After an inauspicious start to his welterweight career, Adrien Broner must prove the doubters wrong in attempting to maintain his perfect record by overcoming Argentine slugger Marcos Maidana in Texas on Saturday night.
It was a fight that fans demanded after he limped to a split decision over Paulie Malignaggi, and it's nice when we get what we want.
The question being posed by this fight runs along the lines of, how will Broner deal with the power of a hard-hitting welterweight, having faced only Malignaggi, who is one of the sport's most notoriously light punchers.
It's a bit of a false conundrum, as Maidana is small at 140lbs, let alone 147lbs. When the fighters receive their instruction and await the opening bell, don't be surprised if Broner is actually the slightly larger man.
Maidana is on something of a mini-roll since joining up with Trainer of the Year Robert Garcia at his gym in Oxnard, California.
Although he has undoubtedly turned into a much more polished boxer, Maidana still instinctively retains the same preferences for trench warfare that have marked his most memorable performances since he arrived on the American scene by derailing the career of Victor Ortiz in 2009.
Coming off of three straight KO victories over Jesus Soto Karass, Angel Martinez and Josesito Lopez, Maidana will be confident that he can again produce an upset and wreck the best laid plans of both Gloden Boy and Showtime, for whom Broner is well positioned as the heir to Floyd Mayweather once Money decides to hang up the gloves.
Maidana's primary strength is his power, and if he is to defeat Broner most would presume it would come via stoppage.
Unfortunately, Marcos Maidana's power is slightly overrated.
That's not to say he can't bang. Of course he can. But he is not a one shot and done kind of fighter. He beats you down over a number of rounds, not usually from one single flurry, let alone one single punch.
Although Maidana has an 84% KO percentage, with 31 of his 34 wins coming before the final bell, they are rarely of the one punch variety. He swarms opponents, trapping them on the ropes with a flurry of activity, that in turn can force levels of inactivity that leave referees with little option but to jump in with a mercy stoppage.
The TKO of Josesito Lopez is a classic example of this.
While an excellent finisher at times, he can become a little rushed, which is why he couldn't manage to finish off a rubber-legged Amir Khan in their fight of the year in 2010.
Maidana has power in both hands, but as an orthodox fighter his game-changing shots usually come from his looping right hooks. He is a man who commits to his punches with a ferociousness that can leave gaping holes in his defense.
Once the gun has been drawn, it often fails to return it to its holster with any sort of urgency.
He is often wide-open to a counter left hook. to either the body or the head. It's a punch that Broner is more than capable of throwing. With his noticeable hand speed advantage, Broner's counter left should become a way of punishing Maidana's inaccuracy, and thus lead to a decrease in the Argentine's output.
Maidana's left is also dangerous. He finished Angel Martinez with a perfectly timed left hook to the body in his homecoming fight in Bueons Aires a year ago. It was a fight designed to make El Chino look good in front of his home crowd, so not too much can be gleaned from a one-sided beatdown of an over matched domestic level opponent.
He moved well from the opening bell, showcasing the stiff jab and vastly increased head movement that Garcia has added to his game, but once it became clear that the threat of Martinez was diminishing, Maidana reverted more to type as he banged away until his young opponent crumbled in the third.
Last time out against the Riverside Rocky, Josesito Lopez, Maidana dominated the fight for large stretches with the newly discovered jab, and his ability to hurt Lopez seemingly at will.
Lopez was forced to clinch and hold in the 1st, 2nd and 3rd rounds, but threw caution to the wind at the end of the 3rd and tried to start an all-out war. Not one to back down, Maidana acquiesced, and took a few heavy shots that put his victory in doubt.
After 2 and a half rounds of total Maidana dominance, Lopez took over in the 4th and hurt Maidana badly to the body. He grimaced and tried to hold, flopping to the floor in what was ultimately ruled a slip. Although he roared back in the 5th and stopped Lopez in the 6th, he had found himself mired in an unnecessary war.
The closest Maidana came to being stopped in his career previously had been in the 1st round of his fight with Amir Khan, on a vicious body shot.
Maidana is vulnerable to the body, which if team Broner has done any sort of homework, should be a key area of focus. If Broner is to become the first man to stop Maidana, it will almost certainly come from a left hook to the body.
As Adrien Broner has not been down, nor badly hurt in any of his fights so far, his weaknesses are so far located in parts of his offensive game.
Broner's foot speed is slow at best.
It seems odd to describe him as a plodder, but watch the tape and see how fast you ever see him move. You can get distracted by his fast hands and the fluidity of his upper body movement, but his legs are one reason some people are not elevating him too high on their pound for pound lists just yet.
