By Jake Donovan
With everything that went wrong prior to the opening bell, Adrien Broner needed to deliver big time to take some of the heat off of him following a weekend filled with unprofessional antics that nearly saw his latest HBO appearance scratched from the program.
The unbeaten rising star at least provided that much once the opening bell rang, having his way with Vicente Escobedo en route to a sixth round stoppage Saturday evening at the US Bank Arena in his Cincinnati hometown.
A tactical battle threatened to break out early, with both fighters hesitant to press the action. Broner finally opened up in the second round, scoring with hooks and right hands upstairs.
Escobedo, conceding a considerable amount of natural weight in the ring, turned things around in the third round, easily his best round of the fight. Any thoughts of the Californian joining in on the recent string of massive upsets came to an end the moment round four began. Broner regained the lead and never looked back.
The beginning of the end came midway through the fifth round. Broner already had Escobedo battered and bloodied from earlier punishment. The end wasn’t sudden, but rather a steady pummeling that honestly began at Friday’s weigh-in. As far as the physical part of it, a left hook ignited a fight-ending rally, as Escobedo was trapped along the ropes, spending the right of the fight covered up.
Broner, to his credit, wasted no time in moving in for the kill. With his hometown fans on their feet anticipating a memorable crescendo, Broner delivered, unloading on Escobedo long enough to convince opposing head trainer Joel Diaz to climb on to the ring apron seeking his fighter’s rescue.
The assigned official for the Escobedo corner grabbed the towel from Diaz’ end and waved it in the air in hopes of capturing the attention of referee Gary Rosato. Broner continued on the attack until summoned otherwise, which came when Rosato finally recognized the surrender flag and intervened.
The official time was 2:42 of round five.
Broner advances to 24-0 (20KO) in becoming the first to stop Escobedo, who falls to 26-4 (15KO).
Despite the emphatic victory, it’s impossible to say that Broner’s stock goes up. In fact, his antics throughout the weekend including fight night leave the 22-year old coming across as a pampered brat who just doesn’t get it.
In the lone attempt to justify his lack of professionalism, Broner blamed youth and growing metabolism for growing out of the 130 lb. division sooner than expected. Prior to the fight, he already declared this bout to be his last at the weight, confirming an end to a brief title reign that began last November in the very same venue as Saturday's bout.
Mother Nature helped speed up that battle, when he came in at 133.5 lb. The moment he elected to hydrate himself was enough indication that no attempt would be made to shed the extra poundage. The title was immediately vacated, though still available for Escobedo to win as a reward for his actually making the contracted weight limit.
Reports came out afterward of Broner tweeting pictures of junk food as his guilty pleasure all through fight week. The unbeaten star insists that one thing had nothing to do with another.
“That was tweeted because of a 10-question questionnaire from HBO. Other than that, I tried my hardest to make the weight,” Broner insisted afterward to HBO’s Max Kellerman.
The claim came just after he fooled everyone in the crowd and watching at home into believing he was proposing to his girlfriend. Dropping to bended knee, Broner even swiped at his father to stop brushing his hair, only for his big question… turning out to be a request for his girlfriend to take over the hair care honors.
All of this came about 30 minutes after a ring walk that saw Broner and his team sport “Free Money May” T-shirts, apparently seeking an earlier than expected release for his ring idol Floyd Mayweather Jr, currently in jail as per the terms of a plea agreement over domestic battery charges.
On the opposite side of the class spectrum, Escobedo was ever the professional throughout the weekend. “He backs it up. He talks and he backs it up. I have respect for Adrien Broner,” admits the 30-year old contender, who snaps a four-fight win streak with the setback.
Escobebo had every chance to pull out of the fight, from yesterday’s scale fiasco as well as Broner missing the modified 140 lb. same-day weight limit at the Saturday morning weigh-in. A cancellation appeared to be in the cards until a “confidential agreement” was reached at roughly 5:00PM local (ET) time to proceed as planned. A considerable amount of cash was thrown his way, which will certainly help his recently changed familial situation with a wife and a newborn baby at home.
