Marcos Maidana has been here before.
In June 2009, Golden Boy were throwing their full promotional weight behind a young fighter. Victor Ortiz was 24-1-1 with the loss being a slightly controversial DQ and the draw being a technical decision with less than a round boxed. He had fast, heavy hands having stopped 19 of his opponents and he’d picked up some notable wins… blasting out former world champion Carlos Maussa in a round and the then still fairly well regarded Mike Arnaoutis. More then that he was handsome and personable with more than a hint of Oscar De La Hoya himself about him. Golden Boy expected big things from the young man as he prepared to box for his first world title against a little known Argentinian who had lost his last bout.
Adrien Broner is not in exactly the same position Victor Ortiz was. While Ortiz was a contender with the hope of going further, Broner is already a three weight world champion with notable wins over Daniel Ponce De Leon, Jason Litzau, Vicente Escobedo, Antonio DeMarco and Paulie Malignaggi. But Broner is a young man who Golden Boy promotions (and in extension, Showtime) have put a lot of effort into hyping and are looking to as someone who can carry the company forward in years to come. And now, much like Ortiz, Broner finds himself standing opposite an menacing Argentinian power puncher who wants to make a mockery of such ambitions.
Can he do it?
Despite a moderately successful amateur career, regularly competing (albeit not doing well) at international events, Maidana is not a particularly subtle or nuanced fighter. As a general rule he marches forward throwing heavy hands until his opponent falls over and for much of his career he’s been positively crude, relying on power, relentless aggression and stamina to get him through where skill and technical ability let him down. Despite that, Maidana can claim to have not been legitimately beaten. His bout with Andriy Kotelnik was narrow but I had Maidana the clear winner in a war where he gave out a pretty sickening beating towards the end, his bout with Amir Khan was another narrow war with Khan almost out on his feet at times (and getting help from referee Joe Cortez’s strange view on when to separate the two) and while his loss to Devon Alexander was in no way exciting, Maidana can point out the vast amount of holding Alexander was allowed to get away with.
That said, there have been boxers who have been able to exploit Maidana’s crudeness. DeMarcus Corley has fallen a long way since his time as a world title holder in 2002/3 and by 2010 was essentially a name for hire, brought in to give contenders and prospects a few rounds and a slight test. When he was named as a Maidana opponent most expected him to be little more than a punching bag but instead he frustrated and exploited Maidana’s flaws in losing a narrow decision. Likewise, a faded Erik Morales lost a narrow decision to Maidana despite having one eye virtually closed because he was able to negate much of the Argentinian’s offence with his underrated technical skills on the inside.
Because of that it’s been a welcome change to see Maidana over the last few bouts. Now under the tutelage of Robert Garcia, Maidana’s shown remarkable technical improvement. That’s of course not to say he’s Willie Pep reborn or that he’s going to come out and box like Rigondeux but Maidian has improved; his balance is far better, his defence is far less open when he throws and at times he’s even started to slip and roll punches. All of that will be of importance in a bout with Broner.
Frequently compared (such as here and here) to Mayweather Jr with regards to everything from his skills to his approach to his mannerisms and personality, there are still many questions hanging over Adrien Broner. I’ll resist the temptation to talk about the way “The Problem” conducts his personal life or his tendency to take photos and then put them online regardless of how appropriate they are, but within the boxing ring he is still somewhat of an unknown quality at 147lbs. He was impressive at the lighter weights without ever really being dominant, winning world titles at both 130 and 135lbs but never being “the man” of the division and generally avoiding (whether his fault or not) the other top fighters; he never faced Ricky Burns or Miguel Vazquez at 135lbs nor the likes of Juan Carlos Salgado, Takashi Uchiyama or Roman Martinez at 130lbs. At his best Broner has an excellent combination of power and speed, standing his ground as opponents attack before countering with lighting fast shots, notably a dangerous uppercut. His defence is generally good although he does get hit more than someone with his talent should be, often when attempting to shoulder roll or slip in an overly dramatic way. That said at the lower weights even when he was hit with clean shots it barely phased him; Gavin Rees for example seemed to bounce his punches straight off Broner, although that could well be due to the fact Broner was physically a much larger man then everyone he faced at those weights.
As I said at a time, Broner’s bout with Paulie Malignaggi saw Broner posed a number of questions notably how would he deal with a stick and move boxer rather than the face-first brawlers he had largely taken on to that point and would his power go up the weight divisions with him? Neither question was quite answered definitively. Broner clearly wasn’t entirely comfortable having to box on the front foot and walk Malignaggi down but he did find some success doing so. Likewise while he did trouble Paulie at times with his power, Paulie’s been hurt far worse by other boxers… notably Khan at 140lbs and even in Malignaggi’s previous bout at 147lbs against the tough but limited Pablo Cesar Cano he was put down and more significantly hurt. I had Broner winning a narrow victory but it certainly wasn’t a virtuoso performance.
Facing Maidana carries both more and less risk. Stylistically Maidana is far closer to the likes of DeMarco and Rees than he is Malignaggi; Maidiana’s going to come straight for Broner rather than try to move around him. On the other hand Maidana can pose a question Malignaggi couldn’t; how will Broner’s chin hold up to a 147lbs power puncher landing on it?
I’m genuinely on the fence about this bout. I think I can see how it goes; Maidana marching forwards while Broner stands his ground, looking to slip, counter and fire off shots between Maidana’s flurries. But there are still questions I’m just not sure I know the answer to. Broner does get hit in bouts… can he survive Maidana’s power? Does he have enough power himself to gain the respect of, let alone hurt Maidana? Maidana’s been down before… but he gets back up and simply looks angrier than he was previously. Will Broner target the body, somewhere where Maidana has historically looked vulnerable?
Broner is clearly a natural talent but I haven’t seen much improvement in his technical skills over recent years but there are again questions as to whether Broner is a Mayweather level talent or merely a good, young boxer who’s been highly hyped and whatever my personal opinions on his life outside the ring, it clearly could be a distraction. Broner’s likely to have never been hit as hard as Maidana can and while he does have a solid defence he also relies on his chin more than I’d like to see from someone of his talent. If Maidana can start teeing off on Broner then some shots are going to get through… and I’m not sure I’d pick anyone at 147lbs to take Maidana’s shots regularly. Likewise, if Broner doesn’t have the power to deter Maidana then Maidana’s going to simply walk forwards and then through him.
That said, I think Broner takes it. I think he has enough power to keep Maidana honest and enough skills and athletic ability to win rounds. Maidana won’t make it easy and will likely give Broner several worrying moments but I think Broner likewise troubles Maidana at times and does enough to win a narrow decision.