Marcos Maidana celebrates after defeating Josesito Lopez on June 8. (Getty)
Marcos Maidana is one of the few remaining obstacles on Adrien Broner's road toward boxing stardom.
There are plenty of questions about Broner's ability to be a top-level boxer, as he has yet to beat an elite opponent in his prime. At this stage, he's vastly more sizzle than steak.
Though it is not discussed much, there are plenty of questions surrounding Maidana's ability to be a regular winner at boxing's highest level.
Just like Broner, Maidana has much to prove on Saturday when they fight for the WBA welterweight title in a Showtime-televised bout at Alamodome in San Antonio.
Maidana's issues are overlooked, however, because of his obvious punching power.
Maidana is 34-3 with 31 knockouts and is coming off three consecutive finishes in eight rounds or less.
In his last three matches, Maidana stopped Jesus Soto Karass in eight, knocked out Angel Martinez in three and stopped Josesito Lopez in six.
While there is little dispute that Maidana punches hard, it may not be fair to characterize him as boxing's best pound-for-pound puncher.
Miguel Diaz, the veteran trainer/cutman, once told Yahoo Sports that Maidana punched harder than most middleweights. At the time, Maidana was fighting at 140 pounds, or 20 pounds under the middleweight limit. Given that Diaz is not frequently prone to hyperbole, it was a significant statement.
But the numbers suggest that that may have been one of the rare times when Diaz exaggerated.
Six fights – Maidana's three losses, as well as his three wins by decision – tell a large part of his story.
He lost a split decision at 140 to Andriy Kotelnik on Feb. 7, 2009, in Germany. He dropped a unanimous decision to Amir Khan on Dec. 11, 2010, in Las Vegas, and dropped a unanimous 10-round decision to Devon Alexander on Feb. 25, 2012, in St. Louis.
Maidana won by decision over Daniel Benito Carriqueo in a six-rounder in 2005. He won a unanimous decision over DeMarcus Corley in Argentina on Aug. 28, 2008, and he pulled out a majority decision over Erik Morales in Las Vegas on April 9, 2011.
What that record suggests is that Maidana has difficulty with boxers. Alexander and Khan are high-level boxers with very good speed and quickness. Kotelnik is an Olympic silver medalist who wasn't as good of a pure boxer, but still had sold boxing skills. And Corley was long past his prime when he fought Maidana, but he was a quality boxer in his day.
In addition, Maidana was unable to knock Morales out in their 12-round bout, even though Morales had been knocked out twice in his six bouts before facing Maidana and then was knocked out again after fighting him.
The best fighters Maidana fought at the time – guys who were elite fighters and were in their primes at the time – did well against him.
That list would include Victor Ortiz, Khan, Alexander and Kotelnik. He knocked out Ortiz in a dominant performance, but lost to the other three.
And so while that doesn't suggest he doesn't hit hard, it suggests that he has trouble with speed and with guys who can give him angles and make it difficult for him to hit them cleanly.
Those are all things Broner does well, and Broner pointed out that Maidana is going to have to find him.
"One more thing that people don't understand is the guys he knocked out, he was able to hit," Broner said. "He's got to hit me first. He has to hit me first, and he's never been hit by me."
The perception of the fight is that it is Broner with something to prove, and he does. But Maidana has as much to prove as Broner does.
Unquestionably, his best win was over Ortiz, but it was over an Ortiz who was an emotional wreck at the time and a guy who wasn't used to dealing with adversity.
His second-best win was over Lopez, a tough, gritty fighter who is a notch below the elite level. Lopez was willing to match Maidana punch for punch, and that is the exact wrong way to fight the Argentine.
Broner, though, likely won't try that tactic, but Maidana also doesn't consider Broner a boxer in the Khan-Alexander-Kotelnik class.
"In the past, I've had a few problems with boxers, slick boxers, but I don't think Broner is such a slick boxer," Maidana said. "He's talented, but I'm preparing well. I had great sparing partners this time. I adjusted myself, and be sure that Adrien is going to respect me in the ring. I will make sure that he respects me in the ring."
It's easy to talk, but his history suggests it's going to be a challenge for him. He hits hard, but he's got to land for that to matter. And to land, he'll have to deal with Broner's fast hands and lateral movement.
The jury remains out on whether Broner is yet a star, but deliberations continue on the Maidana front, as well.
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