Given the terms he accepted, excuses would be hard to come by. To his credit, Escobedo made none.
“He felt stronger, but I can’t determine that,” Escobedo admitted, avoiding an alibi of the extra weight benefiting Broner. “I came in the ring determined, but I didn’t do my part. He was the better man tonight. I’ll go back home, spend time with my daughter and my wife and see what’s next.”
The thought of heading home empty handed ultimately reduced Escobedo to fighting back tears. The emotional moment was the cause of “a little bit of everything. I was away from my family and my wife. Just to come all this way and not get a fair fight and I’m a bit emotional. I’m here to fight.”
Broner insists he’s very much here to fight as well, though it definitely won’t happen at the 130 lb. division. While Escobedo remains first in line for another crack at the vacant title, Broner now eyes the 135 lb. division. The list is already being compiled, though when he officially next fights at the weight isn’t immediately known.
“I’m on to the lightweights. (Antonio) DeMarco can get it, (Juan Manuel) Marquez can get it. Brandon Rios, we can meet at a catchweight and you can come get it next.”
Adrien Broner had every chance to 'get it' - a clue as to how his antics helped sour what should've been a hometown celebration. The local fans left home happy that their guy got the win in the ring, although the last 48 hours paint him as anything other than a winner.
THURMAN, FIGUEROA SHINE ON UNDERCARD
Keith Thurman made the most of his HBO-televised debut, scoring an emphatic sixth round knockout of late substitute Orlando Lora in their co-feature bout at the USBank Arena in Cincinnati, Ohio.
The bout proved to be entertaining throughout, with both fighters busy but Thurman outlanding Lora at nearly a 3-to-1 ratio.
Lora was game for as long as he could withstand the pain, but finally succumbed in the sixth round. A left hook put the journeyman on rubber legs, but Thurman wasn't content with just one shot. The Floridian applied the finishing touches, sending Lora down and eventually out with a straight right hand.
Even though Lora beat the count, his body language clearly indicated the night was over. His offering his mouthpiece to the referee sealed the deal, ending the fight at 1:37 of round six.
The fight was a bit tougher than expected for Thurman, who improves to 18-0 (17KO). However, the rising prospect proved wiser beyond his years, remaining composed and creating the openings to finish the job.
"I'm 23 years old but 16 years in the game. My nickname is 'One Time' because I'm looking to take you out," Thurman stated afterward. "If you got a weak chin, I'm gonna put you out early. My opponent was stronger and used head movement but it took a little longer. But in the end I got the job done."
Lora heads back to Mexico with his third non-winning effort in his past four bouts, as he falls to 29-3-2 (19KO). His most notable appearance prior to this bout was a wide points loss to Paul Malignaggi on an HBO PPV undercard last October.
There was criticism surrounding Thurman being granted a slot on HBO despite facing meager opposition to date. The slot was originally to come against Marcos Maidana, which would've went a long way towards gauging where the unbeaten welterweight stands in the game.
Instead, Maidana and his handlers skipped on the fight in favor of a slot on the September 15 Showtime card headlined by Saul Alvarez' bout with Josesito Lopez.
The jury is still out on Thurman, though Saturday's bout was evidence enough that he's an entertaining entity in and out of the ring, with a strong opinion of himself to boot.
"I'm the new thing in the welterweight division. I want your belt. Tim Bradley I want your belt. Floyd Mayweather, you're undefeated but I think I can beat you. Come get some."
Red-hot prospect Omar Figueroa picked up his sixth win of 2012 alone, surviving a rocky opening round to convincingly outpoint Dominic Salcido. Scores were 97-93 (twice) and 98-92.
Figueroa (19-0-1, 15KO) was rocked late in the first round but absorbed the shot well and permanently took control from round two onward. Salcido (18-4-2, 9KO) fought bravely all the way through, but was forced to absorb his fourth loss in his last six contests, this one coming off of a 21-month layoff.
Clips of the bout were shown via tape-delay on the broadcast.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter: @JakeNDaBox