It was a beating.
Marcos Rene Maidana, the hard punching Argentinian, outworked, bullied and most shockingly at times outclassed the incredibly highly regarded Adrien Broner to win a one-sided decision having dropped Broner twice and had a point deducted himself.
The simple way to look at the bout was that Maidana outworked Broner, in some rounds throwing going on ten times the punches that the WBA champion threw in return. But that misses the fact that Maidana wasn’t just throwing, he was also landing. Broner’s defence has always been more porous then one would expect considering his reputation but here it was wide open at times. Throughout the bout Broner couldn’t read Maidana’s jab, being speared by it multiple times and, more worryingly, unable to tell when it would turn from a jab to a hook to either the head or body and even when Maidana reverted to type and threw wild, looping shoots Broner still found himself caught. To be fair many of the punches were blocked, deflected or ridden but a significant number landed and the roar from the crowd whenever one did made clear who the partisan fans favoured… especially when Broner tumbled to the floor twice.
For his own part, when Broner did throw punches they looked good and at times he dissected Maidana with slick combinations and some sickening uppercuts. But outside of the 12th round and early in the 10th those were so few and far between that it was hard to reward Broner for them. Throughout the bout there was a worrying lack of intensity from the controversial champion and while he never appeared to mentally collapse, neither did he really seem to make a stand to defend his title till it was too late.
Early on the bout was a battle of an aggressive Maidana swarming a static Broner and overwhelming him with offence. Broner couldn’t get his own shots off and despite managing to avoid many of Maidana’s wild blows, he couldn’t stop them all. Maidana simply bullied Broner, swarming him with wild overhands and uppercuts, working the body and then the head before dropping Broner for the first time in his career in the second round. Broner returned to his feet seemingly untroubled but he still had no answer for Maidana’s raw aggression and power. Towards the midpoint of the bout Broner improved as Maidana appeared to slow down and “The Problem” changed tactics, no longer standing off Maidana but instead trying to walk him down and put him on the back foot. While this succeeded in negating some of Maidana’s offence, Broner continued to struggle to let his hands go or do anything positive himself and so even then it was hard to give him many rounds. With Maidana seeming to gain a second wind in the seventh, Broner took yet more punches before being dropped by a hook following a combination in the eighth. Arguably Broner’s most successful moment came almost immediately after… and had nothing to do with him. Trapped in a messy clinch with Broner holding on, Maidana grew frustrated and delivered an intentional headbutt. Broner’s shameful amateur dramatics as he collapsed to the ground were unnecessary and unwanted but the Argentinian was deservedly deducted a point.
However if this was meant to be a turning point with Broner stepping on the gas for a famous come from behind victory, it failed to be such a catalyst. Maidana came out for the next round fired up, punished Broner some more and then repeated the process in the 10th. Broner finally started to up his offence at this point but even then it came in spurts and a good 30 seconds early on in a round would be followed by nothing for the next minute.
Throughout the bout the referee had done a pretty shoddy job. While he was right to deduct the point he did and generally kept the action flowing, he constantly warned Broner for pushing and holding without taking a point… but the low point came at the end of the 11th. Broner landed a shot that was clearly after the bell without receiving a warning let alone a point deduction. That blow clearly troubled Maidana in the final round… but despite Broner finally boxing with some intensity Maidana still hung on and by the end was once again battering Broner with punches. The wide decesion was entirely deserved.
As I said in my preview, Maidana has previous when it comes to derailing the hopes of promoters and their golden boys (no pun intended) and while tonight may not have ended in a stoppage as his victory over Victor Ortiz did, it was no less convincing. There was no reason to deny Maidana’s power, heart or workrate prior to the bout and there certainly shouldn’t be now but despite his general wildness it’s also worth noting that there were still some technical improvements there… and they were important. Of real note is Maidana’s surprisingly effective straight jab and the way he turned it into a hook to deceive Broner, which showed strong strategic planning from his trainer Robert Garcia and a willingness by Maidana to put a plan into action.
