Both of the winners on HBO were something of a revelation Saturday night, for different reasons. On the undercard, Adrien Broner scored a huge knockout of a the best fighter he has yet faced, Eloy Perez, looking better than ever — and showing the kind of special talent that indicates he could, just maybe, very soon be inhabiting pound-for-pound lists. Meanwhile, Devon Alexander reclaimed some of the acclaim he once had in a really nice welterweight debut, as he made easier work than anyone ever has of notorious tough guy Marcos Maidana.
ADRIEN BRONER-ELOY PEREZ
I absolutely get why so many people find Broner annoying. He is cocky beyond belief. But he makes me laugh, and more importantly, he backs up all the big talk. Perez isn’t some bum — he’s a real contender at junior lightweight. And Broner toyed with him, and then demolished him.
Perez began promisingly enough, not that he won the 1st round or anything. He was getting countered, and was struggling with Broner’s speed and size advantages, which were enormous. But at least he had some openings he would occasionally exploit, working his way in with combinations.
By the 2nd round, all of Perez’ openings had closed. HBO’s commentators thought Perez hurt himself by just sorta standing around in front of Broner, but I honestly don’t know what more Perez could’ve done. Despite hopes from the Perez camp that he would have better feet than Broner, it wasn’t even close in the opposite direction. And when Perez attacked, he flailed against Broner’s defense and/or got countered half to death.
Broner will try to tell you he’s his own man, but he’s as much of a Floyd Mayweather, Jr. imitator as exists. He does that shoulder roll thing, and has for a while. In this fight, he adopted Mayweather’s rule-bending elbow-to-the-neck move, the kind of move that is enough to get the occasional warning but never enough to get a point deducted, which makes it worthwhile when you’re trying to keep someone off balance who’d prefer to fight on the inside.
Not that it won Broner the fight. What really won it was that his speed and power are ginormous. Finally, in the fourth round, those two ginormous qualities joined forces to produce a right hand from hell, one that arrived right in the center of Perez’ face. Perez, showing some toughness, tried to rise. But instead he squirted around like an inch-worm, jumping up in the middle of his body only to fall down a couple times thereafter. The referee saw that a couple times and stopped it. Maybe Perez could’ve risen, but he was in bad shape, and the stoppage was beyond defensible.
After the fight, Broner said some cocky, colorful things. He said he wanted to “tenderize” Perez’ meat before frying him up later. He said he should be called “Can Man,” because he’ll fight “Afri-Cans, Ameri-Cans, Domini-Cans and Mexi-Cans.” And it’s hard to get cockier than rapping your own song on the way to the ring. Really, I get this kind of thing annoying people. But all I care about is that it’s funny. And to me, it’s super-funny.
More importantly, Broner has cause to be cocky. He no longer looks like the overly cautious fellow who struggled with Daniel Ponce De Leon. He’d rather counter, but he’ll be aggressive when it’s called for. And when he lands, watch out.
Perez probably took on too talented a fighter too soon, but I don’t see why he can’t rebuild himself into a contender and make a move at 130. It’s hard to say what Broner ought to be doing next. There’s not a ton of talent at junior lightweight. He says he’ll happily move up to lightweight. But there’s not much there these days, either. Short of a Yuriorkis Gamboa fight, I don’t see anyone at 130 or 135 that could give him much trouble. And as someone nicknamed “The Problem,” and who’s living up to it, I don’t know who’s gonna want to fight this guy. But he’ll be bad news for anyone I can imagine him fighting, that’s for sure.
DEVON ALEXANDER-MARCOS MAIDANA
Alexander had blamed his recent lackluster performance on struggling to make weight at junior welter. I wasn’t sure I bought it. It got easier to buy after Saturday night.
It must be said that Maidana — making his own 147-pound debut — didn’t seem to have anywhere near the power at welterweight that he had at junior welter. That’s not just hindsight. The moment they stepped into the ring, Maidana didn’t look like a particularly fearsome welter, while Alexander was muscular and big.
Nonetheless, Maidana, with sheer ferocity, kept things on relatively even terms through four rounds. And all the while, Alexander’s trainer, Kevin Cunnigham, kept telling him to relax. Alexander did seem tense for a few rounds, but he loosened up well after Cunningham kept hectoring him.
After the 4th, it was pretty much all Alexander. He had far superior boxing skills, and by being stronger than Maidana on the inside — he clinched far, far too much, enough that referee Steve Smoger should have at least warned him — he took away whatever advantage Maidana usually has.
Some thought Alexander dropped Maidana in the 6th, but I didn’t. Sure, he had him hurt — but if you look at the moment where Maidana went down, he was raising up before Alexander pushed him down. That Alexander had Maidana hurt was still something of a headline. Not since the Juan Urango fight has Alexander appeared to hurt anyone.
From there on, Maidana looked discouraged, and Maidana doesn’t get discouraged. It spoke to how Alexander out-classed, out-muscled and out-slugged Maidana. In the 8th, I thought that Alexander had Maidana “ready to go,” but he lacked the killer instinct to capitalize.
The wide unanimous decision was accurate, unlike the other fights Alexander has had in St. Louis where people thought he got the hometown decision.
Alexander wasn’t perfect; he was still too sloppy in places, and is still struggling enough with his mental game that the first few rounds were close. But he showed plenty in his debut at 147, enough to make you wonder whether he can be a real factor in the division. It’s hard to imagine him contending with the likes of Manny Pacquiao or Mayweather, of course, but he could be a compelling opponent for, say, the winner of Victor Ortiz-Andre Berto II.
Maidana should go back down to 140. And Alexander might never get back to the “next big thing” status he once held. But this was a really nice step toward it.