Broner Exposed — to an Extent

By Graham Houston
Photo: Tom Hogan – Hoganphotos/Golden Boy

The word “exposed” is over-used in situations such as this. Still, that’s the word that inevitably springs to mind when we think of Adrien Broner’s defeat against Marcos Maidana. I would say that Adrien Broner was exposed to an extent in Saturday’s fight on Showtime, exposed in the sense that he isn’t as good as he seemed to think he was — not even close.

That said, Broner is still, to me anyway, a good fighter. He came back from the rocky first two rounds to back up the more experienced Maidana. He couldn’t maintain the momentum, though. They say with unbeaten fighters that you never know for sure how good they are until they lose. Now we know about Broner.

Broner could hurt opponents as a lightweight. He hasn’t brought that same degree of firing power up in weight with him as a welterweight, unlike, say Roberto Duran, who after a one-fight stopover at junior welter, knocked out the very capable veteran Monroe Brooks in a welterweight fight and knocked down the extremely tough Carlos Palomino.

Saturday’s fight had echoes of Duran against Sugar Ray Leonard (the first fight), not in the talent levels of the boxers but just the general tenor of the contest, the way the older, tougher, more physical fighter imposed his will on the flashier, more stylish boxer. Sugar Ray had to survive a wobbly second round against Duran but was coming on strongly later in the fight, which told us a lot about Leonard. Down in the second round, Broner came back well enough to offer a glimmer of hope that he could outlast Maidana, but then he got caught and dropped again in the eighth round, and after this the fight was essentially a lost cause.

Broner didn’t do himself any favours with his theatrical plunge to the canvas in the eighth round after Maidana brought up his head under Broner’s chin in a clinch, but we weren’t on the receiving end so we can’t be sure how severely Broner was affected. I’ll say this for Broner, though, he was still trying to push forward in the final round when Maidana nailed him with another of those thudding left hooks. Interestingly, Broner won the last two rounds on two of the judges’ cards. So Broner didn’t give up on himself — he was still trying to win, right up to the last bell.

However, Broner was outfought and outbanged. Maidana came right at him and let the big punches fly. The shoulder-roll, body-half-turned style that Broner seems to have copied from Floyd Mayweather Jr. works well when the boxer using this method is rolling away from right hands, but it can leave openings for the left hook from the opposing boxer. Mayweather, it seems to me, keeps his right glove up to block the incoming hooks. Broner wasn’t as smart defensively. We think of Maidana as a right-hand bomber, but while he was blasting Broner from both sides the left hook seemed to be the blow that was largely instrumental in Maidana’s victory.

Mayweather has that cat-like grace and movement that allows him to slip and slide away from a pursuer — Broner doesn’t have that type of mobility. To turn the tide against Maidana he needed to get Maidana going back, to use the jab as a jarring weapon up and down and to let the punches flow. Sharpshooting with the right hand and the left hook wasn’t going to get the job done, especially as Maidana showed an improved ability at getting under punches — in one round I noticed Broner throw two big shots in succession, a right hand and a left hook, and Maidana cleverly ducked both punches, which showed that training under Robert Garcia at Oxnard, CA, has been beneficial. Broner wasn’t able to summon the intensity and the punch output to seize control of the contest when Maidana seemed to be catching a breather — as Paulie Malignaggi put it in the Showtime commentary, Broner didn’t take advantage of Maidana’s “weak moments.”

Every time Broner seemed to be inching his way into control of the fight, Maidana would come back with big-hitting rallies, making it difficult to give too many rounds to Broner. Maidana had been through long, tough fights, Broner hadn’t, and this showed itself. Maidana had it in him to keep digging down and firing back, whereas Broner too often looked lost in the storm. An unbelievably careless and cocky start by Broner allowed Maidana to put his imprint on the fight in the first round when a left hook staggered Broner, then we had the calamitous second round when Broner suffered the knockdown, and after this it was a fight in which Broner was struggling to catch up and never quite getting there.

After all the boasting by Broner, this was a come-uppance to be sure, but at least he gritted it out to the final bell and in the judges’ opinion Broner was the fighter coming on at the end — and the fight was certainly exciting — so the loser can gain some solace from the defeat.

Where Broner goes from here is a matter of whether he has the discipline and dedication, and will power, to re-commit himself to his boxing career and work towards coming back a better, more complete fighter.

This was a confidence-denting type of defeat and Broner, to me, looked a bit shell-shocked at the end of the fight, as if he couldn’t quite believe what had just happened to him. There were fears among the Showtime crew that we could see a repeat of the Naseem Hamed situation, when the one-sided pasting by Marco Antonio Barrera seemed to knock all the confidence out of Naz as a fighter.

Maybe a move down to the junior welter division would be a good idea for Broner. He remains an attraction, but at a reduced level. A few quiet words with Floyd Mayweather Jr. wouldn’t hurt. I’m sure that Mayweather would tell Broner to cut out the over-the-top “next superstar” comments and show some humility.

Broner has made himself look a little ridiculous — I could hardly believe my eyes when I saw the “About Billions” wording emblazoned in gold letters on his trunks — but some very good, even great, fighters have come back from quite shattering setbacks.

We haven’t heard the last of Broner. He will never be the fighter he professed himself to be — there really is only one Floyd Mayweather Jr., as Paulie Malignaggi put it — but Broner can still make an exciting contribution to boxing and he can definitely be a champion again. It’s up to Broner how badly he wants to succeed.