Is he merely conserving energy early on so that he can finish strongly? If we see him clearly losing in a fight, can Broner crank it up a gear?
Broner struggled versus Daniel Ponce De Leon when his opponent fought at a high pace with a good volume of punches. Broner was particualrly vulnerable to the body from De Leon's long straight left thrown from distance, but De Leon is a southpaw, so he can hardly be used as a blueprint for Maidana this weekend.
Broner does not adjust well on the fly. He's a fighter who regroups once back in the corner, shakes it off and comes out to win the next round.
In the Ponce De Leon fight, the 3rd round was one-sided, with De Leon landing nearly triple the number of punches as Broner. It resulted in a verbal assault from his trainer in between rounds. It was a 10 round fight, and Broner essentially gave away the first 3 rounds due to his own inactivity.
It was not a mistake that Broner corrected, as last time out against Malignaggi, Broner would spend lengthy periods simply letting Paulie be Paulie, throwing pitter patter combinations from the outside and putting rounds in the bank early.
If you review his Compubox numbers, Broner typically steps on the gas around the 4th or 5th round, increasing output to finish the stronger man. He dominates the middle rounds.
As he wasn't feeling his opponents punches in either the Malignaggi or Ponce De Leon fights, Broner could afford to drop these early rounds. He would be wise not to let Maidana have quite so much dominance in the first 3 rounds.
In the rare times he is out-boxed, his primary reaction is bemusement at being challenged; he is not the sort of fighter to bite down determinedly into his gum shield and try to win back the round on the cards.
In a positive light, it lets him take breathers and come back stronger. On the negative side, he surrenders rounds that result in him limping away with split decision victories against fighters he was expected to blow out.
For a 24 year old fighter, it actually shows a considerably high ring IQ to let some rounds go in favor of making a statement in others. Broner has had control over the way he fights in all of his bouts, even his less impressive ones. He is comfortable doing what he wants to do, at his own pace.
For anyone who wonders why Broner possesses such obscene levels of confidence in the ring, the recent All Access episode had some pretty interesting footage of the backyard boxing that Broner was involved in from a very young age. He's put in his 10,000 hours.
But Broner is still vulnerable to an opponent who can maintain distance and volume. This could be someone with a superior reach who jabs well from the outside, or it could be someone with superior foot speed who can dart in, throw a flurry of shots, and dart back out again. This is why a fighter like Malignaggi had such unexpected success.
Unfortunately for Maidana, he does not possess these kind of tools.
Malignaggi laid half of the blueprint for taking away Broner's undefeated record. Rounds with clear volume differentials should usually be scored to the more active opponent, unless the inactive Broner lands some very clear cut, hurtful blows in retaliation that draw the oohs and aahs of the crowd.
Broner is a slow starter. In his fight with Gavin Rees, a domestic level British fighter, Broner was not difficult to hit. Against a smaller, lighter hitting man, Broner was not punished for disregarding Rees' power.
Against a harder hitting welterweight, do we expect Broner to show more caution? Do we expect him to suddenly change his style and start faster ? Will Broner show the respect for Maidana as an opponent that he hasn't shown any of his previous opponents?
At the start of the fight, we must presume that no, Broner is not going to change. Maidana should have success early in this fight. He will throw more punches than Broner. (If he does not, and Broner looks impressive from the get go, it will be a long, long night for the Argentine slugger that results in similar score cards to his shut out loss to Devon Alexander.)
So, supposing one of Maidana's hooks finds its way to the target, it will be a true litmus test for the Cincinatti native's durability in the higher weight classes. Broner hasn't been down, or noticeably hurt in any of his previous 27 fights. When the going gets tough, how will Broner react? We simply don't know yet.
It's worth noting some comments from Roger Mayweather, who has worked briefly with Broner in the past. Although dismissive of Broner before they worked together, the attributes that seemed to have impressed Floyd's uncle the most were his toughness and his chin.
For the gamblers, the smart money would be on Adrien Broner by decision, priced at 15/8 with some bookmakers.
Broner will start slow, and possibly have to weather some stormy moments in the opening third of the fight, before taking over the middle rounds once he has his timing down.
The knockout appears unlikely for either fighter. Broner has excellent head movement and shouldn't catch too many clean shots. Maidana can hurt him, but will struggle to put together a barrage like he did against Lopez to force a referee to stop Broner on his feet.
Broner is capable of throwing a crushing left to the body, which is the real danger punch of this fight and the only way one could see the fight ending early, but seeing as Maidana has taken the punch of bigger men in the past and gotten back up off the canvas, this one has all the hallmarks of a decision win in favor of 'The Problem.'