Going into the fight, Broner was a heavy, odds-on favourite. Bookmakers rarely get their numbers wrong and rated The Problem a shoo-in to take his record to 28-0, most probably by way of decision. The perceived wisdom of fight commentators was that Maidana was cannon-fodder – a tough, durable opponent carefully chosen to allow Broner to showcase his skills and further his credentials as a pay-per-view star come 2014.
Broner entered the ring to the usual theatrics – the entourage, the cocksure swagger, the rapping. Unfortunately, the only theatrics he produced in the ring were a rather distasteful sexual gyration during a clinch in the opening round and some amateur dramatics following a deliberate head butt by Maidana in the eighth. A heavy left hook in the second round sent him to the canvas and he did well to make it to the bell.
The champion recovered and had some success through the middle rounds, edging rounds four, five, six and seven. Just when it looked like he was beginning to step on the gas, another left hand sent him sprawling in the eighth. The Argentinian challenger, buoyed by a partisan crowd, continued pressing and closed out the remaining rounds to secure a well-deserved points victory.
Hindsight is the best analyst of all and many ‘told-you-so’ pundits can now smugly point to weaknesses hinted-at by Broner’s victories over Ponce de Leon and Pauli Malignaggi. But it’s Maidana who’s secured the bragging rights to copyrighting the template for success – a high tempo, constant pressure and four/five punch combinations. Broner simply didn’t have an answer to being outworked and outhustled, looking lethargic and sluggish throughout.
For Broner, the pre-fight boasting has been replaced by post-fight blues. No, he’s clearly not heir-apparent to Floyd Mayweather’s pound-for-pound throne. The ‘0’ has gone together with the aura of invincibility. Jumping two weight divisions from 135 to 147 now appears unnecessarily impetuous. Unless the long-term promotional plan had been to get Money Mayweather in a ring before retirement, bypassing the light-welter division has been a mistake. Broner hasn’t carried the concussive power up to 147 which dispatched 22 of his previous opponents inside the distance. The only shot Broner threw which buzzed Maidana came after the bell ending the eleventh round – a shot which had Maidana’s trainer, Roberto Garcia, complaining bitterly to referee Laurence Cole. More worrying for Broner, though, is the systematic way Maidana exposed his defensive shortcomings. Time and again, the left hook shook Broner’s lazy, arrogant guard – easily finding its target. AB’s rolling-shoulder defence – reminiscent of his idol, Floyd Mayweather – only serves to leave him static on the back foot and vulnerable to hooks. Evidently, Band Camp’s cheerleader still has a long way to go before his technique is capable of neutralising the division’s classier operators.
Boxing is brutal. It cares little for reputations and doesn’t hesitate to discard promising careers with nonchalant indifference. Broner cut a sorry figure on his way back to the dressing room, accompanied only by a security guard. He’d been beaten and busted-up by a fighter who was good, but not so good that he is at the elite level, capable of commanding pay-per-view audiences. Where he goes next will be the subject of careful planning. Richard Schaefer, Golden Boy’s CEO, looked pensive at ringside as, round after round, the cash-cow that was Broner’s career appeared to be walking away. A rematch may make sense financially for Maidana but, for Broner, the risk/reward play-off is skewed heavily against him. Another loss to the Argentinian brawler could prove catastrophic to his career. The figures don’t lie. At ringside, judges Martinez, Vazquez and Christodoulou saw it 117-109, 116-109 and 115-110 respectively. The unanimous decision was further backed-up by the punch statistics which recorded Maidana landing 231 power shots to Broner’s 122. Even Broner’s staunchest fans would be hard-pushed to make a case for him winning a rematch on this performance.
But let’s not forget that Broner is still a three-weight world Champion at the tender age of 24. He has the time and he has the talent. The most sensible way forward would be to drop down a division and rebuild. He weighed in at 144½ on Friday, suggesting he could easily make 140 on his next outing. The foray into welterweight territory has proved hasty – there is no need to compound Saturday night’s setback by continuing to mix it with the guys at 147. His power is worryingly ineffective and the defence requires an overhaul. Until he has grown into the heavier division naturally and honed his defensive skills accordingly, Broner’s longevity and bankability shall best be served by a less hurried promotional approach. Even at light-welter, Golden Boy will do well to steer clear of the likes of Danny Garcia, Lucas Matthysse and Ruslan Provodnikov in the immediate future. All three are heavy-hitters and Garcia, especially, whose left-hook is more potent than that of Maidana’s, would feel confident of securing a stoppage.
For now, the problem has been solved. Whether Adrien Broner comes back and poses future opponents with the kind of unfathomable conundrums which see him back to winning ways and take him to the very top of the sport, remains to be seen.