By Robert Morales
We have all heard the phrase, "A star is born." One was Saturday. His name is Adrien Broner.
Broner, the ultra-brash former junior lightweight champion from Cincinnati, moved up in weight and challenged tough Antonio DeMarco for his lightweight title at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City. DeMarco was fresh off a first-round TKO of hard-hitting John Molina on Sept. 8 and was probably as solid as ever ahead of the fight with Broner.
Broner looked absolutely fantastic, combining defense, speed, smarts and power to stop DeMarco in the eighth round. It was an eye-opening win for Broner, who is just 23.
Broner fights under the Golden Boy Promotions banner. On Tuesday, Golden Boy matchmaker Eric Gomez and president Oscar De La Hoya couldn't say enough about the new ace of their large stable.
"I think he's phenomenal," Gomez said. "I think he's the type of fighter that does things in the ring that leave people in awe. Kind of like the way the top athletes used to, like (Michael) Jordan used to; you just knew he was playing at a different level."
Broner has been with Golden Boy for all but three fights of his pro career. Gomez, in a huge understatement, said he is pleased with the way Broner has "blossomed."
"But the thing is we tested him early, put him in some tough fights," Gomez said. "And he learned from those fights."
A unanimous decision over Daniel Ponce De Leon in March 2011 in Anaheim, Calif., did wonders for Broner, Gomez said. Broner won by two, two and eight points.
"A lot of people, they can't get out of their heads the Ponce De Leon fight, which was very close," Gomez said. "That was such a learning experience for him and he's grown from that."
Broner (25-0, 21 KOs) is unique, Gomez said.
"For me, it's exciting to see a fighter like that and the things he does, you don't see anyone else doing that," he said. "There's only one other name that people can think of and that's Floyd Mayweather). But that's because of the shoulder roll. But take away the shoulder roll, and Broner's a fighter. Like Oscar said, he likes to fight. He's aggressive and he wants to close the show.
"DeMarco's a very good fighter, arguably the best lightweight in the world. I thought it was going to go a little longer. But Broner's just something special."
De La Hoya Chimes In
Gomez and De La Hoya were on hand at a Los Angeles news conference Tuesday promoting Saturday's Robert "The Ghost" Guerrero-Andre Berto interim welterweight title fight at Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario, Calif. (on HBO). De La Hoya praised Broner while taking a bit of a shot at the aforementioned Mayweather.
"From what I saw, and I think that was everybody's mind-set, I had a feeling he was going to win, but I didn't think he was going to win that easy," De La Hoya said of Broner. "He's a special fighter. Not a special boxer, he's a special fighter. He loves to fight. He fights.
"He reminds me of Mayweather and the reason why is because of the defense and walking down his opponents and staying in front of his opponents. But he's not Mayweather. Broner likes to fight, Broner likes to engage. He likes to close the show. That's the difference. He's going to be special."
Reducing DeMarco to what he reduced him to makes Broner that already.
"Everybody thought it was going to be a very difficult fight," De La Hoya said. "And he just made it seem easy. He made it seem easy at DeMarco's game. He didn't backtrack, he didn't run, he was right there."
Guerrero-Berto Could Be a Good One
Guerrero sat on the dais after Tuesday's proceedings at the Marriott in downtown Los Angeles. He seemed very relaxed, even when he was asked how he thinks the fight with Berto (28-1, 22 KOs) is going to go.
He perked up, but he spoke in restrained, yet confident, tones.
"I see Berto coming out strong the first couple of rounds, you know, he does every fight," Guerrero said. "That's what he does. He really tries to take your heart out as soon as possible. But I'm one of those headstrong fighters and I like to come out fast, too, so it's going to be an interesting fight."
Can it be a thriller? Guerrero was asked.
"Oh, yeah, definitely," Guerrero said. "Berto has that kind of heart, he's that kind of guy. You saw it against Victor Ortiz, where he's willing to go into a dog fight if he has to. And you know I'm always there for a dog fight; I love that stuff."
Guerrero (30-1-1, 18 KOs) is brimming with sureness.
"I think I can out-box him, I think I can out-bang him," Guerrero said. "I have a lot of confidence in my ability. It's a matter of keeping it together in your head and mental focus and staying strong in the ring."
Another Star in The Making?
