by David P. Greisman
The downfall of the tragic hero is inevitable. It is brought about by hubris and by decisions gone awry. It must end badly for the tragic hero. Though he will ultimately recognize the error of his ways, that moment will come too late.
Perhaps this ending for Adrien Broner was foreseeable.
This ending was an evening in which he left the ring before he could be confronted about the errors of his ways, about the decisions and actions that had brought him defeat. He departed between the ropes, down the steps and past a hostile crowd, which made him the target of beer cups that he could not dodge as well as he was dodging questions.
There would be no post-fight interview with Broner immediately after his first pro loss. It would wait until he had returned to his dressing room, been examined by a physician, and collected his thoughts. It was fitting for a man whose responses often sounded canned, whose lines seemed rehearsed so that they could be repeated.
But those who wanted catharsis from Adrien Broner following his loss to Marcos Maidana would be disappointed. There would be no post-mortem, no dissection of what went wrong, no admission of failings.
There also would be no excuses.
“Tonight Maidana was just a better man,” Broner said.
That statement was true on several levels.
Broner had of course believed in his own superiority beforehand. To do otherwise is to accept defeat or to admit to the odds being against you. Broner came in undefeated, a three-division world titleholder, a boxer whose past performances had made him famous and favored.
None of that mattered once the opening bell rang. All that mattered was what happened on this one night during the next 47 minutes or less.
What happened was that Broner had bitten off more than he could chew.
He had been boxing since he was a small child, and now he was a 24-year-old man who believed himself to be gifted with greatness. He thought of himself as having the speed, power, reflexes and knowledge necessary to beat anyone, and that his hard work in the gym would prepare him for anything.
He had been a world titleholder at 130 pounds, won a second world title at 135 pounds, and then moved up to 147 to capture a third. That jump all the way up to welterweight was out of necessity. The lightweight division lacked big names. Many of the stars at 140 were busy with other fights. There was little to lose with testing the waters at 147.
And so he took on Paulie Malignaggi this past June and won a split decision. The victory demonstrated a few things: Broner didn’t carry as much power or speed, which showed when he landed punches and tried to avoid them.
Broner could have returned to a lower weight class. Instead he remained for another big fight, this one against Maidana.
“Maidana is a good fighter, a hell of a fighter, but he’s not on my level,” Broner said days before the bout. “I don't even think I've showed all of my abilities yet. Maidana is a different type of fighter and he might bring something else out of Adrien Broner that the world hasn't seen yet. Or he might be a regular fighter after I make him look the way I make him look.”
Broner overestimated himself and underestimated Maidana, then paid dearly.
Though he’d made weight comfortably, stepping on the scales at 144.4 pounds, Broner was 156.5 pounds on fight night, and those extra pounds had an effect on him. He was not as capable of evading shots. Nor did he have the power of a full-fledged welterweight.
Maidana knew that he couldn’t out-box Broner, but he could try to overwhelm him.
He pounced forward with a combination in the opening seconds of the fight. Broner leaned back and then to the left, and as he was turning, he tripped over Maidana’s right leg. Maidana saw Broner as off-balance and not ready for his attacks, and he opened up with an onslaught of shots.
Maidana bloodied Broner’s face in the first round, then knocked him down in the second. Maidana sent out a left hand in a manner that made it look like a jab heading toward Broner’s body, but he turned it into a hook and redirected it toward Broner’s head.
It might seem counterintuitive, but one of the most difficult opponents for a good boxer is someone who is awkward and unorthodox, someone whose punches come from odd angles and at odd times. It was one reason why Ricardo Mayorga was able to find so much success against the late Vernon Forrest, and it is partially why Broner couldn’t handle Maidana early on.
Maidana and his team also had studied Broner well, and had prepared a game plan that worked.
Barring a few close fights, Broner had often been fast enough, strong enough and smart enough to deal with anything.
He wasn’t doing enough to deter Maidana, though.
He still dug down in a tough fight, at times using head and body movement to slip punches and his gloves to block them. He sought to turn to jabs to the stomach to establish distance and quick combinations on offense to score points. He used holding and fouling to buy himself time and breathing room.
Yet in general he also stayed too close to Maidana, got hit far more than he’d been hit before, was often ineffective on the inside, and was nowhere near active or mobile enough.
