By Jake Donovan
Saturday’s fight is so important to the future of Vicente Escobedo that he’s willing to concede every advantage to his unbeaten opponent.
Adrien Broner is already the A-side of the promotion, the HBO darling and is granted the benefit of hometown advantage for their headliner at the US Bank Arena in Cincinnati. On Friday, the 22-year old decided that his stay at 130 would end one day earlier, missing weight by 3½ lb.
Escobedo, ever the professional, came in at the divisional limit of 130 lb. The title remains on the line only for the California native, who now gets to pocket an additional $30,000 – 10% of Broner’s $300,000 purse, with another 10% going to the Ohio Athletic Commission.
The bout is the first major title fight for Escobedo, who appears on HBO for the second time in his career. His lone other appearance on the Network of Champions didn’t fare so well, losing a lopsided decision to Robert Guerrero and suffering two knockdowns along the way.
Escobedo (26-3, 15KO) took one more trip to the canvas at fights end, dropping to bended knee and asking his then-girlfriend’s hand in marriage. That she accepted his proposal by far rates as the most memorable moment in his pro career to date, which is to say the past seven years in the pro ranks following a stay on the 2004 U.S. Olympic boxing squad haven’t quite panned out as planned.
On the upside, Escobedo remains happily married and is also the proud father to his newborn daughter, with his wife giving birth last month to a healthy baby girl. The 30-year old also believes that the proper focus in his career is in place as he prepares for his toughest test yet.
“I feel great,” Escobedo insists heading into Saturday’s headliner, which airs live on HBO at 10PM ET. “I’m not going in to put a good fight; I’m going in to take the title. It’s the toughest training I’ve ever had. It’s time to have fun.”
Fun is the one word often associated within the Broner camp. The outspoken Cincinnati native truly enjoys life to the fullest and isn’t the least bit shy about letting the world know. Escobedo is the exact opposite, a humble and low-key personality who allows actions to speak louder than his words.
Suffice to say, Escobedo’s lack of a standout win has caused his career to fly well under the radar. The former amateur standout came in with high expectations, but a split decision loss to Daniel Jimenez early in his career helped take some of the wind out of his sails.
The Californian went on the rebuilding trail, hooking up with famed trainer Nacho Beristain and storming out to the tune of a 12-fight win streak along the way.
None of the dozen were indicative of his panning out to become a can’t-miss future star, but Escobedo enjoyed a nice three-fight stretch over notable oppositions. Wins over then-unbeaten Dominic Salcido (who faces Omar Figueroa on Saturday’s undercard) and faded former champs Carlos Hernandez and Kevin Kelley were enough to build his confidence to where he was mentally prior to losing to Jimenez.
Separate points losses to Michael Katsidis and Robert Guerrero – in the span of three fights – were emotional letdowns, but also treated as learning lessons rather than moral crushing blows. Four wins have followed, along with enough positive changes in and out of the ring to lead Escobedo to believe that Broner is in for a rude awakening.
The recent stretch of upsets on the sport’s top level certainly doesn’t dampen his confidence.
“It only takes one punch to change the fight. I was confident regardless. I’m a much better fighter today and feel like I’m at my best. I was confident, but all of these upsets prove anything can happen,” Escobedo notes. “I know I can beat him. He’s beatable. Someone just has to go do it. I feel I’m the guy that can do it.”
Broner’s prior opponent, Eloy Perez felt the same heading into their February bout. Perez was unbeaten and calling for the fight, but fell to pieces once the opening bell rang, never mind the post-fight drug testing aftermath that has slammed the brakes on his career at the moment.
Escobedo is well aware of the game plan that Perez and others believed to have going in and what became reality once the opening bell rang. Just as he was able to learn from his own losses, Escobedo is smart enough to pick up on and avoid the flaws made by his predecessors.
“I think Eloy let Adrien get inside his head,” Escobedo believes. “Trust me, it won’t happen to me. He’s young and hyped right now. It’s up to me to bring him to reality. All of the pressure is on him. He has to look good in front of his hometown. All I have to do is just win.”
A loss for Escobedo doesn’t necessarily push him too far out of the loop. With Broner losing his title at the scales, Escobedo is conceivably playing with house money. Even a loss shouldn’t bump him too far from his mandatory position, which could mean a second shot at the title.
That said, Escobedo views this as his last chance, but also his best one. While Broner enjoys the limelight and marches to the beat of his own drum, Escobedo simply remains happy for what his opponent is able to achieve – but also prepared to bring the parade to a grinding halt.
“I have nothing bad to say about him. I just want something he has. This is a huge opportunity for me. He’s the top champion at 130. I want the best. He’s the man to beat right now. A win over him changes everything. I took the fight without hesitation. I feel like I’m the best and my support system is stronger than ever. My daughter was just born. I have a lot of my plate, but it’s good food.”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter: @JakeNDaBox