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Marcos Maidana Settles in for War at 147

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Before “Maravilla/Matthysse Mania,” Marcos Maidana was the dark horse darling of boxing’s Argentinean contingent. Saturday night at the Home Depot Center in Carson, CA against Josesito Lopez, he has a chance to get back on track for that sort of spotlight in a surefire action fight. For the hardcore set, Maidana emerged in February of 2009, losing a disputed split decision to Andriy Kotelnik in Germany for the latter’s WBA 140-pound title. That version of Maidana was a raw talent at the time. Squared up as he approached with hands down, Maidana raked his opponents with uppercuts and wide-swinging hooks.  Though he had some upper body movement in his game, Maidana seemed a fighter not quite developed despite being in title contention. Yet there he was despite his rough-around-the-edges style, challenging like a true threat.
 
In his very next fight, Maidana went from a fighter who may have won a fight you might not have seen to a fighter no one could ignore. It was June of 2009 and this time, Maidana was vying for the WBA interim 140-pound belt against Victor Ortiz in Los Angeles’ Staples Center. The fight had been elevated to the main event and Maidana lived up to it, rising from the canvas in the first round and immediately dropping Ortiz with a beautiful right hand that the young southpaw never saw coming. From then on, boxing fans got to witness Maidana’s raw savagery while discovering his intangibles. Toughness and determination were on display as Maidana got dropped again in the second round yet rising and tearing into Ortiz in return. It was exactly how Maidana liked it. With his eye nearly closed, Ortiz hit the deck again the sixth round, regained a semblance of composure and called it a night. Maidana’s pressure and dogged relentlessness proved too great for the young fighter and when referee Raul Caiz Sr. asked Ortiz if he wanted to continue, the Oxnard transplant adamantly shook his head in the negative. What should have been Ortiz’s coronation was instead Maidana’s inuguration.

Despite a somewhat tougher than expected Argentinean homecoming against DeMarcus Corley in 2010, Maidana was on a three-fight winning streak heading into a December title fight with Amir Khan. And it was here where Maidana’s Achilles’ Heels, movement and speed reared their ugly heads. His conditioning also seemed to suffer while making the 140-pound limit. At 5’7” but with a stocky frame, Maidana is not a guy with a lot of fat to lose.
 
Again, the fight showed Maidana’s toughness as he rose from what looked like a fight-ending left to the body by the speedier Khan, flooring Maidana with about 20 seconds left in the bout. He looked all but done, lying face down in obvious pain. But as he had in the past, Maidana rose to give Khan one of his toughest tests to date. All fight long, Maidana pressured Khan, taking fast incoming flak to deliver thudding body shots in return until nearly hitting paydirt in the 10th heat with a near perfect right hand. Maidana let it all hang out, showing fight fans why they spend time and money watching him. The man gives you everything he has.
 
Though he eventually lost the Khan fight by lopsided decision, Maidana would pick up an interim version of that WBA title (does anyone really have the one true, genuine belt?) in his next fight via decision over an old, comebacking Erik Morales. The fight was a bit like the Corley fight, with Maidana falling for defensive tricks from Morales, who showed every bit of ring savvy he possessed.  The fight did more for Morales in losing than for Maidana in winning. Two fights later in 2012, Maidana would move to 147 pounds, no longer comfortable making 140.
 
“147 is where I feel very good,” Maidana told Maxboxing.com. “I like 140 but it was kind of difficult [to make]. Now I am free. I am able to eat anything. I am working so well. You can see my body is different. You can see the definition.  I feel so relaxed, so good in this division. The way I do it, I know I will make 146, 146-and-a-half. I feel so good.”
 
Maidana would drop a decision to Devon Alexander at 147 pounds, as the St. Louis native’s slick, southpaw style was simply all wrong for the Argentinean slugger.
 
It was here where Maidana (having gone through several trainers from Rudy Perez to Sergio Diaz) teamed up with Oxnard’s Robert Garcia. The match seems a good one as the two have seen successful together going 2-0 heading into Saturday (including a tough first fight against Jesus Soto-Karass). The second fight under Garcia, a third round knockout of Angel Martinez to close out 2012, didn’t exactly show the subtlety of craft Garcia is attempting to develop but certain signs are readily apparent. In wins over Soto-Karass and Martinez, Maidana is not a completely different fighter but there are subtle changes in the air. Garcia has not changed him as a fighter so much as reminded him of a fundamental here or tightened up an aspect there.
 
“He started to tell me, ‘You have to move this way. You have to move your head. Don’t just throw punches. You have to be more intelligent.’ So that is what I am doing with Robert right now,” Maidana explained.
 
If you watch Maidana from his Kotelnik experience until now, there is an obvious progression. While it’s not exactly as drastic as some astute fight pundits might say a Marco Antonio Barrera changing into a technician later in his career would be, it’s there. The hands are higher as attention to defense is actually paid. The footwork is not always squared up the pressure has become more intelligent by employing head movement and utilizing a multiple jab. And while the sum total of that growth can be attributed to every man trainer he has worked with along the way, the way Maidana tells it, the icing on the fistic cake is Garcia.
 
“I learned a lot from the other trainers. I have to give praise to them,” said Maidana. “But honestly, I feel so good with Robert Garcia because I am getting used to him. How he trains, how he commands me, the way he orders me, I feel good with him.”
 
 Maidana isn’t exactly the most loquacious guy on the planet. His answers are short and to the point, much like the way he fights. For Maidana, everything that needs to be said is done between the ropes.
 
“I think I found the right division for me. I had a good fight with Soto-Karass at 147. And now with Josesito, it has to be the same result. I feel so strong at this weight,” he said.
 
Maidana is facing a fighter who has an inch of height on him with as much a deficit on reach. Lopez, nicknamed “The Riverside Rocky,” is a brawler at heart though he has the ability to box at long range. His ability to stay disciplined and box for all 12 rounds will be a major factor in the fight.
 
“I noticed something,” said Maidana. “[Lopez] boxes a little at the beginning but eventually, he starts exchanging. That’s what I like. That’s what I want.”
 
Most fighters protect their game plan like it’s the damn DaVinci Code. Not Marcos Maidana.
 
“I am going to put a lot of pressure,” he explained. “I will pressure until he stops boxing and exchanges punches with me.”
 
It wasn’t long ago when Maidana was the lone, power-punching machine from Argentina on the scene much less roaming the waters from 140 to 147 pounds. You’d think Maidana would be looking at his countrymen’s success and be competitive. But the way Maidana sees it, wins by any Argentine are wins for all of them.
 
“It’s kind of difficult for Argentinean fighters to have success in the United States,” he said. “So to be the main event on a card like this is an honor for myself.”
 
Garcia understands this fight is not about showing the complete, new and improved Marcos Maidana. That will take at least two more fights, he estimates. But against a game foe in a fight which is equal parts dangerous and opportunistic on Saturday night, Maidana gets another chance to show his wares while re-stating the case that he is indeed one of Argentina’s and boxing’s most exciting fighters.
 
You can email Gabriel at maxgmontoya@gmail.com, follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/gabriel_montoya and catch him every Monday on “The Next Round” with Steve Kim. You can also tune in to hear him and co-host David Duenez live on the BlogTalk radio show Leave-It-In-The-Ring.com, Thursdays at 5-8 p.m., PST.
 
 
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