by David P. Greisman
Adrien Broner’s greater sin wasn’t so much the one he committed as what it represented.
Broner is far from the first high-profile fighter to fail to make weight. He won’t be the last, either, not when the status quo of those competing in combat sports is to boil their bodies down as low as they can go, step on the scales and then rehydrate in the hopes of gaining an advantage over a foe who might not be as big or as powerful.
Yet the outrage directed at Adrien Broner after he came in overweight for his junior lightweight bout against Vicente Escobedo — and then came in heavy again after agreeing that he would have to weigh-in under a certain number the following day — was the sort of anger and annoyance brought out by the serial offenders.
Broner is not Joan Guzman or Jose Luis Castillo, two fighters now known as much for their failures at the scales as they are for their fights. Guzman and Castillo have had bouts called off because of being overweight. Broner nearly did, too, until money triumphed over principle.
This is prizefighting, after all. And Escobedo and his team were able to take advantage of the situation, negotiating for more money and coming to terms that must have been so good for them — and so bad for those at the other end of the bargaining table — that their agreement is being kept confidential.
It must have been worth it for them to take a fighter who already was outclassed and to put him in with an opponent who already had more speed, more skills and more size, but now also would potentially be coming in even heavier while still retaining his other natural advantages.
Broner, after all, had weighed in at 133 and a half pounds, then refused to lose any more, despite being closer to the lightweight limit than he was to junior lightweight. He added 13 and a half more pounds by the night of the fight, while Escobedo had gone through the sacrifices of making 130 before adding a dozen pounds himself, coming in at 142.
It might still have been worth it to Escobedo and his team after five rounds with a fighter who wasn’t just bigger, but better, who moved Escobedo with so many clean shots, who made Escobedo look to his corner after one barrage in the final round, and who brought Escobedo’s corner ascending the ring steps with towel in hand shortly thereafter.
“I was away from my family and my wife,” Escobedo said, the father of a newborn daughter choking back tears in his post-fight interview. “And just to come here and not get a fair, fair, fair fight … but I’m here to fight. I came to fight.”
He escaped an extended beating, but not the damage he’d already taken and the disappointment of defeat. That was his own doing, the price he’d paid — or, rather, been paid — to face Broner despite Broner’s not making weight on Friday and then again on Saturday.
But that he was put into that situation to begin with was because of Broner.
Broner is far from the first high-profile fighter to miss weight. That wasn’t his greater sin. His greater sin was the way he shrugged off his own failure at the scales not as a fault of self, but rather as a fact of life, as something that he didn’t control — and that didn’t matter.
“I’m 22, and it’s obvious I grew out of the weight class,” Broner said to HBO’s Max Kellerman in a pre-fight interview.
Kellerman then confronted him about the pictures of junk food Broner had posted on Twitter in the lead-up to the fight. Kellerman only mentioned Twinkies and ice cream sundaes, but Broner in the weeks before the fight had also put up photos of an ice cream bar, a McDonald’s parking lot, a bag of Skittles, a bowl of cereal alongside a bottle of caramel syrup and a jug of milk, and a hot dog alongside an Icee cup and more ice cream.
“Um, I don’t think ice cream sundaes make you grow out of a weight class, you know,” Broner responded. “My body’s growing. I’m 22, like I said, you know. I grew out of the weight class, and that’s that.”
Broner had previously said that the Escobedo fight would be his last at junior lightweight. Then he made sure that wouldn’t be the case — his last fight at junior lightweight would instead be the one that came before — paying little heed to making weight, and then paying a fifth of his purse, $60,000, to be split between the Ohio athletic commission and Escobedo.
That was the Friday before the bout. The day of the fight, Broner was supposed to weigh in at no more than 10 pounds over the junior lightweight limit, according to members of Escobedo’s team, while those affiliated with Broner argued that the agreement had been that Broner could gain 10 pounds from what he’d been.
The latter is what Broner did, coming in for his second weigh-in at 143.5. Reports over the next several hours were that the fight was teetering between being on and being called off, and the bout was finally set only after even more money went to Escobedo.
Broner is far from the first high-profile fighter to miss weight. But a fighter who misses weight and causes the fight to be canceled is a problem. Adrien Broner is not Joan Guzman or Jose Luis Castillo, but he came close enough to draw the same kind of ire as had been directed at those serial offenders.
Judging by his diet, Broner had intentionally not made weight. And as evident by his inaction after coming in heavy, he intentionally didn’t try to make 130 after coming in three and a half pounds over.
Not trying to drop those pounds in just two hours wasn’t just practical — but tactical.
Broner had no problem dropping his title at the scales in a division that he was already looking to leave behind. And he knew that he could afford to pay $60,000 to Escobedo and the commission. He is a hyped prospect who has now been featured on HBO for five straight fights, who is headlining Golden Boy Promotions cards and who is managed by influential powerbroker Al Haymon.