In a perfect world the cold war between Golden Boy and Top Rank wouldn’t exist and we could all be looking forward to Maidana facing Ruslan Provodnikov in a contest that would be boxing at it’s most violent and raw. But the fact remains that Cold War does exist and that bout is denied to us. With Thurman winning his bout a unification between the interim and “normal” WBA champions carries some interest but I doubt it’s a bout either side want right now; Thurman still needs some development time and Maidana is looking for bigger paydays against higher profile boxers. If Danny Garcia is coming to 147lbs and he doesn’t get a bout with Mayweather a contest between those two carries real intrigue and assuming he can get a win or two under his belt an all-Argentinian slug-fest between Maidana and Lucas Martin Matthysse is something that boxing fans have been hoping for for years.
As for Broner there are two ways to look at this. If you viewed him as the second coming and already a pound for pound level talent then this is a disaster… not just in terms of the result but also in terms of the performance. If you viewed him as a promising prospect who still needed to answer questions, especially at 147lbs, despite his hype then while still disappointing it’s certainly not the end of the world. Broner will be back.
Going into the bout I thought there were two real questions hanging over Broner at welterweight; whether his power came with him and whether he could take a powerful 147lbs boxer’s punches. The answer to both is “sort of”. Despite going down twice, Broner took a lot of shots from Maidana, many of them clean, and handled them fairly well… and you won’t find too many stronger punches at welterweight than Maidana unless you stand in front of Randall Bailey and tell him to do his worst. Likewise, when Broner did manage to land clean punches, especially in combination, they seemed to trouble Maidana… the simple issue is that they were few or far between.
Perhaps that point best illustrates Broner’s difficulty. At the lower weights he could afford to take punches because they didn’t really do anything to him. And at the lower weights it didn’t matter if his workrate was low because as soon as he landed punches he hurt opponents and could then hunt them down at his leisure. Here Maidana’s punches did effect him… and when he landed in return Maidana could suck it up and continue. Broner boxed the bout like he was still at lightweight but instead of finding the light punching Gavin Rees in front of him it was instead an Argentinian tank.
Broner has had too much invested in him by both the networks and Golden Boy for them to let him fail and I imagine they’ll bring him back slowly with some pretty soft bouts (as they did for Ortiz when Maidana beat him). But there are issues. The most worrying is that Broner looked distinctly woozy leaving the ring which is never a good sign for a boxer’s long term health and the second is his mentality. Broner has been so outspoken and so arrogant for so long that it’s hard to see him dealing with a loss… especially a one-sided loss like this… relatively well and he’d be far from the first boxer to find success early and then see themselves broken by a single defeat, especially in this manner. Jeff Lacy post Calzaghe comes to mind (although that also featured some severe injuries) as to an extent does Fernando Vargas in the wake of Tito breaking him apart; Vargas had been one of the most well regarded young boxers with a lot expect of him and while he did have some high profile bouts after that loss his record was 6-4 going forward, he lost all his high profile bouts, was effectively retired at age 28 and officially retired at 30 while never fulfilling that early promise. If Golden Boy and his team aren’t careful the same could happen to Broner.
In the chief support bout talented contender Keith Thurman improved to 22-0 with an impressive stoppage over the durable and gritty Jesus Soto Karass. Karass generally plays the role of gatekeeper to the elite but with recent victories over Andre Berto and Selcuk Aydin combined with a draw over the then fairly hyped Mike Jones show he’s able to upset more highly regarded opposition if given a chance.
In the first round it looked like that might be the case. As is his way Karass ambled forwards throwing a lot of punches and Thurman attempted to play matador, avoiding the wild lunges while picking him off. But he was a step slow and Karass wobbled him with a body shot – overhand right combination, before sending him stumbling with an uppercut. To his credit Thurman not only survived but actually came on to arguably take over the latter stages of the round.
