By Thomas Gerbasi
Last weekend’s full slate of boxing action contained two Showtime-televised events from Southern California: the Gary Russell-headlined ShoBox card featuring the pro debuts of several members of the 2012 United States Olympic team on Friday, and Saturday’s Abner Mares vs. Anselmo Moreno event. During both, it was hard not to notice a kid at ringside who is actually fighting this weekend on HBO, but yet still found the cameras shining on him.
Welcome to the world of Adrien Broner.
Just 23, the brash Cincinnati native dubbed “The Problem” is already a star. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. He’s one of those fighters that you can just picture talking about for the next decade, and he knows it. Yeah, he can be annoying, cocky, and the owner of cringe-worthy statements that one day you hope he’ll look back at and wonder what he was thinking. But then again, you could say that about pretty much anyone who has captured the world’s imagination over the last few decades, and in the new world order of social networking, tweets, touts, and tumblrs, Broner is the leader of this technologically rich – and dangerous – era.
And the crazy thing about the whole situation is that the kid can fight. Yeah, he had plenty of trouble with Daniel Ponce De Leon in March of 2011, but since then, he blasted out Jason Litzau and Vicente Rodriguez early, did the same thing to unbeaten Eloy Perez, and then punished Vicente Escobedo into a five round defeat. It’s been an impressive run and showcase for his speed and power, but even he admits that respect won’t fully start showing up on his doorstep until he completes the first challenge of his move to 135 pounds by beating Antonio DeMarco for the WBC lightweight belt on Saturday in Atlantic City.
“I am ready to show my talent,” Broner said on a recent media teleconference. “I think this is a fight that I will be able to show a lot more of my skills. In my last fights, even though some of my opponents were ranked, after fighting me, they got downgraded because of my high skill level.”
DeMarco isn’t likely to suffer any downgrading if he loses this weekend, and that’s only because despite his toughness, he’s already expected to become the Ohio native’s next victim. That’s no knock on the 26-year-old Los Mochis native, only an observation that stylewise, he’s tailor-made for Broner, and speedwise, he just doesn’t have the jets to compete with the hand or foot speed of his challenger. It’s simple physics. Of course, at the same time you can say that Broner has never been in with a real lightweight before, and that we will finally get to see his chin and resolve tested if DeMarco can make this a streetfight in the corners or against the ropes.
For his part, Broner is saying all the right things leading up to the fight, and if he means them, we could see a career-best effort this weekend.
"You are going to see a totally different Adrien Broner on Saturday night,” he said. “I am going to be able to show more of my skills on Saturday night because DeMarco has such talent. They say if one good talent goes up against another good talent, it brings out something in the elite. I am a lot stronger than people think and on Saturday, you will see that against DeMarco.”
Dare I say that it sounds like “The Problem” is maturing?
“You aren't just coming to see a boxing show, you're coming to the Adrien Broner Show.”
Well, maybe not just yet. But it’s sure been a fun ride so far.
THE RETURN OF CARL FROCH
Only Carl Froch can take a keep busy title defense like the one he’ll have this Saturday against a decent, but not overly dangerous, opponent like Yusaf Mack and make it into a bad blood affair. But that’s precisely why the IBF super middleweight champion from Nottingham is such a compelling figure. He’s a fighter from the inside out, not the other way around, and if you sign the contract to try and punch him in the face, he takes it personally. And even if he likes you initially, he will scour the internet and local newspapers and television shows until he finds something to dislike you for.
Case in point, Mack’s assertion that Froch was a “fake Joe Calzaghe.” That’s all it took, and now Froch has put some fire into what is still expected to be a fairly easy win following his five round destruction of Lucian Bute in May. Will it change anything for the 15-1 underdog, Mack. Probably not. But maybe you’re a little more intrigued now.
Following the sad passing of his trainer and mentor Emanuel Steward, it would have been easy for Wladimir Klitschko to lose focus and allow unbeaten Mariusz Wach to swoop in and maybe not steal the fight from the WBA / IBF / WBO champion, but at least take a couple rounds. Klitschko wasn’t that kind, as he put together another near-shutout win over a fighter who at least showed up to fight, even if that didn’t help his cause too much.
At this point, it’s almost hard to believe that Klitschko a) is 36 and b) has 59 wins, 50 coming by knockout. Yes, he is currently the reigning king over one of the worst eras in heavyweight history, but he has done what you’re supposed to do with lesser foes – beat them decisively. For all the incessant bashing of Klitschko over the years for fights he lost in 2003 (Corrie Sanders) and 2004 (Lamon Brewster), everyone seems to forget that he is 17-0 since the first Brewster fight, and that no one since Sam Peter put him on the deck in their first fight in 2005 has come close to hurting him, let alone beating him.
And when you consider that there’s really no one on the horizon that you can point to and say ‘oh yeah, that’s the guy,’ he probably has at least a couple years left on top before he leaves with his belts intact and waits for a call to the Hall of Fame. No, he’s not the most visceral of champions, and he doesn’t get your heart racing like a prime Mike Tyson, but if Klitschko isn’t one of the all-time greats at this point, what criteria are you using for such a designation?
MARES / SANTA CRUZ
Yeah, I want to see Abner Mares vs. Nonito Donaire next too. Let’s just get that out of the way first. But after that, can we please see Mares vs. Leo Santa Cruz? It may kill the folks at Compubox, but man, that’s one fun fight, and if you didn’t see the two of them in action last week, first, shame on you, and next, make sure you catch the replay. In the main event, Mares fought a brilliant, sloppy, remarkable, dirty, and compelling fight all in one against Anselmo Moreno. To take a brilliant technician like Moreno and leave him flailing at the air, running around the ring, and looking downright amateurish at times takes a true talent, and that’s what Mares is. He’s battle-tested, has a great boxing mind, and isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty. If anyone is going to decipher Donaire, it’s Mares, and this should be the first order of business for both Golden Boy and Top Rank for 2013. As for Santa Cruz, he fights like a character in a video game with a cheat code plugged in. The kid punches from every possible angle at every possible target and he never gets tired. In Victor Zaleta, he faced an ultra-tough challenger who deserved a purple heart for what he went through during that fight, and though Zaleta fired off his shots at a similar clip, he just didn’t have the accuracy or pop that Santa Cruz had. If you “Teremoto” on a fight card, change your plans and make sure you watch him.