesar Seda (25-1, 17 KO) has never been stopped but spent much of his career at 115. He has the size for the division and presents a southpaw challenge. Jr. Bantamweight titlist Leo Santa Cruz (25-0-1, 15 KO) should pressure enough to overcome on points…Finally, Light Heavyweight beltholder Beibut Shumenov (13-1, 8 KO) is clearly being positioned to face Bernard Hopkins in a unification match. Call it the B-bracket below the real crown held by Stevenson with prime challenger Sergey Kovalev. Tamas Kovacs (23-0, 14 KO) should be a minor obstacle. The pick is Shumenov on points.
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, and a member the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel, and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]