Keith "One Time" Thurman is not nearly as known as Broner, to say the least. But the junior middleweight from Clearwater, Fla. will bring a fine record of 18-0 with 17 knockouts into his showdown with former welterweight champion Carlos Quintana 29-3, 23 KOs) in Saturday's semi-main event in Ontario.
Thurman on Tuesday was asked to describe himself as a fighter, though it was obvious by his record he is a puncher.
"Definitely," he said. "The nickname's 'One Time,' you know, so I'm always looking for that one-punch KO. I mean, I know in the fight game you're not always going to win by KO, but if it's there and I can take it, I'm going to get you out of there. I'm not going to leave it up to the judges."
Thurman, just 23, was asked how he got his moniker.
"The nickname actually came from my father," he said. "It was just like a little street nickname he had like for back-room, bar-room boxing. They used to wrap their hands up in t-shirts. Just go at it. And he was known for putting people out with one nice little body shot here and there.
"I don't know how long he walked around with that or how many people called him that. But I'm named after my father anyway and I figured he ain't throwing no blows no more, so I might as well be Keith 'One Time' Thurman."
Not all Good For Golden Boy
As good as it was for De La Hoya's company to have Broner come up with a performance like he did, it was almost that much of a bummer for it to have had heavyweight contender Seth Mitchell stopped in the second round by Johnathon Banks on the Broner-DeMarco undercard. But it's a fight that had to be made, Gomez said.
"We've had a great year," Gomez said. "If you look at the run we've had, fighters that have developed, fighters who became champion, we've had a great year. But there does come a point where these guys - they want to make a lot of money - you have to put them in these big fights.
"When you put them on HBO or Showtime, they have to fight somebody. You can get by on doing one or two gimmie fights. But there comes a time where you have to test these guys. This was Seth's first test and he didn't pass it and he got caught."
Gomez said there is only one way to make money, and that's to step up the competition.
"And with these heavyweights, you really never know what you have until they get hit in the chin," Gomez said. "With the heavyweights, anybody can go down with one punch. And that's kind of what happened with Seth. It's tough because we spent all this time developing him, investing in him and he got caught. But that's the nature of the beast."
Gomez said he did his job as matchmaker and he wouldn't do it any differently.
"If you look at what we've done this year, we've done a great job," he said. "We've only lost a handful of fights - meaningful fights, maybe two. But the important thing is that we've gotta protect HBO, we've gotta protect Showtime because they're very important to our industry, to our business.
"We've gotta protect the fans. The fans are the ones that pay, they're the ones that keep us in business. So we've gotta make these fights, man, we've gotta make these good fights. I wish I could make wars all the time, but it's hard sometimes."
Gomez said politics and other influences often prevent that from happening.
"If it was up to a fighter to do their own matches, they'll want (expletive) easy guys all the time," Gomez said. "And if it was up to the managers who are investing and making a profit out of the fighters, they would want easy fights.
So it's constant battle.
"Look, you're going to win some and lose some. All the great matchmakers, all the great promoters, their guys lose; they don't always win. But as long as you're giving these fighters their opportunities, they're either going to rise to the top or they're going to fall. That's when you start weeding out who's good and who's not."
All that said, Gomez said neither he nor anyone else from Golden Boy has given up on Mitchell (25-1-1, 19 KOs).
"We still believe in him, we still believe that he's still talented," Gomez said. "We still think he can come back from that."
De La Hoya on Hatton Comeback
With the gossip that has circulated about the possibility of De La Hoya making a comeback - which he still says won't happen - we asked him what he thinks about the comeback of Ricky Hatton (45-2, 32 KO)), who Saturday will take on Vyacheslav Senchenko (32-1, 21 KOs) in a 10-round welterweight bout in Manchester, England (on Showtime). De La Hoya said he isn't surprised Hatton is going to fight again after 3 1/2 years.
"I think that he had a lot of questions to be answered when he retired," De La Hoya said of Hatton, who was knocked out by Manny Pacquiao in the second round in May 2009, then had his life fall into despair. "He was facing a lot of
demons, he was facing a lot of doubts in his head. When he retired he retired at an all-time low and he was still young enough, still good enough to make a comeback and solidify his career on a high.
"For obvious reasons he didn't, he couldn't, because he was dealing with other issues. But now that he's back, now that he's 100 percent focused, I mean, hey, I give him all the power. It takes a lot of strength, a lot of courage to do that."
Hatton is still just 34.
Robert Morales covers boxing for the Los Angeles Daily News and BoxingScene.com.