By Thomas Gerbasi
Nearly four years ago, I had a chat with Marcus Browne about his early years in the sport, and he talked about always wanting the belts, golden gloves and medals his friends and gym mates were getting. He got them, ultimately making it all the way to the 2012 Olympics as a member of Team USA.
Today, he’s an unbeaten light heavyweight contender about to fight Francy Ntetu in Brooklyn’s Barclays Center on Saturday. So who is pushing the Staten Island southpaw these days?
“It’s funny, but it’s the same people,” he said. “My stablemate Sadam Ali just beat (Miguel) Cotto, Danny Jacobs was a world champion, and it’s people of that nature. My Olympic teammate Errol Spence, Rau’shee Warren, Robert Easter, they’re all pushing me.”
That friendly competitiveness has fueled Browne throughout his career, but it’s in the last year and a half that the 27-year-old has grown from a raw talent into a legitimate title threat. And he feels it, too.
“I’m settled and coming into my own and just ready to continue this journey and keep on pushing,” said Browne, who hit an early crossroads in April 2016, when he won a controversial split decision over Radivoje Kalajdzic. If he was going to continue on the path to a light heavyweight title, he had to be dominant and not get into life and death struggles at this stage. So he did what he had to do.
“That was one of the main goals, to stop playing,” he said. “I stopped playing and I take everything serious now – my eating habits, the way I train leading up to a fight, my relationship with my trainers, listening. And even in sparring, I don’t like to lose a round, honestly. So everything’s falling into place and it’s showing. I’m growing as a man in the sport.”
Words are words. Actions are something else, and in his two bouts since the Kalajdzic fight, Browne has looked like a different fighter as he knocked out Thomas Williams in six rounds and Seanie Monaghan in two heats. Now his maturity is catching up to his talent, and “Sir” Marcus is a dangerous fighter, one who isn’t the “young man in a hurry” I once described him as. He’s learned the game in and out of the ring, and appreciates the journey he’s been on.
“I understand that everybody has their time,” Browne said. “You can’t watch other people and look at everybody else’s situation compared to yours. You’ve got to understand that your time will come, but when your time comes, you’ve got to make sure that you’re ready. And I’m at that point where I’m feeling ready for whatever comes my way. My time will come soon, hopefully sooner rather than later (Laughs), but I’m just taking care of the guy that’s in front of me right now.”
A win over that guy, Canada’s Ntetu, isn’t going to propel Browne into a title fight, but at 17-1 and with a reputation as a tough out, he should be a test for the former Olympian. And when it comes to the equations that fighters often try to figure out in terms of where a certain fight will land them, Browne isn’t playing that game.
“I don’t even look at the rankings and I don’t even think of it in that manner,” he said. “I just think of taking care whoever’s in front of me because if I don’t, I won’t even be able to get to the end of that equation. It’s boxing, so you never want to look ahead. Come this week, I’ve got a tough guy in front of me. In his only loss (David Benavidez in 2016), he didn’t want to stop fighting, so that’s a guy that has a lot of character. And guys that have a lot of character, you’ve got to convince them to not be in the ring with you, and the only way of doing that is by punishing them. So I’ve got to punish him.”
Marcus Browne has arrived. Right on time.
“I’m glad I wasn’t rushed,” he said. “I’ve grown as a professional, I’ve grown as a man, and I know what it takes to be a champion and to stay a champion, so I have to just stay on task and focus on what’s ahead me, and that’s Francy. And whatever happens next happens.”