By Ryan Maquiñana
Marcus Browne, a native of Staten Island, N.Y., will make his pro debut almost 3,000 miles away from home Friday night on the Showtime-televised “Night of the Olympians” card.
Despite the distance, the 21-year-old light heavyweight will enter the ring at the Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio, Calif., with Hurricane Sandy on his mind—and ears.
“I’m going to make my ringwalk to a song about Hurricane Sandy, which is a tribute to everybody who was affected by it,” said Browne, who faces Codale Ford (2-0). “It’s by Moses Dayee, who’s also from Staten Island.”
With a lot of the storm’s most severe damage occurring in his borough—the death toll was 19 according to the Staten Island Advance last week—Browne, a 2012 Olympian has summed up the whole ordeal as humbling.
“Before the storm got here, a lot of people were overlooking it, and me, too. I was just worried about my sneakers,” said the admitted shoe aficionado. “But when it hit, I was just worried about all my family and friends and staying alive, and it’s put life in perspective. It could all be gone so quick in the blink of an eye, and you can’t just cherish material things.”
At this point regarding his debut, what Browne once viewed with a celebratory tone has transformed into an event that he hopes will serve as inspiring to his neighbors.
“I didn’t have light and heat for two days, and my phone wasn’t working, but it didn’t hit me as hard as people in my neighborhood who lost everything,” he said. “I’m a New York City kid, and I just want to bring some joy to everybody in New York City and Staten Island.”
Holding camp out of the Atlas Cops and Kids Gym with longtime trainer Gary Stark Sr., the southpaw slugger has been eager to demonstrate his ability to make the transition from the amateurs to professional pugilism.
“I definitely look forward to making my hands fly with the lighter gloves and stick my shots,” Browne said. “As far as defense, we’ve always stressed not getting hit with the hard shots, and I spar a bunch of pros, so I’ll be ready.”
When fellow New Yorker Peter Quillin earned his first world title last month in Brooklyn despite criticism that he was not ready to compete at such a level, Browne drew parallels in terms of dealing with his detractors following his London experience—a 13-11 defeat in the preliminary round to Australia’s Damian Hooper.
“I was so happy for Peter,” said Browne, who sparred with Quillin before his Olympic experience. “He climbed his way up, and you have to applaud a guy like that. You have to happy for them, and if you’re not, it adds fuel to your fire to stay strong and stay focused. I’ve learned so far that not everyone’s going to love the way you fight, or love your personality, but you have to take the good with the bad.”
Based on what he’s faced over the past two weeks, motivation to excel on Friday night will be plentiful. The day after the fight, Browne will turn 22.
“I definitely have a lot to fight for on Friday, for everyone back home but also as far as what people perceive me to be in the boxing world,” he said. “You’re only remembered for your last fight. Floyd Mayweather’s last loss was in the Olympic Games, and I’m trying to do the same. As long as God keeps me healthy, and keeps me focused, the sky’s the limit.”
Ryan Maquiñana was the boxing producer for NBCOlympics.com during London 2012 and writes a weekly column for CSNBayArea.com. He is a full member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and the Ratings Panel for Ring Magazine. E-mail him at [email protected], check out his blog at Norcalboxing.net, or follow him on Twitter: @RMaq28.