By Jake Donovan
Adrien Broner and Vicente Martin Rodriguez both made weight for their vacant super featherweight title fight Saturday night in Cincinnati, Ohio. Broner came in at a ripped128.5 lb, well below the division’s 130 lb limit. Rodriguez was slightly heavier but still on target at a solid 129.5 lb.
The bout will air live on HBO as part of a split site doubleheader, which also features Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez in a super welterweight crossroads bout with Kermit Cintron in Mexico City.
The fight in Cincinnati marks the first time HBO cameras follow Broner (21-0, 17KO) to his hometown. The 22-year old former amateur standout appears on the network for the third time this year, though oddly enough the last time he appeared in his backyard came in January, the one fight in 2011 to not take place in front of the television cameras.
Rodriguez (34-2-1, 19KO) fights in the United States for the first time in his six-year career. The bout marks just his second outside of his native Argentina.
His previous road trip happens to serve as the one common opponent between Saturday’s main event players. Rodriguez suffered a lopsided points loss to then-unbeaten William “Cool Willie” Kickett when he traveled to Australa in August ’08; Broner beat the brakes off of the Aussie one year later in a non-televised undercard bout in Los Angeles.
Saturday’s main event marks the first time either fighter will challenge for a major title. The belt became vacant when Ricky Burns of Scotland – who was originally scheduled to face Broner – opted to move up to the lightweight division, proving to be a successful journey as he outpointed Michael Katsidis in London earlier this month.
Rodriguez was actually the third option as far as opponents went. Broner’s team attempted to negotiate a fight with fellow unbeaten contender Eloy Perez, but the logistics couldn’t be worked out.
Selecting an opponent also became an issue in this show’s chief support, as unbeaten featherweight prospect Gary Russell Jr. takes on very late replacement Heriberto Ruiz.
The slot was originally slated as the third leg of a televised tripleheader, but will now be featured in a highlight package thanks to Russell’s team failing to see eye-to-eye with HBO on an opponent worthy of airtime.
Russell Jr. (18-0, 10KO) was set to face Dat Nguyen, but the fringe contender pulled out of the fight late in the promotion due to an injury. In came Ruiz (47-11-2, 29KO), a battle tested Mexican veteran who wins as often as he loses these days.
Both fighters weighed within the contractual limit of 127 lb, Russell Jr. exactly hitting the mark while Ruiz was a drop lighter at 126.5 lb.
The night marks the first time Russell Jr is in a fight scheduled for 10 rounds, having never previously went longer than eight. Included among that tally was his last fight, which received HBO airtime despite only being scheduled for eight rounds at the request of advisor Al Haymon (who also handles the reins for Broner).
While weight wasn’t an issue for the main two bouts of the card, there were a few fires to put out on the rest of the undercard, resulting in the overall show being shortened from eight fights to six.
The one fight that saw an issue at the scale was that of 2008 Olympic Gold medalist Felix Diaz (10-0, 6KO), who heads back to his native Dominican Republic without holiday pay after coming in well above the super welterweight limit for his scheduled eight-rounder with American journeyman Brad Jackson (13-7-1, 7KO).
The bout was dropped from the show altogether rather than having Diaz attempt to shed the extra poundage.
Also removed from the show was a hometown grudge match between local featherweight prospects Bradley Bennett (13-0, 7KO) and Jessie Carradine (7-1-1, 3KO). The fight was scratched after Carradine dropped off the show and a suitable opponent couldn’t be secured in time.
The rest of the undercard remains intact, including an appearance by unbeaten American heavyweight Deontay Wilder, the lone medalist from the 2008 U.S. Olympic boxing squad.
Wilder (19-0, 19KO) captured Olympic bronze in the Beijing games, and has helped breathed new life into the boxing scene in his home state of Alabama, where he has been regularly showcased. He appears in a special undercard attraction as he takes on local heavyweight David Long (11-1-2, 7KO).
A trio of local unbeaten prospects round out the undercard, including Chris Pearson who makes his pro debut. A standout amateur, Pearson takes on Steven Chadwick in a four round affair.
The remaining two slots pit unbeaten fighters on both sides. William Jackson (10-0-1, 5KO) takes on Holland, MI prospect Juan Garcia (9-0, 7KO) in a six-round welterweight bout, while DeVonte Allen (4-0, 3KO) faces Salvador Perez (1-0, 1KO) in a featherweight match scheduled for four-rounds or less.
The doors now open at 6:00pm local time, with the first fight scheduled for 7:00pm.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter at twitter.com/JakeNDaBox or submit questions/comments to JakeNDaBox@gmail.com.