From then on the bout formed a fairly predictable pattern. Karass pressed forward looking to grind Thurman down with his pressure, workrate and body shots while Thurman for his part used his speed and movement to avoid Karass’ offence and fired back with his own hurtful shots. The rounds were competitive but Thurman always had an edge, highlighted by dropping the tough Mexican in the fifth with a beautiful uppercut of his own. That said, Thurman was never quite comfortable and there were still questions whether his stamina would hold up to 12 rounds of pressure from the relentless Karass or whether he would crack at the end. Karass rarely wins bouts against notable names being being the strongest early… he wins them by being the strongest late.
But he never got the chance.
Thurman was adding more and more spite to his punches, snapping Karass’ head back with a stiff jab, whipping it from side to side with hooks and buzzing him with straights. And then in the ninth Thurman landed a barrage of punches and Karass went down and the referee rightfully stopped it.
This was an impressive performance from Thurman. He’s always had the athletic tools, notably speed and power, and while his defence still needs some work he’s technically fairly solid. But this was a real test of his mentality. Everything has come to him fairly easy so far in his career with either early stoppages or one-sided decisions. This was anything but, despite the wide scorecards. Karass applied constant pressure and never gave Thurman a moment to breath… but Thurman not only stood up to that, he excelled. He avoided the worst of Karass’ offence and turned regularly landed sharp punches. He resisted the temptation to brawl it out and instead stuck to his strengths and got the reward that performance deserved… and at 25 he should still be improving. With the win Thurman gained the interim WBA 147lbs belt with this performance and while it may not happen a mini-unification with the winner of the main event is a pretty interesting bout to consider.
As for Karass, his unlikely Cinderella Man story may have come to the end for the moment but the 31 year old brawler will likely come again. He may be limited technically but he has an iron will, durable chin and despite his crudeness his aggressive, high paced style is TV friendly and dangerous for unprepared opponents. His run of four bouts (this contest, the previously mentioned Berto and Aydin and before those Maidana) is frankly a pretty terrifying level of opposition and he shouldn’t be ashamed of going 2-2. With a soft comeback bout or two I can easily see him getting the call to face a prospect or contender who thinks they can master him. And it will likely be fun to watch.
Leo Santa Cruz defended his super bantemweight belt with a comfortable but competitive decision over Cesar Seda. At first glance Cruz looks to be an awkward boxer but he’s got some class to him and combines that with a high workrate and his natural height. Seda simply wasn’t good enough to beat him but was rugged and tough enough t make him work; on the inside Cruz outworked him, on the outside Cruz was too precise but Seda was always there. Despite being dropped in the fifth Seda was never in danger and managed to win a fair number of rounds but Cruz was just about comfortable throughout.
For a while it looked like Beibut Shumenov had turned into a myth known only from boxrec and ancient match reports. But the Kazak returned to the ring for the first time in 18 months to defend his versions of the 175lbs belts by flattening the overmatched Tamas Kovacs. Despite a pretty 23-0 record Kovacs had faced pretty much no-one with a pulse and he was simply fresh meat for Shumenov. The champion dropped him in the first with a hook, dropped him in the second with an uppercut and finished him when he dropped him in the third.
Shumenov was once considered a boxer to really keep an eye on back in 2009/10 considering how much he’d achieved with so little experience (despite a very controversial victory over Gabriel Campillo). Since then however he’s been far too inactive and when he has boxed it’s been against overmatched opposition. He’s powerful and has some natural talent but he’s also crude. Hopefully this bout… and it happening in the US rather than in Europe… indicates a willingness to step up against the US and Canadian based 175lbs boxers.
In other undercard news, Jermain Taylor continued his unwanted comeback with a seventh round stoppage of Juan Carlos Candelo and the lesser known Alvarez, Ricardo won a controversial decision over the limited Rod Salka in what has to go down as Texas judging at it’s most infamous. Fromer Olympians Rau’shee Warren and Jamel Herring as well as unbeaten prospect Robert Easter all picked up easy victories against overmatched opposition.