Broner likely didn’t have to personally fork over whatever additional money sweetened the pot to get Escobedo to agree to fight after Broner missed weight on Saturday, not when Haymon and Golden Boy can get him on HBO, which is always in search of the next great star, and who in Broner has a talented American molding himself both personally and professionally as an imitation of Floyd Mayweather Jr.
And Broner knew that Escobedo probably would agree to fight no matter the bad hand dealt him. Escobedo had seemed too small at lightweight and had found more success one division below, but he’d also not been featured on a major boxing broadcast — or received the major payday that comes with one — since November 2010. Broner had been spotlighted more in his previous four fights than Escobedo had in his entire career.
Broner was unabashed at failing to make weight, and unapologetic when confronted with controversy. He’d taken advantage of a system that enabled him, like so many other 22-year-old athletes who have been given the world and do not hear the word “no.”
“The critics will always have something to say, but at the end of the day as long as I get the ‘W,’ that’s all that matters,” Broner had told Kellerman before the fight.
None of this was necessary, though, not with an athlete who has been gifted enough to be good and who is being given the opportunity to show whether he can be great.
None of this was necessary in a sport that appreciates accomplishment — that recognizes that Floyd Mayweather Jr. can be wholly unlikable personally but whose professional accomplishments are remarkable, a product not just of his talent but of his mantra of hard work and dedication.
We expect our fighters to approach the sport with professionalism, respecting its rules and traditions, not just seeing it as a business in which you can be cutthroat and can cut corners so long as you come out on top.
We expect our fights to be won with skill, strategy and ability, attributes that are then augmented in training camp and applied in the ring.
Broner won’t be punished or penalized any further. He’ll be back in the spotlight, back in the main event, back for another major payday from a promoter and a network that sees him as a big talent with a big personality. Like his idol, he’ll use controversy to draw more attention to him. His increasing flamboyancy will bring him an increasing following, and his turn toward villainy will be just as valuable. Those who want to see him lose still want to see him.
Broner’s greater sin wasn’t so much the one he committed as what it represented: The young man nicknamed “The Problem” has no problem with what he did, and will face none despite that.
The 10 Count
1. Roy Jones, on whether every capable young fighter should incorporate the shoulder roll defense employed, for one, by Floyd Mayweather Jr., and now by Adrien Broner as well: “I don't know if everyone should, because it’s very difficult for some fighters and, while I won’t say it, but, you know, it has its weaknesses to it.”
He then laughed, and Max Kellerman asked the proper follow-up question of his broadcast partner during what was then the third round of Broner-Escobedo: “What are the weaknesses, Roy?”
Jones’ response? “I ain’t gonna say it. It ain’t my business to be telling, but it does have its weaknesses.”
It ain’t his business? So much for being a paid boxing analyst for HBO…
2. In other notable commentator commentary, there was this from Jim Lampley prior to the undercard bout between Keith Thurman and Orlando Lora, who was explaining how Lora had taken the place of Marcos Maidana:
“He’s the 126th-ranked welterweight in the world, according to BoxRec. His last fight was a six-round draw. This is not the kind of a competition that we originally bargained for. It’s not what we expected to bring you on ‘Boxing After Dark.’ The fight, in essence, becomes a showcase for a prospect you’ve never seen before.”
HBO likely didn’t want to show just a single fight in Broner-Escobedo — and there was nothing else worthwhile from the undercard to bump up to co-feature status. The network, meanwhile, had paid for the broadcast, and it paid to send in its commentators, crew and equipment.
I wonder whether the amount HBO paid for Thurman-Lora was anywhere near what it was to have paid for Thurman-Maidana. If anything, HBO should’ve bargained for a bottom-dollar rate, or perhaps said it would only show the bout for free, a deal that would at least given Thurman’s team the incentive of free exposure.
3. I’m torn as to the request that the NBC Sports Network has made of the Association of Boxing Commissions to prolong the time period between rounds from 60 seconds to 67 seconds. The change likely would just be for broadcast bouts, adding enough time for the network to air a pair of 30-second commercials and then return for brief highlights from the previous round.
Thomas Hauser posed a valid argument last week against such a change: “[T]hey’re asking for a 7-second television timeout,” he wrote on TheSweetScience.com. “TV timeouts don’t alter the nature of the game in football, basketball, baseball or hockey. They would in boxing.”
Hauser went on to quote experts on how fighters could benefit from the proposed additional seven seconds between rounds.
A counter argument to that could be that both fighters would get the benefit of that extra time. It’s not a very good counter argument. You can imagine the uproar when a fighter barely survives at the end of a round and then gets that little bit longer to clear his head. Suddenly, a fight aired on NBC Sports Network could change the outcome of a bout in a way that wouldn’t happen in a fight on HBO or not on television at all.
Hauser also pointed to soccer and the World Cup: “Games are played in 45-minute halves WITHOUT STOPPING PLAY FOR COMMERCIALS in either half,” he wrote, with the emphasis his. “The television networks deal with it.”
I can see the good reasons for allowing 60 full seconds of commercials and then still having time for highlights — as NBC’s request stated, the network could benefit from the money from the advertisements, and still do its job as a broadcaster by using replays to tell the story from the previous round. If a network is able to make more money off boxing, then we’re more likely to get more boxing on television.
