More than one person has been made a fool of trying to predict Floyd Mayweather Jr’s next move. Not so very long ago after all, it was seemingly guaranteed that Mayweather’s next opponent would be Amir Khan. The announcement never happened… and next came a fan poll on who it would be. The results of this were somewhat confusing; on most boxing sites the answer was Marcos Maidana but on the official poll Khan (helped by a lot of twitter advertsing) had a late surge to take the lead. And of course, there had been rumours and “exclusive reports” long before that.
But now it looks somewhat definitive. Khan himself says that he’s out of the running and that Maidana is the one about to earn millions of dollars and the chance, however remote, to enter his name in boxing’s history as the man who defeated Mayweather.
I’ve been pretty dismissive of the Khan bout previously but despite that I can see why it was an attractive option. Khan has many flaws but what he undoubtedly has is speed. Khan would be the fastest opponent Mayweather has faced since at least Judah and arguably the fastest he’s ever faced. Much of Mayweather’s success has been built on being the faster man, pot-shotting and picking off opponents from the outside; could he do the same against someone quicker than him? Maidana in contrast, despite technical improvements shown in his recent run that culminated in his defeat of the heavily hyped “new Floyd Mayweather” Adrien Broner, is still very much a brawler, an aggressive and powerful puncher who likes to draw boxers into a fight. We’ve seen Floyd against those repeatedly… and he tends to win and win well.
Outside the ring Khan also seemingly offers a lot. Floyd likes to tap into other fanbases… it’s one of the reasons he boxes many fighters with Latino heritage, especially around Mexican Independence Day as it opens up that lucrative market. Khan may not bring them, but he does bring the UK fans and the UK has frequently proven itself as a solid money maker for boxers. Maidana in contrast may be a popular TV fighter but he has no real constituency to fall back on; fans of Maidana tend to be boxing fans as opposed to fans of individual boxers and thus would have probably watched anyway.
So how is it that Khan didn’t get the bout when he had so much in his favour?
He was The Problem. He was About Billions. He was the “Can Man” (because *gesticulating to imaginary opponents* he can get it and he can get it… apparently). He was first Mr HBO and then Mr Showtime. He was the next big thing, the new star to carry boxing forward, the apple of Golden Boy’s eye. He was the heir to Mayweather, the next love-to-hate superstar for whom the only thing that matched his arrogance and conceit was his talent and skill.
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.
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.