Still, for the fight fan, the match, filled with mini-dramas and memorable vignettes, contained far more excitement value than your garden-variety unanimous decision. There was Broner's ill-considered dry humping of Maidana during a first-round clinch, a favor the Argentinian mockingly returned later in the fight. This paled, however, before the unprecedented reaction to the Broner loss from a suddenly highly energized boxing fan base. A single Broner Instagram self-portrait, titled "#fight time," posted right before the bout, got nearly 12,000 responses in 36 hours. Many comments were in line with those voiced by _120K ("lol, got your ass knocked out"). Chris_Valentine offered the popular "AB ... Already Beaten." Memes came hot and heavy, a mass bloom of tech schadenfreude. There were numerous pics of Broner in various states of distress with captions like "Where Floyd? They Jumped Me!," "About Bedtime," and "Woooorld Staaaar, Baby!" Another had photoshopped Pops reaching toward his fallen son and the inevitable "Pops! Brush My Hair." It went on and on, for days.
In the aftermath of the fight, it seemed reasonable to wonder if the Broner brand could survive the defeat. "You kidding? He's bigger than ever," said one Showtime executive. "Is there anyone who doesn't want to see this guy fight now? He's at a crossroads. We can continue to do big numbers with him."
Not that Broner needs Showtime to tell him that. A self-made man at 24, AB knows a fuck of a lot more about the marketing of Adrien Broner than any network executive. When I first met him in Cincy, he said that sure, he was a great fighter and a great rapper, too, but he really saw himself as "an entertainer," someone who "puts on show." Looking at it that way, it would be hard to argue that AB, the most hated man in boxing, did not give his audience what they wanted getting his Ass Beat by Marcos Maidana. After all, where was the fun in one more victory? How many different ways can a man preen? No, losing was better, much better. As the Showtime guy said, it added "narrative."
The question remained: What next? Would the Problem come back older, wiser, and more humble, rededicated to his craft? Or would he flame out, his confidence shattered for all time by his first, crushing defeat? Would Adrien Broner, the most recent Cincinnati Kid, holder of two honorary keys to the city, be the next victim of the Curse?
A few weeks after the fight, I called the Problem to gauge his state of mind. Dire reports of his demise were greatly overrated, he said. Taking an "all in the game of boxing" approach, he said, "Even the best lose, and I am certainly one of the best, so it figures I would lose every so often." As for the sadder, wiser aspect, AB said he was not down with "all that humble pie crap. I got to stay me because that's who I am." This didn't mean he wasn't taking the Maidana loss seriously. He says he thought about it all the time. Soon after the fight, he invoked his contractual right for a rematch. Better late than never, he even started watching tapes of Maidana "to see what I did wrong and how to fix it."
As it turned out, however, the laws of both the street and business would intervene. Broner's great hero, Floyd Mayweather, ever keen to a good deal, pulled rank to announce he, not Broner, would be fighting Maidana next. It was a typical Mayweather move, since it's hard to imagine the wizard of Grand Rapids running into any of Maidana's Hail Mary shots. As for Broner, aside from the dubious distinction of having his self-proclaimed "big brother" clean up his mess, he will be moving back to 140 pounds, where he probably should have been all along. Just to make sure no one mistakes the pecking order, AB will fight on the undercard (emphasis on the under) of Mayweather's May 3 fight with Maidana. All in all, it had been a rough little patch, AB allowed. The only time he perked up was when asked if he still loved his haters.
"More than ever," the former champion said. "The more they hate me, the more I love them." Then Broner mentioned the "welcome home" dinner people threw him when he returned from San Antonio. More than 500 people turned out. "They showed me a lot of love."
For the fight fan, and the however grudging Adrien Broner fan, this was good news. It's a world of hate out there, and if you're a Cincy fighter trying to beat the Curse, you can use all the love you can get.