By Thomas Gerbasi
A year ago, it wouldn’t be accurate to say Marcus Browne’s life was in disarray, but he probably had better days in the aftermath of his opening bout exit from the 2012 Olympics due to a 13-11 loss to Australia’s Damien Hooper.
But the Team USA member has always been an optimist, so he decided to look toward a bright future as opposed to the disappointment of the immediate past.
“I had over a hundred amateur fights, and I only had seven losses, so losing was never something that we were accustomed to,” Browne recalled. “But me losing on that big stage made it hurt even more, especially with all the build-up going into it and it being a dream of mine to be at the Olympics. But every situation in life that has happened to me, I’ve always took the good out of it. And the good out of the situation in the Olympics was that I have to finish strong. That’s number one. Number two, guys never even get to experience fighting in front of 10,000 people as a pro until they do it. Me, I was honored and blessed to be able to experience that and fight in front of 10,000 people as an amateur boxer. So I took the good out of that.”
Today, the only time that 2012 experience comes up is when he’s introduced as a former Olympian, and in stories like this. To the world at large, when it comes to Staten Island’s Browne, all the talk is about his unbeaten 5-0 slate as a professional, and his substantial upside in the light heavyweight division. On August 19, he will step into the ring for the sixth time against an opponent to be named, and in between training sessions, he can reflect on 12 months that has altered his life considerably.
“I’m happy I’m being given the opportunity to stay busy and most of all, I’m just in a great position,” he said. “Today, my co-trainer Sherif Younan said it was the sharpest he’s ever seen me. And I’ve been working with him since 2010. It’s good to hear him say that, and it’s not just him tooting my horn because he hardly ever says things like that. And you know me, I work to satisfy my trainers. Of course I work to satisfy myself, but we’re a team, and we all have to go into that ring confident in one another and understanding that we are at our best. And honestly, I’m growing with each fight and I want to look better and better. Of course I’m not fighting the top opposition right now, but what I’m doing with these guys and what these guys are doing with other guys, like being able to take them the distance, or stopping them in five and me stopping them in two, is me just showing the work that I’m putting in. And not to toot my own horn, but I’m making it look easy. And honestly, that’s how I feel. I’m having fun with it. I love what I’m doing and I love boxing.”
Being 5-0 in pro boxing is often like being a football team in preseason or a baseball team in spring training. Hope is in the air and everything is possible. It’s only after the games pile up, injuries take place, personalities clash, and money issues arise that hope turns to sad resignation.
It isn’t always that way of course, because someone has to win at the end of the season, and it’s the same thing in boxing. Someone has to win the world title, someone has to get on premium cable, and someone has to be the sport’s next big star. And you need some help getting to each step of that process. In boxing, being advised by uber-adviser Al Haymon is a big deal. Having your fights promoted by Golden Boy Promotions is just as important. So if Browne can fulfill his promise, he’ll have the opportunity to do so on a huge stage. Now that optimism seems more than well placed.
“At the end of the day, boxing’s a rough sport and you’ve got to be with the right people and the timing has to be right,” said Browne. “You gotta stay busy, especially starting off. These guys sign with promoters and get three, four fights a year, and there’s no way you can learn like that. I turned pro in November, so it’s not even a year yet, and I’m already going to be fighting my sixth time on the 19th, so that’s a beautiful thing.”
No, Marcus, what’s a beautiful thing is hearing a 22-year-old fighter say that he actually wants to fight. When I point this out to him, he can’t believe everyone doesn’t think like he does.
“How do you learn, coming up as young prospect, if you’re not staying busy?” said Browne. “You have to stay busy to understand what you’re doing as a fighter. To grow in this sport, you have to stay consistent, and you have to know how to win and remember how to win. Taking three months at a time to fight, you’re not gonna remember the mistakes you made in the last fight and you’ll just end up making the same old mistakes and you’re not going to be learning. You’re regressing rather than growing.”
Browne has been growing, looking sharper with each passing bout, most recently blasting out Ricardo Campillo in two rounds at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center in June. And while it’s clear that he’s not fighting world beaters, he’s doing what you’re supposed to do when you’re fighting lesser opposition: you get them out of there. As for his goals in the sport, they go way beyond a world title. And in another instance of him breaking the hot prospect mode, he doesn’t even mention money on his ‘to do’ list.
“I just don’t want to be a world champion in boxing,” he said. “I want to be a legend, and most importantly, I just want to leave my mark. I have a big chip on my shoulder because I’m from Staten Island and Staten Island has never had a world champion. I want to be the first world champion from here, but at the same time, I want to become a legend in boxing, and you don’t become a legend by winning one belt or by fighting three, four times a year starting out. You do it by staying busy, learning and growing and honing your skills and understanding what you’ve got to do as a fighter.”
Legends also transcend the sport, and you do that by becoming a man of the people. In Browne’s case, his people are the kids who came up like he did, and who could use a little guidance in keeping on the right path or even just an encouraging word or two. When I spoke to Browne before the 2012 Games, he admitted that he was “a knucklehead coming up” until he got dropped by a body shot on the first day he entered the Atlas Cops & Kids Boxing Club.
He decided to return to the gym anyway, and he’s rarely left it since. And becoming an Olympian has made him more than just another guy from the neighborhood. He recalls seeing Method Man and Raekwon from the Wu-Tang Clan when he was younger and what an impact they had on him and his friends.
“I would look up to those guys and they were the biggest stars in my eyes when I was a kid,” he said. Now he’s a star. Not Wu-Tang or Mayweather level yet, but he does what he can to give that same idea to the kids that they can make it too.
“I understand the role and the path that I’ve taken in life and I’m humbled by it, but there’s no pressure,” he said. “I am who I am. I’m a good person no matter what, so I just do right by these kids.”
That includes answering Facebook messages from teachers asking for help with troubled kids or those with potential who just don’t want to realize it.
“They don’t care for learning, they just go to school to look good,” he muses, recalling one instance when a local teacher told him of a student who was smart, but just didn’t show up to school. Browne reached out to the youngster and made a bet with him. The fighter would buy him a pair of sneakers, but only if he kept going to school. It’s a gesture that kid won’t soon forget.
“It’s little things like that,” said Browne. “I try to go out of my way and try to go above and beyond. I’m not making a lot of money, so my thing is just sharing my blessings because if I was in that position, I would love for someone to extend their hand to me also.”
On August 19, Browne will extend his hand, not in friendship, but with the intention of making it six wins and six knockouts without a loss. But if anyone knows that this is just the beginning, it’s Staten Island’s biggest hope for world title honors.
“I’m hungry, and when I put my mind to something, I make sure I get it done,” he said. “I’m hungry for success, number one, but I’m also hungry to change my position in life. I’m not satisfied with where I’m at, I’m not satisfied with being an Olympian, though that can never change. I’m not satisfied with just being a three-time Golden Gloves champion and a four-time National champion and winning International gold. These things are great, but these accomplishments mean absolutely nothing in the pros. And I don’t know if I’ll even be satisfied when I win a couple world titles, by the grace of God, or even if I get one. I’m never satisfied. I’m always wanting more and that’s important in boxing. You gotta be able to motivate yourself. You cannot sit down and watch your work, in the ring or out of the ring.”