SAN ANTONIO -- For all of welterweight titleholder Adrien Broner's questionable behavior -- trash talk, in-your-face craziness, vulgar tweets, arrests and even a recent sex tape, which somehow found its way onto the Internet -- it is all outside-of-the-ring stuff.
Inside the ring is where Broner usually shines and puts all the chaos aside. Broner, whose nickname is "The Problem," is close to breaking out as a mainstream star, and he would love to follow in the footsteps of the man he calls his "big brother," pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather Jr. But Broner will need to keep winning to accomplish that -- and perhaps take it down a notch outside the ring.
Broner can go a long way toward reaching that goal if he tackles perhaps the toughest test of his career in former junior welterweight titlist Marcos Maidana, the wild-swinging, big-punching brawler from Argentina.
"Every boxer wants to be where I am right now," Broner said at Thursday's final news conference before the fight. "I am the person who is going to take over boxing after Floyd Mayweather."
Broner will make the first defense of his 147-pound belt against Maidana on Saturday night at the Alamodome (Showtime, 8 ET; preliminary bouts on Showtime Extreme at 6 ET). Of course, Broner expects to shine.
"You never know, maybe I have to sit in there and brawl it out with this guy for 12 rounds," Broner said. "Maybe I mess him up in two. Maybe one.
"If he makes a mistake and I have a chance to get him out of there, I'm going to get him out of there. If I just beat him to death, then I beat him to death. Who doesn't want to see a young star on the rise like Adrien Broner fight a guy like Marcos Maidana, a hard puncher, a knockout artist with 31 knockouts? Who doesn't want to see that? [But] I have to stay focused. I am not going to allow distraction. I'm not going to lie. This is the biggest fight of my career to date. He is going to try to hurt me, so I am ready and focused."
Maidana (34-3, 31 KOs), who has been in numerous exciting fights -- with Amir Khan, Erik Morales, Josesito Lopez and Victor Ortiz -- always comes to battle, and he says the showdown with Broner (27-0, 22 KOs) will be no different.
"I'm going to hit him hard, very hard, with all I have, and I'll get busy with him," Maidana said through a translator. "I hope he's ready, because I am. This is the hardest fight of my life. I respect Broner, but I don't underestimate him. On Saturday, I'll do my part. I'll do what I came here for -- to fight with my heart and do my best."
There are three other title bouts on the card: welterweight Keith Thurman (21-0, 19 KOs) making the first defense of his interim belt against Jesus Soto Karass (28-8-3, 18 KOs); junior featherweight Leo Santa Cruz (25-0-1, 15 KOs) making his initial defense against Cesar Seda (25-1, 17 KOs); and light heavyweight Beibut Shumenov (13-1, 8 KOs) defending his belt for the fifth time when he faces Tamas Kovacs (23-0, 14 KOs).
Broner is only 24, but he has already won world titles in three weight classes: junior lightweight, lightweight and welterweight. However, he hasn't exactly taken on a Murderers' Row of opponents to get the belts. His opposition in junior lightweight title bouts, in particular, was weak. His biggest wins are an eight-round destruction of Antonio DeMarco to win a lightweight title 13 months ago and a split decision against Paulie Malignaggi in June in Malignaggi's hometown of Brooklyn, N.Y. In defeating Malignaggi, Broner won the welterweight belt in his first fight in the weight class. (He skipped over the junior welterweight division.)
Broner, of Cincinnati, didn't have to worry about Malignaggi's offense. While he is an excellent boxer, his repeated hand injuries have sapped him of any semblance of punching power.
But Maidana, 30, is a mostly crude blaster blessed with two of the heaviest hands in the ring. He is a crushing puncher.
"The plan is that when I fight Broner, I am going to hit him everywhere and be busier," said Maidana. "I'm prepared to throw many punches in the fight and pressure him. I've also trained to cut off the ring. It's very important to attack the body, the arms and later the head."
It didn't seem unreasonable to ask Broner for his thoughts about going from fighting a feather-fisted Malignaggi to the hammer-handed Maidana, although Broner will have overwhelming advantages in the skills and speed departments on Saturday. Broner, however, was dismissive.
"One more thing that people don't understand is, the guys he knocked out, he was able to hit," Broner said of Maidana. "He's got to hit me first. He has to hit me first, and he's never been hit by me.
"Maidana has to make me respect his power and his boxing skills. When I make my adjustments inside the ring, then I'll do what I have to do to get my victory, but until then, we're just staying sharp."
The fight has been brewing since Broner beat Malignaggi. Maidana is Broner's mandatory challenger and badly wanted to fight him. Maidana called it his "obsession."
Before the fight was signed, Broner and Maidana nearly came to blows at a boxing card in Las Vegas in September, a couple of nights before Mayweather faced Canelo Alvarez.
"I really wanted to beat and knock him out even at that stage, [when] the fight was not done already [set], when the incident happened in Las Vegas," Maidana said. "But after the incident, I tell you the truth, it was a motivation for me, because I'm not used to fights or getting into arguments or coming to blows with fellow fighters. But this guy has something special. He's a provocative character, so it really gave me motivation to focus more on my training."
Broner said he was sitting with "a nice lady" and that Maidana just wanted some attention when he approached Broner.
"Somebody had to tell him to [come over to me], but that's boxing," Broner said. "Did it surprise me? No. No. It's OK. I'm fine with that. That's what I'm used to. I'm happy that he's willing to fight me and that he's ready to fight. I like to see that, so I know he's not going to run from me. He's going to come to fight me."
Maidana knows no other way.
"The key is to throw a lot of punches. Pressure him. Kick his ass. And that's what I am going to do," Maidana said. "Everyone knows that Broner has a big mouth, but that doesn't bother me, because his mouth can't fight for him. Whether he has the guts to stand in front of me or if he runs, I'll definitely go for the KO, and either way I'm leaving the ring with the belt."
Broner begs to differ.
"Maidana is one-dimensional and not in my league," he said. "I'm a Ferrari and he's a go-kart, and my fans will see that. I'm going to put on a show. Watch me light Maidana up like a Christmas tree.
"I don't go for knockouts, but I really feel I'm going to knock this guy out. I'm going to be his first stoppage. I'm going to stop this guy, and we're going to move on to the next one."
One more step, perhaps, toward that mainstream stardom Broner craves.