I wonder, then, if the right compromise is one that’s been suggested on several message boards: The boxers can still have 60-second breaks between the rounds, but the broadcast can then “pause the tape,” instituting a delay that would allow it to run a full minute of commercials, return to highlights and then “un-pause” and start back with the next round.
The downside? The fight wouldn’t be live, but delayed by an increasing number of seconds with each subsequent round.
The action, though, would still be boxing as it was intended to be.
4. Boxers Behaving Badly, part one: Junior welterweight Martin Tucker was arrested last week and accused of being one of three men who robbed a bank in Michigan back in 2009. That’s not the most newsworthy part of this story. What led to Tucker’s arrest is.
The FBI had suspected Tucker of taking part in the robbery, and so in April an investigator watched the 32-year-old win a four-rounder over Devarise Clayton — then seized a Q-Tip that Tucker’s corner man had inserted in the fighter’s bloody nose, according to The Detroit News.
DNA from the Q-Tip apparently matched that from a ski mask police found after tracking down the vehicle used in the robbery. The mask was among evidence found in a wooded area nearby, the newspaper reported.
Tucker once had racked up wins over Rashad Holloway, Doel Carrasquillo and Michael Torres, but since then became a fall guy to recognizable names such as Lanard Lane, Sharif Bogere, Ivan Popoca and Nick Casal. The victory over Clayton was his first in his past seven fights, bringing his record to 8-10 with 3 knockouts.
5. Boxers Behaving Badly, part two: A Floridian former featherweight who lost more than he won was arrested last week and accused of molesting a teenage girl at a bus station on two separate occasions earlier this month.
Amos Cowart, 45, has been charged with two counts of lewd and lascivious molestation, according Polk County newspaper The Ledger. The alleged victim is 15 years old.
Cowart fought from 1987 to 1994, going 9-12 with 5 knockouts.
6. Boxers Behaving Badly, part three: Larry White Jr. — a heavyweight whose brief-lived career had him in with some recognizable names, and who had worked at the Roy Jones Boxing Club in Pensacola — has been sentenced to 297 years in prison after being convicted of three counts of first-degree sodomy for molesting two young girls, according to the Dothan (Ala.) Eagle.
White was convicted on those charges last month. Last year, the Pensacola (Fla.) News Journal noted that White had previously worked at Roy Jones’ boxing club in that city.
The 34-year-old fought as a pro from 2006 to 2009, winning his first three, then losing seven in a row, including two defeats against Joey Abell and one each against Magomed Abdusalamov, Joell Godfrey and Tony Grano.
7. Boxers Behaving Badly, part four: Adam Baldwin, another former pro boxer with a short career and a subpar record, has been sentenced to three and a half years behind bars in Britain for attacking his now-former girlfriend, according to the Coventry Telegraph.
Baldwin, listed as 36 on BoxRec.com but as 35 by the newspaper, “pleaded guilty to two charges of assault, causing criminal damage, harassment and being in breach of a conditional discharge,” for slapping, punching, kicking, head-butting and throwing a chair at the woman, according to the article.
This isn’t Baldwin’s first run-in with the law. He’d also been arrested for allegedly assaulting a shopkeeper and attacking police officers, the newspaper reported. And back in 2000 he was sentenced to more than two years in prison for biting a man’s ear and hitting a woman in a street brawl, according to a past report.
“Baldwin had 14 previous convictions for violence, including wounding with intent and assaults on two previous girlfriends,” the Telegraph article said.
Baldwin’s reign of terror on those less able to defend themselves apparently began after he couldn’t win fights against those who could. Baldwin fought as a pro at or around welterweight seven times between March 1995 and January 1996, winning just twice.
8. Boxing Trainers Behaving Badly: Anthony Serrano, a 45-year-old trainer who worked at the Santa Ana Boxing Club in Southern California, was arrested last week and accused of sexually assaulting a teenage boy who boxed there, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The boy, 15, had boxed at the club for five years, with Serrano “mentoring the boy and personally training him” beginning about three years ago, the report said.
The Orange County Register also reported that four years ago “Serrano was accused of engaging in inappropriate contact with a teenage boy, who was also a member of the club.” Prosecutors didn’t file criminal charges against Serrano in that case.
9. On a much, much lighter note, let’s return to this past weekend’s HBO broadcast and the post-fight interview with Adrien Broner.
What you heard: Broner calling out three names at lightweight and junior welterweight — Antonio DeMarco, Juan Manuel Marquez and Brandon Rios.
What you read between the lines: Broner not calling out three names that could’ve helped him make junior lightweight — Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers and Lean Cuisine…
10. Keith Thurman’s favorite subject in school, according to what trainer Dan Birmingham said during their pre-fight meeting with HBO’s commentators, was “lunch.”
I’m not sure if HBO asked the same question of Broner, but something tells me the answer would’ve been “dessert.”
David P. Greisman is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. His weekly column, “Fighting Words,” appears every Monday on BoxingScene.com.
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