By David P. Greisman
Marcos Maidana said from the outset that he didn’t believe in the Adrien Broner mystique, that he didn’t feel the undefeated three-division titleholder was one of the best fighters in boxing.
But it wasn’t just what Maidana thought about Broner that mattered — it was what Maidana was going to do about it.
And what he did was try to rough Broner up from the beginning, pummeling Broner in the first round and bloodying his face, knocking Broner down in the second round and again in the eighth, and taking a unanimous decision that gave Broner his first professional loss.
Judge Levi Martinez had Maidana winning 117-109, giving him 10 of the 12 rounds. Nelson Vazquez had it 116-109, giving Maidana nine rounds. And Stanley Christoudolou had it 115-110, giving Maidana eight rounds.
But no one gave Maidana anything. He worked for it, and took it for himself.
“It was a very tough fight. It wasn’t an easy fight,” Maidana said afterward, speaking through a translator. “I did this hard work to get to this point, so this win is very satisfying to me.”
Maidana had fought other star opponents before, and had even beaten a couple. Yet he hadn’t ever truly been on top of the sport in the way that Broner has been. Broner’s been pushed and marketed for years, and he’s become an antihero who people either watch, hoping he wins, or they watch, hoping he loses.
Broner briefly held a world title at 130 pounds before going up to 135 and capturing a belt there. He then moved all the way up to 147 to face Paulie Malignaggi in June, defeating him and adding another title to his collection in a bout won via split decision.
Some felt that Broner’s struggles with Malignaggi meant he didn’t belong at welterweight. And Maidana, who moved from 140 to 147 about two years ago, hits much harder than Malignaggi does.
Amazingly, Maidana was first emboldened, and encouraged, when Broner tripped in the first round. Maidana then charged in with heavy right hands, and later a left hook, many of them missing or being blocked, but the entirety of them forcing Broner to hold on.
As the round came to a close, Broner escaped from a corner, turned his back on Maidana and wiped blood from his face. Maidana pursued, threw a left hook and then followed with a right hand that landed clean. Broner waved Maidana in, and soon he spun Maidana around and thrust his hips into Maidana’s backside.
Broner was being cocky. He’d soon learn just how tough this fight would be.
Maidana landed a left hook early in the second round as Broner dropped his gloves and pulled his head straight back despite not yet being out of range. A similar sequence sent Broner to the canvas just 20 seconds in. Broner rose on shaky legs, and Maidana approached with a wild left hook that missed and sent himself down. Another left hook and a right hand put Broner on the ropes, though Maidana began to slow as the round wound down, and Broner began to look for openings.
“Every time I landed a punch, I felt that I was hurting him,” Maidana said.
Maidana had significantly outlanded Broner in those first two rounds, but Broner came out in the third looking as if his legs were back, while Maidana looked as if he needed to recuperate from all of the energy he expended. Nevertheless, all three judges gave Maidana the third round.
In the fourth, Broner began to find more success weaving away from Maidana’s punches. He still wasn’t doing too much on offense, though he did land some right hands, left hooks and body shots in rounds four, five and six.
“He was a hard puncher, and I had to be cautious,” Maidana said. “He’s a good boxer, a good puncher. Yes, I felt him.”
Through seven rounds, Maidana had landed 143 power punches, while Broner had landed 82, according to CompuBox. The eighth round began with Broner landing a left hook as Maidana came forward, followed by a good one-two combination. The left hook landed for Broner a few more times.
What started off as Broner’s round soon went in the opposite direction. Maidana landed a left hook, followed by a right to the body, and finished with another left hook upstairs, and Broner was down for the second time. He rose and held onto Maidana, pushing him downward. Maidana lifted his head up and butted Broner with the back of his head. Broner moved away, and then took a dramatic turn with what appeared to be an exaggerated fall to the canvas.
Referee Laurence Cole took a point from Maidana, and what was a 10-8 round on two judges’ scorecards became a 9-8 round for Maidana — and an even 9-9 on Levi Martinez’s card.
Fortunately for Maidana, he made sure that the final scorecards wouldn’t be close.
He hurt Broner again in the ninth, finding a second wind and landing shots on an opponent whose reflexes were slower at this weight class, and were slowed down even more by what Maidana had done to him.
And in the 11th, Maidana returned a favor to Broner; Broner got turned around, and Maidana thrust his hips into Broner’s backside.
