LAS VEGAS -- Junior welterweights Adrien Broner and John Molina Jr. were tasked with fighting the first bout on the return of boxing to prime time for the first time in decades as adviser/manager Al Haymon's "Premier Boxing Champions" series kicked off on NBC on Saturday night.
While the matchup looked as though it might deliver fireworks in theory, what it did deliver in reality was an easy decision win for Broner, who outclassed Molina at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on the undercard of the welterweight title bout between Keith Thurman and challenger Robert Guerrero.
Quicker, fresher and better technically, Broner cruised to a unanimous decision while taking very little punishment as he bolstered his chances for a title opportunity in a fourth weight class.
It was not a hard fight to score, as two judges had it a 120-108 shutout for Broner, with the third judge scoring it for him 118-110. ESPN.com also had it for Broner, 119-108.
Cincinnati's Broner, 25, who has won world titles at junior lightweight, lightweight and welterweights, won his third fight in a row since dropping down to the 140-pound weight class after losing his 147-pound welterweight world title in December 2013 when Marcos Maidana knocked him down twice and won a unanimous decision in an upset.
"Listen to them [the fans]. Like always, a lot of them not on my side. But at the end of the day, the last time I fought for the crowd, I took my first loss," Broner said. "So no disrespect to anybody, but I had to do what I had to do to win today.
"Even a vicious guy like Molina, I didn't go nowhere. I jabbed and took every shot he threw and gave back mine. And I won unanimously."
While Broner kept a steady pace in the first two rounds, Molina threw virtually no punches and was being outclassed. He tried to throw a few big shots, but they were wild punches that missed. But he broke through in the third round when he nailed Broner with a heavy right hand and a left hook and then another right later in the round, bringing the pro-Molina crowd to life.
In the fifth round, Molina nailed Broner with a couple more right hands. Broner began to jaw with him, so Molina punched him again.
Broner has a good jab and controlled the sixth round with it, doubling and tripling it against a much slower Molina (27-6, 22 KOs).
Broner (30-1, 22 KOs) kept his quicker hands moving in a big seventh round as he fired some clean-connecting punches that Molina had no answer for.
He played to the crowd by making faces, ducking up and down in the eighth round, and firing up the crowd. That was Broner's way of probably showing he believed he was in control, which he appeared to be as he cruised to the easy decision.
According to CompuBox statistics, Broner landed 219 of 502 punches (44 percent), and Molina was limited to landing just 54 of 299 blows (22 percent).
During the lead-up to the fight, Molina had promised to go for broke and make it a slugfest, like many of his fights have been. But he did not do that.
"First of all, Adrien fought a good fight and did what he had to do," Molina said. "But he should have kept his word when he said he was going to sit there and fight me. He did what he had to do to win, but I thought he was a tough fighter. He boxes well, but he doesn't exchange well.
"He moves a lot and doesn't like to exchange too much. When I get on the inside, he is holding me or saying I lead with my head. I'm a professional in there and am trying to do what I want to do."
Molina, 32, of Covina, California, lost his third fight in a row and for the fourth time in his past six bouts. Although Molina had lost some fights, Haymon wanted a usually television-friendly fighter such as Molina on the debut PBC card. After all, his 11th-round knockout loss to Lucas Matthysse last April was voted the 2014 fight of the year by the Boxing Writers Association of America. But that Molina was nowhere to be seen against Broner.
"You know it's always AB time," Broner said. "Like I said, John Molina is tough. But like I said, I'm still beautiful at the end of the fight. He wanted me to sit there and bang it out with him, but why would I do that when God gave me so many gifts that I can use?
"After a while, I knew he was going to start going for the gusto, so I just stayed smart. I was just talking to him every shot he missed and said, 'Really?'"
Mares claims decision over Reyes
Despite battling an illness, former three-division titleholder Abner Mares (29-1-1, 15 KOs) held on to outpoint determined Mexican countryman Arturo Santos Reyes.
Mares, 29, who lives in Los Angeles, recorded a second-round knockdown against Reyes (18-5, 5 KOs), his former sparring partner, and took home a unanimous decision on judges' scores of 96-93, 98-91 and 99-94.
"I didn't like my performance," Mares said. "I don't want to blame anyone. I had a tremendous camp. But today I woke up under the weather. I woke up a little sick today and wasn't feeling good. But I couldn't say no to the fight because it was already made."
Reyes, who took home a purse of $20,000, pressured Mares throughout with combinations from close range. But Mares landed the harder, cleaner shots over the 10 rounds.
"Reyes is a great fighter," Mares said. "He gave me hell and could take a lot of punches. And he gave me a lot of punches."
Mares, who made $500,000, has won world titles at bantamweight, junior featherweight and featherweight. He lost his featherweight belt by major upset in August 2013 when Jhonny Gonzalez knocked him out in the first round.
Mares won his next two fights, albeit it against low-level opponents. Reyes was no different. But the victory sets Mares up for another possible title shot against the winner of the March 28 bout between Gonzalez and challenger Gary Russell Jr.
Reyes was coming off a decision loss in December to former featherweight world titleholder Simpiwe Vetyeka in Vetyeka's native South Africa.
• In an all-Mexican featherweight fight, Jorge Lara (27-0-1, 19 KOs) blew out Mario Macias (25-15, 13 KOs) in a first-round knockout. Lara was all over Macias from the opening bell, nailing him with punches. He scored a knockdown when the ropes held him up, and then, referee Tony Weeks stepped in moments later to stop it at 2 minutes, 3 seconds.
• San Antonio featherweight prospect Mario Barrios (8-0, 4 KOs) blew out Justin Lopez (5-3, 5 KOs), of Austin, Texas, in the third round. Barrios dropped Lopez in the second round and then was teeing off on him with unanswered punches when referee Robert Byrd stopped it at 1 minute, 53 seconds.
• Lightweight prospect Robert Easter (13-0, 10 KOs), of Toledo, Ohio, rolled past Alejandro Rodriguez (22-16-1, 13 KOs) of Mexico with ease. He dropped Rodriguez three times in the second round. The second knockdown, in a flush right uppercut, did major damage. Rodriguez continued but was down moments later from a right hand, after which referee Jay Nady immediately waved off the fight at 1 minute, 15 seconds.
• In an all-Las Vegas welterweight bout, Ladarius Miller (6-0, 1 KO) easily outpointed Ryan Picou (2-7, 0 KOs) in an entertaining four-round bout. Miller won by shutout, 40-36 on all three scorecards.