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Broner closes ranks for return to ring after loss of WBA title

Adrien Broner’s cellphone usually would ring off the hook after his fights. The text messages would come nonstop, and friends would be trying to latch on to his latest performance and bask in his glory.

Then came Dec. 14. Broner had lost a 12-round unanimous decision to Marcos Maidana at the Alamodome in San Antonio. He no longer was undefeated. He was now the former World Boxing Association welterweight champion. His phone was strangely quiet. His once-sizable entourage had shrunk to a handful of loyal followers.

So this is what losing was like?

“After Maidana, people didn’t call as much, people didn’t come around as much,” said Broner, who returns to the ring Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden, this time as a 140-pounder, in a 10-round bout against Carlos Molina as part of the undercard for Maidana’s welterweight unification title fight against Floyd Mayweather Jr.

“For a guy in my position, sometimes you need to take a bump in the head to know who’s with me and who isn’t.”

Broner (27-1, 22 knockouts) said he learned a valuable lesson from the Maidana loss. In the ring, he has to fight smarter, use his immense talent wisely and not be afraid to stay busy each round and mix things up. Outside of it, he has become more select as to whom gets close to him.

“I’m not going to put a number on it, but the (inner) circle is definitely shorter,” he said of his entourage that will accompany him to the ring Saturday.

For his fight with Molina (17-1-1, seven KOs), who last fought Dec. 15, 2012, losing a 10-round unanimous decision to Amir Khan, Broner moved his training camp from his hometown of Cincinnati to Washington, D.C., where he trained at Barry Hunter’s gym. Working with his longtime trainer, Mike Stafford, Broner sharpened his game, got back to executing his fundamentals and trained like a junior welterweight, focusing on speed and quickness. He sparred with the Peterson brothers, Lamont and Anthony, the stars of Hunter’s gym.

“It’s really not a big change,” Broner said of dropping from 147 to 140 pounds. “I’m a natural lightweight. I can hit regardless. It doesn’t matter what weight I fight at. I’m always in shape. I train hard. I can eat whatever I want. If I want ice cream, I can have ice cream.”

Stafford said he’s not concerned about dropping down a division.

“Adrien is going to do well at any weight class he tries,” he said. “The only one who can beat Adrien Broner is Adrien Broner, and with him being focused and ready to show the world he’s still one of the top fighters around, I don’t see him losing (Saturday).”

Broner said he is OK with Maidana getting his opportunity against Mayweather. He would like another crack at Maidana, but for now, he’ll settle for Molina, a guy he called “a punching bag with arms and legs.”

“This fight is huge for me,” Broner said. “Coming off a loss, everyone wants to see what I come back and do.”

Contact reporter Steve Carp at scarp@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2913. Follow him on Twitter: @stevecarprj.

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