Adrien Broner had a problem from the jump Saturday night in San Antonio. His name was Marcos Maidana, and he battered the champion from pillar to post.
Maidana unloaded left hooks, overhand rights and the occasional sneaky jab for most of the fight's 36 minutes, winning a unanimous decision and the WBA welterweight title.
Broner had no answers, losing a lopsided, entertaining fight and abandoning the ring in shame, walking to the back immediately after the decision was read in a rain of boos and cheap beer.
It was not how this story was supposed to play out.
Broner was supposed to be boxing's top rising star, the next Floyd Mayweather according to some—most prominently Broner himself. He had perfected, it seemed, all the trappings of fame. He partied like a star, talked like a star and mastered the reality television cameras like a star.
But one nagging question remained, one that turned out to be the most pertinent of all: Could he box like a star?
Against Maidana, a man he called a stepping stone before the fight, the answer was a clear and resounding "no." Using Mayweather's shoulder-roll defense, he looked hesitant throughout, thinking more than punching.
It's a style that isn't reflexive for him. A good boxer seamlessly combines offense and defense. In fact, they are one and the same, punches flowing from every juke, dodge and block—a very dangerous dance.
That sweet science was nowhere to be seen from Broner in San Antonio.
Maidana didn't present a complicated puzzle. He was winging from the start, landing 231 of 663 power punches and knocking the champion down twice. But even this simple style had Broner flustered. He had to think about it, often resorting to holding and pushing in a vain attempt to keep Maidana off him.
Unable to relax and react, Broner was in his own head throughout. And if he's thinking, he isn't punching. Unable to counter effectively, Broner was either on offense or on defense.
He spent much of the fight waiting for Maidana to stop punching so he could start. And for 12 rounds, Maidana had no intention of stopping.
How Broner responds to this loss will be crucial. In many ways, he's a bigger star than ever, even in defeat. I've never seen such vitriol for a fighter after a bout, even for the polarizing Floyd Mayweather.
Mayweather, because of his in-ring excellence, demands a grudging respect. He earns his right to talk trash and act how he wants inside the squared circle.
But when you can't back up your bold words, fans turn quickly. Broner has done his very best to become boxing's preeminent villain. Even during this fight, as he pretended to hump Maidana in the corner and failed to face the music and the crowd at the end, he was adding to the litany of reasons to despise him.
After the fight, it wasn't immediately clear that Broner had learned a single lesson.
"I'm still going to live like we won the fight," he said at the post-fight presser. "I'm still going to party."
As you can see, even after the first loss of his young career, Adrien Broner has the character down pat. He wears the black hat, and it fits him well. Now he needs the boxing prowess to go with it.
I'm rooting for him—if only to eventually root against him.