Broner, meanwhile, might have recognized that the fight was getting away from him, and he caught Maidana with a left hand after the bell.
Broner had his moments in the 12th, enough to win the round on two judges’ scorecards, yet nowhere near enough to score the come-from-behind victory.
The final bell rang. Minutes later, Maidana was announced as the winner. Broner left the ring without an interview.
“I don’t think he [Broner] was on tonight,” Broner’s trainer, Mike Stafford, said afterward. “I thought it was a little closer than they had it, but I just don’t think he was on tonight.”
Broner soon began to open up while in his dressing room.
“I’ll tell you one thing: Make a rematch,” Broner said while being examined by a physician. “I don’t need a warm-up fight. I want a rematch.”
“I’m OK. I’m still a three-time world champion in three different weight classes,” he added later. “Tonight Maidana was just a better man, and he fought a better fight, and I hope the fans still get what they deserved.”
Maidana landed 269 of 964 punches, including 231 of 663 power shots, according to CompuBox. He hit Broner to the body 101 times. Broner, meanwhile, was 149 of 400, including 122 of 292 power punches.
Maidana, 30, of Argentina, is now 35-3 (31 KOs). Broner, 24, of Cincinnati, is now 27-1 (22 KOs).
IN THE CO-FEATURE
It wasn’t just Keith Thurman’s chin that was tested against Jesus Soto Karass. Nor was it just his hands that delivered him to victory.
Thurman used his head, which told him to use his feet. And using his feet allowed him to use his hands more while getting hit less by Soto Karass’ shots, an approach that ultimately earned the welterweight contender a ninth-round technical knockout.
At the beginning, however, it didn’t seem as if Thurman would even make it out of the first round. Soto Karass wobbled Thurman with a right hand, then another — one of those punches a perfectly timed counter that caught Thurman as he was pulling back a jab and sending out a right uppercut.
Thurman got his bearings back, sending out left hooks to try to get Soto Karass’ immediate respect. He then began to move out of range, tossing out jabs to establish distance, then closing the distance with left hooks. Toward the round’s end, Thurman loaded up with a right hand that momentarily hurt Soto Karass.
“I’m a boxer-puncher. I think the fans are starting to see that more and more,” Thurman said afterward. “He tested my chin, but you know true champions take shots and they give shots. Even if he knocked me down, I was prepared to get up and win the fight.
“He made me bring it out from Round 1. He was ready Round 1. I was dilly-dallying in Round 1. And he turned the lights on and woke me up, and it was a fight ever since.”
It was a fight, but increasingly it was a fight on Thurman’s terms.
Thurman moved away to give himself room, time and air, then would set his feet, send out a hard shot or two or three, then move again. Soto Karass kept coming, kept digging into Thurman’s body, and kept sending out big overhand right hands. Those shots were often missing Thurman’s head, but they remained ever so dangerous.
He wasn’t able to grind Thurman down, though. And soon he would be knocked down.
In the fifth round, Thurman sent out a jab, followed with a right hand that missed, and then followed with a big left uppercut that landed. The shot was followed by a bit of a forearm push, and Soto-Karass was on the canvas.
Soto-Karass got up and survived the round. He had weathered the storm, and still hadn’t been put away. He still wasn’t able to take back the momentum. Thurman’s movement was limiting exchanges and his vulnerability.
It was not the war that many had expected and hoped for. It was a great performance for Thurman, and he gave himself a great ending.
In the ninth, Thurman landed a left hook to Soto Karass’ chin that had him out on his feet, and followed it up with a right hand to the ear, a jab, another right hand, and a left uppercut. Soto Karass began to crumple, and the referee jumped in, halting the bout with 39 seconds remaining in the round.
Thurman was ahead on all three scorecards at the time: 80-71, 79-72 and 78-73 after eight rounds. He landed more than half his power punches, according to CompuBox, going 135 of 253, or 53 percent. And his total average was also good: he was 260 of 586, or 44 percent.
Soto Karass was 105 of 361, or 29 percent, with his power punches, and 148 of 688, or 22 percent, overall.
Thurman, 25, of Clearwater, Fla., improves to 22-0 (20 KOs, 1 no contest). Soto-Karass, 31, of Los Mochis, Mexico, is now 28-9-1 (18 KOs, 1 no contest).
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]