Marcos Maidana’s legend was growing.
The Argentine badass with a .44 Magnum tattooed on his waist had just competed in two brilliant brawls on HBO, fights with Victor Ortiz and Amir Khan.
But after a move to welterweight and subsequent blowout loss to Devon Alexander, Maidana wasn’t seen in the same light.
It was a shock to many that he wasn’t able to compete with the light-hitting Alexander, but Maidana (34-3, 31 knockouts) rebounded with three consecutive stoppage wins, punctuated by his thrilling victories over Jesus Soto Karass and Josesito Lopez.
That display of power, coupled with Maidana’s recent connection with top trainer Robert Garcia, erased most of the doubts surrounding the fighter. In fact, he may be better than ever.
The resurgent Maidana has the opportunity to prove his mettle on perhaps his biggest stage yet when he faces brash titleholder Adrien Broner on Saturday, in the main event of a Showtime broadcast from the Alamodome in San Antonio.
“The thing that I really, really want in my career is to be the welterweight champion, the WBA welterweight champion,” Maidana, 30, said on a recent conference call. “And it happens that Broner won that belt unexpectedly because he was a lightweight fighter, but since he beat (Paulie) Malignaggi that kind of like became my obsession, because I want to be a world champion. It happens that he has the belt and that’s why I want to beat him.”
Malignaggi fought Broner hard in a close fight. Broner escaped with the split-decision victory, with Malignaggi nabbing many rounds based on superior activity, while Broner picked his shots and was more patient. Even though Maidana’s best chance to win is likely via knockout, he plans to use the Magic Man’s strategy to win rounds Saturday.
“The plan is that when I fight Broner, I am going to hit him everywhere and be busier. I’m prepared to throw many punches in the fight and pressure him,” Maidana said. “I’ve also trained to cut off the ring. … In the past, I’ve had a few problems with boxers – slick boxers – but I don’t think Broner is such a slick boxer. He’s talented, but I’m preparing well. … I adjusted myself and (I’m) sure that Adrien is going to respect me in the ring. I will make sure that he respects me in the ring.”
Broner is being groomed as the next big thing in boxing. The matchup with Maidana even got the PPV-style treatment with a two-part All Access preview. But Broner has yet to face a hard-hitting welterweight after making the jump from lightweight. In fact, his lone bout above the 135-pound weight limit came against the feather-fisted Malignaggi.
“Adrien is now an established welterweight, the only thing: Is he physically a welterweight now? No doubt about it, but the only problem is he’s not been tested by a natural welter like me; that’s why this is the hardest fight of his life,” Maidana said. “They might say Broner is one of the best, but I don’ think he is. He’s definitely different from any other opponents I’ve fought, but I’m prepared. I’m ready for him.”
Maidana is a sizeable underdog, but he’s used to the role. He was little more than an afterthought prior to his bouts with Ortiz and Khan. In the Ortiz bout, he got off the deck to make his foe quit. Against Khan, he absorbed a vicious body-blow knockdown in the opening round, but somehow continued and gave Khan hell. He lost a tight decision on the cards in a bout that went on to garner Fight of the Year honors.
Maidana doesn’t possess the same aura of invincibility once attached to him, but he still should present the toughest challenge of Broner’s young career.
“It’s a tough fight, man. It’s a tough fight for both of us,” Maidana said. “Of course, he is a great fighter but makes mistakes. I won’t tell you what mistakes I’m talking about, but you will see it on Dec. 14. … I’m ready for this fight; I’ve trained hard and I’m certain I have what it takes to come out victorious on Saturday.”
Video / Showtime
Photos / Gabriel Bouys-AFP/Getty Images