Maidana outworked and outlanded Broner. He knocked Broner down again in the eighth, hurt him again in the ninth, and refused to be intimidated by Broner’s skills or status.
After all, Maidana had been in the ring before with stars, breaking down Victor Ortiz in 2009, losing a close decision to Amir Khan in 2010, and battling it out with veteran Erik Morales in 2011. He had fallen short three times: against Andriy Kotelnik in 2009, against Khan, and most recently against Devon Alexander in 2012.
He’d been training and improving under Robert Garcia, and that had since brought him technical knockout wins over Jesus Soto Karass and Josesito Lopez. They knew what a win against Broner would do for Maidana’s career.
It was a humbling loss for Broner, even if he didn’t sound humbled by it.
One way or another, Broner will be defined by this loss. Either it will undo him, acting as the clichéd exposure of a previously protected prizefighter, or it will drive him to improve, to train even harder and prepare even better.
On this night against Maidana, Adrien Broner bit off more than he could chew. But it is that kind of challenge that can drive a man to strive for greatness.
It is that hunger that brought Maidana victory against Broner. And it is now incumbent on Broner to show how he responds to defeat.
The 10 Count
1. Let’s flash back to half a year ago, to the moments after Adrien Broner had topped Paulie Malignaggi by split decision to win a welterweight title.
Broner said he wanted boxing fans to pick his next opponent. And as expected, fans voted for junior welterweight Lucas Matthysse.
Matthysse went on to lose to Danny Garcia on the undercard of Canelo Alvarez vs. Floyd Mayweather.
And instead it was another Argentine who ended up taking on Broner and taking him out.
2. ESPN’s Todd Grisham had one of the best lines I saw in the aftermath of Marcos Maidana’s win over Adrien Broner:
“Tough night for Adrien Broner professionally and financially,” Grisham wrote. “But not the first time he's flushed money down the toilet.”
Grisham was referencing an infamous video Broner made, but he was also right about the Maidana loss. That bout was originally supposed to be Broner’s debut as a pay-per-view headliner. Instead, the card was changed to a Showtime broadcast, with many expecting that Broner would venture into the pay-per-view arena in 2014.
Richard Schaefer of Golden Boy Promotions says that such a move will still possible in the future, and he’s right, but for now Broner’s market value has been diluted.
He’d marketed himself as a brash antihero, someone with fans and detractors, someone who people tuned in to see no matter what. In a way, he was similar to pro wrestler Ric Flair back during the 1980s, when he was so good at being a villain that people would spend on pay-per-views and arena tickets in the hope of seeing him lose.
Broner got his comeuppance against Maidana, and now there’s a segment of the audience that is satisfied. In lieu of him going to pay-per-view in his next bout, it will be interesting to see how the ratings for his next appearance compare to those for this most recent one.
Broner’s still marketable, of course. He is in entertaining fights, and he is a capable boxer who will need to realize that his talent alone isn’t always going to be enough. His storyline will be even more interesting to follow now that he needs to return and rebound from this crushing loss.
3. All I want for Christmas is a guarantee that we’ll get Marcos Maidana vs. Keith Thurman in 2014.
4. An update on an item from last week, when I mentioned that a fraction of members of the Boxing Writers Association of America had come up with a final ballot for the Fighter of the Year award in which the five candidates were Timothy Bradley, Danny Garcia, Gennady Golovkin, Sergey Kovalev and Floyd Mayweather.
One major name missing from the list was Adonis Stevenson. There were complaints from BWAA members, and there was justified criticism from outside observers.
Now the other four names not to make it onto the ballot initially will be added, bringing the total number to nine. Those other names are Mikey Garcia, Ruslan Provodnikov, Guillermo Rigondeaux and Stevenson.
What I’m now wondering is whether all of these candidates will split the vote so much that someone surprising will end up winning.
With that said, I’m glad Stevenson is on the ballot.
5. The ratings for the two major boxing broadcasts from Dec. 7 were not good, to say the least.
The HBO main event featuring Guillermo Rigondeaux vs. Joseph Agbeko was a literal turn off — the show went from 718,000 viewers for the co-feature of James Kirkland vs. Glen Tapia to 550,000 viewers for Rigondeaux-Agbeko.
I’m not sure whether Nielsen Ratings counted those who fell asleep in front of their televisions.
