By Cliff Rold
Outside the ring, Adrien Broner mimics Floyd Mayweather. Inside the ring on Saturday night, boxing fans saw Andre Berto redux.
They also saw the value of being a hard-nosed professional, taking tough fights consistently, and becoming the better for it. There was mass elation throughout social media, and what appears an infinite stream of memes for the occasion. It wasn’t just the comprehensive ass kicking Broner took.
It was who delivered it.
There are stars in boxing. Then there are the fighters hardcore fans hold close to heart, the ones who leave pieces of themselves in the ring with humility and a blue-collar ethic. Marcos Maidana gave himself the win to open the door to being both.
To the victor go the spoils; to the spoiled, earned comeuppance.
Let’s go the report cards.
Pre-Fight: Speed – Broner A; Maidana B-/Post: A-; B
Pre-Fight: Power – Broner B; Maidana A/Post: Same
Pre-Fight: Defense – Broner B; Maidana C-/Post: C; Maidana C+
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Broner B; Maidana A/Post: C+; A
There’s nothing wrong with being another Andre Berto. Berto proved to have a warrior’s spirit in the ring and has made for some excellent scraps.
That said, when a fighter is positioned early for vacant belts against stiffs and is carefully maneuvered while media heap praise and speculate about grand futures, there are always those wondering why the emperor is underdressed.
When the subject of early praise behaves like an infantile jerk, they want to see the false emperor deposed. For all the talk about the belts he’s won, Broner’s best win before this weekend was a close one with Paulie Malignaggi. That’s a solid victory. It’s not the basis for megastardom.
Eventually, every fighter has to face what Larry Merchant has referred to as truth machines. “The Problem” had one with the truth before him.
Maidana got down to that business right away on Saturday. He rocked Broner in the first round with a right hand, the myth of Broner’s outstanding defense on display again immediately. Before the round was over, Broner would slip behind Maidana for a series of pelvic thrusts.
That gesture made the rest of the night so much better.
In a moment that brought back memories of Kostya Tszyu-Zab Judah, Broner rose on shaky legs after being dropped in the second. He didn’t fall again while waving at the ref to give him a second and made it out of the round.
Maidana kept piling on. He was throwing more, landing more, landing harder, and outboxing the presumed better technician. It may not have been until the sixth round that Maidana actually lost a round. Displaying the will he’s become known for, Maidana rebounded from what appeared to be creeping fatigue in six and seven to drop Broner again in the eighth.
Maidana just wouldn’t be denied.
He wasn’t always clean about it. The headbutt after the second knockdown, multiple blows flirting beneath the belt line, and a willingness to meet elbows and shoves with equal fire were not Marquis of Queensbury specials. In winning as many as ten rounds of the fight, Maidana made it all part of a comprehensive shelling.
And, of course, there was the emotional climax of the fight. Channeling his inner “American Me,” Maidana avenged the earlier backdoor violation with one of his own. The crowd roared as Broner was made the co-star in the only sex tape of his worth watching.
This scribe ain’t watched any other one starring the young Ohioan and ain’t starting now.
How much credit Broner gets for the night can be varied. He showed guts getting off the floor and working his way back into the fight during its middle stages. He was winning the twelfth early with aggression, only for Maidana to turn the tide one more time in the final minute. Regardless, Broner made the bell. He could easily have folded.
Then again, it looked like he might have tried. His reaction to the eighth round headbutt, a delayed flop that would make the worst soccer faker giggle, can’t be completely ignored because he otherwise took his beating. And now there are new questions about his resilience, his adaptability, and his ring IQ. He knows how to fight. Forced to fight back, he didn’t have many answers. After the fight, he knew how to flee the ring, a fighter who could dish it out verbally unwilling to honorably take questions.
Maidana asked too many of the right questions of him already.
What Maidana exposed Saturday wasn’t revelatory. Broner’s defensive liabilities and punch output issues aren’t newly recognized. Making the same mistake as many, it was wrongly assumed Maidana wasn’t the man to solve those problems.
It’s easy to see athleticism and assume a fighter is still getting better. Maybe Broner already is who he is and that’s why he needed a little luck to get by Fernando Quintero and Daniel Ponce De Leon on his way up the ranks?
Or maybe this is the loss he needed to really complete his development?
If it’s the former, that’s not a bad thing for fans. He’ll continue being in watchable fights, winning some and losing some, and that’s the nature of the beast for most guys. The pick in the pre-fight report card (Broner by stoppage) couldn’t have been more wrong.
It’s good to be wrong sometimes.
Today, it’s better to be Marcos Maidana.
Report Card Picks 2013: 63-30
Based on the WBA situation at Welterweight, Maidana as titlist and Keith Thurman as interim titlist, Maidana-Thurman looks inevitable. Would anyone argue with that? Thurman showed another step in his professional growth, overcoming a game Jesus Soto Karass for yet another stoppage win…Leo Santa Cruz overcame a skilled foe on Saturday and he too continues a steady growth curve. He’s not the best at 122 lbs. but, being that his spot in the Cold War makes a Guillermo Rigondeuax fight impossible for the time being, he doesn’t have to be. Santa Cruz can just amass fans and make good fights...Anyone excited about Bernard Hopkins-Beibut Shumenov? Anyone?...If there were stock available in any fighter on the rising market, this scribe would invest in Errol Spence.
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]