With the boxing year coming to a close, Father Christmas (AKA Showtime’s Stephen Espinoza) has one last present for boxing fans before they wake up on Dec. 25 to find their stockings filled with coal. Originally slated for pay-per-view but mercifully bumped down to regular premium cable, welterweights Adrien Broner and Marcos Maidana are set to put on an early New Year’s Eve fireworks display.
There is a significant portion of boxing fandom who would consider Maidana shutting Broner’s mouth an early Christmas present, but the fight has a significance even for non-“haters”. Maidana and Broner are the #8 and #9 men in the welterweight division, respectively, according to the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board. A win for either man would put them in the sweepstakes for the really big money fights at the top of the division. And we know boxers are all about the Benjamins.
Despite a higher ranking, Maidana is the underdog here. The Argentine puncher has never quite equalled the performance that saw him become a perennial fan favourite, the shocking upset of then much-fancied Victor Ortiz in 2009. That’s not to say he hasn’t showed crazy power in both hands and insane grit, such as when he rose off the canvas after a 1st round body shot to take Amir Khan to the brink in 2010. But he hasn’t quite managed to claim another truly top-flight scalp.
Broner could be that scalp. Having moved all the way from junior lightweight to welterweight in a little over a year, the Cincinnati loudmouth’s punch resistance is totally untested at welterweight (no, Paulie Malignaggi does not count). And if anyone is going to check your chin, it’s “El Chino.” The Argentine isn’t going to win this fight with finesse. Oh sure, he’s added a few little wrinkles to his game (like this crazy thing called a jab!) under the tutelage of trainer Robert Garcia. But if he comes away with his hand raised, it will be because he dragged Broner into a fire fight and bludgeoned him to the canvas with his wide, arcing, cavemanlike punches. While Maidana isn’t quite the wrecking ball he was at junior welterweight, he can still put you down with a single punch. As skilled as “The Problem” is, he’ll have to be careful.
But Broner knows how to be careful. While his defence is nowhere near as effective as that of his friend and idol, Floyd Mayweather, he knows how to stand in range and not get hit. And his offence, if not better than Floyd’s, is at least more voluminous. He throws an absurd variety of punches to the head and body, from left hooks to leaping right hands to all sorts of crazy 45-degree things. In his fight with Antonio DeMarco, a more “schooled” fighter than Maidana, he stood in the pocket, humiliating and hurting the then-#1 lightweight contender. If Broner can replicate that performance, then he should be able to cruise to a similar victory.
It’s not like the Argentine is going to have a huge size advantage, either — considering the fact that he started his career as a junior lightweight, Broner is a huge guy, only half an inch shorter than Maidana and with an inch longer reach. A bigger worry for the hard-partying Ohioan should be his conditioning. Where Broner loves his Twinkies and has struggled with weight in the past (and has looked downright bloated at various promotional stops), Maidana is generally superbly conditioned, especially under a taskmaster like Garcia.
Apart from the fatness thing, the worry for Broner fans (if such a thing exists) should be that Broner’s power, which was impressive at junior lightweight and lightweight, seems much-reduced at welter. He just couldn’t seem to hurt Paulie Malignaggi. So if Broner can’t keep Maidana from coming forward (which would not be a certainty, even he were a huge puncher), he’ll have to be extra slick to avoid all the incoming fire. Luckily for him, he is pretty damn slick.
Maidana, as always, is in with a puncher’s chance. But I suspect he’s going to fall short once again against Broner. In the later rounds it may even get embarrassing for the Argentine. Broner’s reduced power at welterweight will save Maidana from being hurt badly like DeMarco, but he’ll be frustrated and busted up at the final bell. And if you disagree you’re a hater.