By Jake Donovan, photo by Hoganphotos
Someone as charismatic and confident as Adrien Broner can come across as arrogant, perhaps even unlikeable.
Broner should be anything but unlikeable. The 22-year old makes sure to stay active in the ring, is almost never in a dull fight and is thought enough of to keep bringing back on HBO. Saturday night will mark his fifth straight network appearance, facing Vicente Escobedo in his Cincinnati hometown.
It was in his hometown where his current title reign began. Broner was blessed with the opportunity to spend last Thanksgiving at home, all while preparing for his first HBO headliner two days later (after having twice appeared in co-feature capacity), in a fight for his first major title.
Broner made the most of the opportunity, dispatching of Vicente Rodriguez in three rounds. The crowd was sizeable and rabid, and the hometown kid made sure to take in the moment.
For better or for worse, more of the same can be expected in this weekend’s mandatory defense against Escobedo.
“It’s always fun fighting on Golden Boy cards. It’s always fun fighting in Cincinnati. I’m going to come in to the ring dancing, laughing and having fun,” Broner (23-0, 19KO) promises. “In the end, I will come out victorious. I’m sure Escobedo is training hard, he has to if he’s fighting a guy like me.”
The last part is in line with the balance some fans seem to struggle with when taking in the entire picture. Broner’s star is certainly on the rise, though it can quickly be countered that his most notable win carries legitimate dispute.
Many argue that he was fortunate to skate past former titlist Daniel Ponce de Leon last March, in his first fight on HBO. Broner traveled to Anaheim to take on Ponce de Leon, a free-swinging Mexican who now lives and trains in Southern California and was moving up in weight for the 10-round bout. The fight was a major step up in class for Broner, who fought to win rather than to impress.
“I fought another Olympian, went to his hometown and came out with the unanimous decision,” Broner notes. The unbeaten super featherweight has been lights out ever since then, scoring three straight knockouts that has amassed a grand total of 22 minutes worth of collective ring time.
Stoppage wins over Rodriguez and Jason Litzau before him were of the ‘what-you’re-supposed-to-do’ variety. However, his ability to shut down and overwhelm previously unbeaten Eloy Perez forced many to do a double take. Even if the reaction was to dismiss Perez’ credentials, you still only have the close win over Ponce de Leon to hang your hat on to any lingering claims that Broner might be a mirage.
Meahwhile, the unbeaten 130 lb. titlist continues to march to the beat of his own drum. Dancing into the ring beforehand, the in-ring hairbrush shtick involving his father, and outlandish comments made during post-fight interviews – there is never a dull moment when taking in the experience.
Elements of that were captured in HBO’s most recent segment of “2Days,” a documentary-style series that spends 48 hours in the life of a fighter. The time spent covering the day before and day of his fight with Eloy Perez were condensed into 15 minutes.
The segment was just long enough to encapsulate everything there is to love and loathe, depending on your preference. You saw his aspirations as a rapper, his dedication to being the best possible father to his young children and finally, his overwhelming desire to be the best to ever lace ‘em up.
The more he wins, the more he continues to silence his critics. However, the self-insistence of already sitting at the elite level causes cringe-worthy moments who prefer their superstars to have conquered the best in the sport before claiming such status themselves.
A win this weekend won’t necessarily catapult him any higher than where he presently sits, which is atop the super featherweight division. Escobedo (26-3, 15KO) comes with a rich amateur pedigree, the ’04 Olympic tour and now a four-fight win streak heading into Saturday’s showdown.
Beyond that, the achievements don’t quite measure up to the scouting report. Escobedo is no walk in the park, but at the same time has fallen way short whenever stepping up in class.
All of that is of zero concern to Broner, whose lone observation of a fighter comes no sooner than the initial moments after the opening bell sounds for his fight.
“I’m not here to rank fighters. I’m here to fight fighters,” Broner states when asked to assess his opponent. “They say he’s the number one guy in my division. That’s why I’m fighting him. He’s a world class fighter. They didn’t rank him number one for nothing. We’re going to put on a good show.
“I don’t watch tape and study. I’m blessed with the talent and God-gifted enough to go out there and do what I have to get the victory.”
It’s worked 23 other times to date, so no need for Broner to feel like he needs to change up now. What will change is his boxing zip code after this fight. The show he intends to put on – his 11th in his hometown and third within his past six fights – will be his last as a 130 lb. titlist.
Approaching his 23rd birthday next week, Broner is still growing and intends to next set his sights on the lightweight division. Who exactly is next line isn’t even a thought at the moment. As much as Broner likes to enjoy himself outside the ring – and at times, between the ropes as well – it’s still all business until the task in front of him is complete.
“After this fight, I’m going to give the lightweights hell. Vicente is on my mind right now. After that, whoever wants it can come get it. The statement was a statement for publicity. Anybody can get it – Africans, Mexicans, Dominicans, Americans, Puerto Ricans…”
The quote originally made earlier this year came with the self-reference as boxing’s ‘Can Man.’ The label is more than a nickname; it has become a way of life in the ring.
For this weekend’s task at hand, Broner has every intention of going all in. Come Saturday night, it will be Escobedo’s turn to ‘come get it. The 30-year old has never been stopped in seven years as a pro and only dropped twice, both against Robert Guerrero in their Nov. ‘10 bout.
Broner isn’t particularly focused on becoming the first to stop him, more so than he plans to just do what he does best – entertain and win.
“It don’t matter if I knock him out or win by a tremendously wide unanimous decision. If the knockout comes it comes. I won’t press the issue.”
The only guarantee he will make beyond winning is that after the fight, fans will only crave for more.
“You will see something special on Saturday night,” Broner promises.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter: @JakeNDaBox