Showtime’s broadcast had its highest numbers during the main event of Paulie Malignaggi vs. Zab Judah at 640,000.
These weren’t the most attractive cards for casual fans, and bless us hardcore fans who tuned in despite knowing what we were potentially in for. It must also be noted that HBO and Showtime had competing cards and were splitting up the viewing audience. And three college football broadcasts on ABC, CBS and FOX that evening had more than 25 million viewers combined, according to Zap2it.com.
A total of 17 reruns of “South Park” on cable on Saturday got higher ratings than any of those boxing matches. A 7 a.m. episode of a children’s show based on a line of Lego toys pulled in 1.14 million viewers, which would be a decent number these days for a boxing broadcast. Eight reruns of “Modern Family” on Saturday had numbers that surpass almost all of boxing’s best ratings for 2013.
6. I know these aren’t apples-to-apples comparisons. Major cable networks are in more homes than HBO and Showtime, and the premium cable channels are ultimately concerned with subscribers, people who pay for the ability to have access to the programming, even if they don’t watch it.
This isn’t an indictment of the networks, really, so much as the state of boxing viewership as a whole in America.
We as boxing fans should want our audience numbers to be growing and not shrinking, and the latter is what has been happening over the years. Boxing isn’t at all dead or dying, yet this niche sport is becoming even more niche as the years go by, at least in the United States.
7. Boxers Behaving Badly: Former middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik was accused last week of driving under the influence of alcohol, according to the Youngstown (Ohio) Vindicator. Pavlik refused a breath test but “was still cited because the trooper had probable cause to believe Pavlik was drunk,” the newspaper report said.
Pavlik was already facing minor criminal charges for allegedly refusing to pay a taxi driver $25 after a ride home from an Ohio bar in September. A hearing in that case had been scheduled for Dec. 6 but has been postponed to Jan. 31, the newspaper reported.
In December 2011, Pavlik was accused of driving under the influence after allegedly crashing an all-terrain vehicle into a lamp post and telephone pole, according to past reports on this site. “He pleaded guilty in April 2012 … to a reduced charge of failure to control,” the Vindicator reported.
The 31-year-old retired earlier this year after a planned fight with Andre Ward was postponed due to Ward suffering an injury in training camp. His last bout was in July 2012, a decision win over Will Rosinsky. That brought his record to 40-2 with 34 knockouts.
8. As unfortunate as this latest Kelly Pavlik incident was from a legal perspective, he subsequently made it worse from an outsider’s perspective.
That’s because of what he posted on his Facebook page. First, there was this, less than 24 hours after his arrest:
“so we in society can say u can't drink and drive, but you can sell a 24 pack and have beers places, gas stations and everywhere else that sell beer yet if u get pulled over for 2 beers in your system ur fucked, should we not do the same for a 400 pound women or man that eats cheese burgers and french fries and orders a diet coke, and drive knowing he has high blood pressure and cholesterol”
Later, he recited crime statistics in Youngstown and asked how many other crimes “made front page and headline news” the way that he presumably did. “am i that important,” he wrote.
He’s a local figure whose accomplishments brought him fame, and whose subsequent failings are then going to be magnified. And it’s a shame that Pavlik doesn’t see how serious driving under the influence is — those who do it aren’t only placing their own lives in danger, but the lives of others, and that’s because the possibility of a motor vehicle crash is far more likely when the driver is impaired by alcohol.
Here’s hoping Pavlik snaps back to reality before something truly bad happens.
9. Four years ago, Kelly Pavlik was still the lineal middleweight champion, and Jermain Taylor had suffered bleeding on the brain that had led him to step away from the sport.
We’re now closing the book on 2013. Pavlik stepped away from the sport earlier this year, and Taylor is in the middle of a comeback.
Oh, and Bernard Hopkins — who lost to Taylor twice in 2005 and beat Pavlik in 2008 — is still going strong as he approaches his 49th birthday.
10. If that was Brandon Rios on performance enhancing drugs in his fight with Manny Pacquiao, I’d hate to have seen how he’d have done without them…
“Fighting Words” appears every Monday on BoxingScene.com. Pick up a copy of David’s new book, “Fighting Words: The Heart and Heartbreak of Boxing,” at http://bit.ly/fightingwordsamazon or internationally at http://bit.ly/fightingwordsworldwide . Send questions/comments via email at [email protected]