Adrien Broner was 27-0 and rising through the ranks toward boxing stardom. Then he put together a stunningly poor performance against Marcos Maidana en route to his first defeat, which raised questions about whether all that earlier hype was warranted as he prepared to face Carlos Molina.
Yahoo! Sports' Kevin Iole had the decision and the general mood of the crowd:
In many ways, the fight with Molina seemed like a bridge bout between the Maidana battle and Broner turning his attention back toward the big names. Now that it's over, let's check out a trio of fighters that could be next up for The Problem.
Broner has had his eye on the prize, which in this case is a high-profile fight against one of the sport's biggest names, for quite some time. In fact, getting caught looking toward the future might have cost him against Maidana. He certainly didn't look completely prepared for that bout.
The loss didn't change his overall outlook, though. Even as he was getting ready to fight Molina, a question was raised about potentially fighting Pacquiao.
Carlos Arias of BoxingScene.com passed along the American's jocular response: "Hey, Pacquiao? Where they at? Top Rank, Pacquiao's promoter, where they at? I'll stop this fight to fight Pacquiao."
Whether Broner actually deserves a chance to face Pacquiao is up for debate.
He definitely has the name recognition necessary for the fight to generate a lot of mainstream attention. But his recent results don't suggest he's ready to take on one of the best pound-for-pound boxers on the planet.
Still, if the opportunity presents itself, Broner will no doubt jump at it face a stiff test in the process as Iole showed us after tonight's fight:
It originally looked like a rematch between Broner and Maidana was going to happen right away, but the Argentine instead earned the opportunity to face Floyd Mayweather. It illustrated exactly how important their first meeting was, even if the consequences weren't fully understood at the time.
After fighting on the same card, albeit against opponents on vastly different levels in Molina and Mayweather, perhaps the rematch will come to fruition. It's definitely a fight Broner could use in order to show that the previous encounter wasn't representative of his talent.
Furthermore, it would be an opportunity to prove he deserves a chance to fight Pacquiao down the line should it not materialize this time around. Otherwise, that lackluster showing will continue to hang over his head like a dark cloud.
Maidana dominated the first fight against Broner in surprising fashion, so The Problem has to be eager to avenge that loss with a much better showing.
Another option, should Broner be unable to secure a Pacquiao fight, is Garcia. The undefeated American is coming off a controversial victory by majority decision over Mauricio Herrera. He holds prior wins over Zab Judah and Amir Khan, among others.
The biggest question is probably whether the friends would be interested in a title fight against each other. Dan Rafael of ESPN.com notes it's impossible to rule it out completely, but another plan could be in place for both fighters:
The champion is Danny Garcia, Broner's pal. They share the same promoter (Golden Boy) and the same adviser (Al Haymon). A fight between them isn't out of the question, but more likely Garcia will defend his title once more and then move up to welterweight, opening a path for Broner to fight a belt.
That said, if Broner isn't able to lock down a fight with Pacquiao or a rematch with Maidana, he would be far better off facing Garcia than another opponent that doesn't provide him with much to gain like Molina. He needs to start moving back up the ladder again, and Garcia would provide him that challenge.