Marcos Maidana Is No Willie Pep

James FoleyCorrespondent IAugust 16, 2011

LAS VEGAS - DECEMBER 11:  (R-L) Marcos Maidana of Argentina connects with a right at Amir Khan of England during the WBA super lightweight title fight at Mandalay Bay Events Center on December 11, 2010 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Marcos Maidana is known for two things: being a hard-hitting brawler with little regard for the sweet science and wearing a bizarre tattoo of a baby on his chest.

When the venerable Erik Morales withstood Maidana's relentless assault and exploited his lack of craft to salvage a majority decision loss in a fight he was supposed to lose by concussive knockout, many scholars, while praising the heart and skills of the old warrior from Tijuana, also took the opportunity to deride Maidana's technical shortcomings.

Maidana is an artless, savage brawler who will never be a world-class fighter is one common line of thought. He has become something of a litmus test for the up and coming boxers who actually do have a chance to enter the stratosphere of greatness, something more sacred than Maidana's role as a reliable provider of violent entertainment.

Are we correct in assuming Mr. Maidana’s ceiling or might we be too quick to dismiss him as no more than an unskilled laborer in a division of wunderkinds?

Maidana has been known to launch a wild, looping punch or two (hundred) and leaves himself fairly defenseless against fighters with quick enough hands to take advantage of the momentary windows. He's not the most fundamentally sound boxer, at times literally just walking into punches, either forgetting or not caring to keep his guard up.

He doesn't move well around the ring, he basically plods forward and stalks and allows his more assertive opponents to dictate the pacing and flow. How can Ring magazine even justify his lofty number three ranking at junior-welterweight, one of the most loaded divisions in boxing?

There are two major assets Maidana brings with him into the ring: power and heart.

He proved he’s not one of those monster punchers with a glass jaw when he ran it back against Victor Ortiz after being knocked down thrice, wounded and legless in the second round. He rallied to take control of the fight with an aggressive attack that took full advantage of Ortiz' own defensive inadequacies.

Maidana’s signature power was on full display as Ortiz resigned rather than subject himself to more of it. He staged a similar late comeback against Amir Khan, but it was too late, and Khan too resilient in that moment. Maybe a more efficient, polished fighter could have found an avenue to that frail chin when the fateful seconds ticked by in the tenth round as Khan looked to be a punch away from dreamland.

But few would have the stamina and will to battle back from the vicious liver-shot that sent Maidana reeling to the canvas in the first round to even be in a position to win the fight.

“Heart” is one of those funny labels that gets tossed around a lot in this sport whenever any fighter overcomes even the most infinitesimal piece of adversity in or out of the ring. The very essence of the fight game is facing adversity…when you hear “he was getting horribly out-boxed, trailing big on the cards and rallied to knock his guy out. Such heart”…that doesn’t quite equate to what Maidana does.

The beating he was taking in the second round against Ortiz or the sick liver-shot that floored him early against Khan…to fight back from those types of situations, when a lot of guys would’ve packed it up and conceded to the better man….there’s no doubting the magnitude of the pulsating orb behind the mysterious infant on Maidana’s chest.

Maidana again enters the ring as an underdog to one of Golden Boy’s rising stars when he takes on Robert Guerrero on August 27th.

Win or lose, Maidana doesn’t have to worry about his place in the pecking order. He is firmly entrenched in his role as gatekeeper in a division full of young up-and-comers looking to prove themselves and move on to bigger and better things. He makes fan-friendly, action fights and he’s beatable.

However, the intriguing thing to me about Maidana is this: the qualities he lacks can be taught. The qualities he possesses cannot. With veteran trainer Rudy Perez at the helm, the architect of Marco Antonio Barrera’s transformation from young brawler to world-class boxer-puncher, maybe we shouldn’t write the guy off so soon.

With all the intangibles Maidana brings to the table, a little craft could go a long way.

So often in this sport, guys are unable to overcome significant gaps in talent or athleticism. They wilt when the going gets tough and don’t take the risks that are necessary to turn the tide, letting their opponents dictate the pace and sweep rounds on cruise control. Maidana embodies a fighter.

He comes at you for twelve rounds and he packs striking one-punch power. You can hurt him and you probably will, but he’s not going away so get ready for a long night. He’s a man who either brings out the greatness in his opponent or exposes their weaknesses.

Some of it is power. Some of it is ability to recover and the courage to go forward. And some of it is just attitude. Morales, immediately after losing a close, majority decision to Maidana, acknowledged that he probably lost a close fight.

Then seconds later, apparently reconsidering, Morales defiantly stated that actually he thought he had won and suggested a rematch. Maidana marched right over and grabbed the microphone: “Anytime. Tomorrow.”