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Mike Stafford on Adrien Broner: “Critics don’t pay the checks.”

In the week following Adrien Broner’s HBO debut in March, trainer Mike Stafford told Maxboxing amid a firestorm of media and fan criticism that he, “felt sorry for his next opponent.” The story ended with a short, skeptical, partly sarcastic “We’ll see.”

Saturday night, before a raucous crowd in Mexico awaiting their newly-crowned hero Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, Adrien Broner, 21-0 (17), stepped between the ropes to face his critics and Jason Litzau and made his trainer’s words prophetic as he needed less than one round to topple Litzau from the peak of his career. With the quick win, Broner sent a message across the junior lightweight division that he had arrived. While Broner will surely continue to have his detractors, there’s no doubting that he now stands squarely in the title picture among the world’s top 130-pounders.
Stafford took time again to speak with about his 21-year-old fighter’s continued development and maturity. “Last time out, it was Adrien’s first time on HBO; he was trying to impress Roy Jones Jr., trying to impress the media, trying to impress HBO. This time, he just focused on Adrien Broner.”
If it was Broner’s goal to impress in his previous outing, he fell drastically short as he boxed and counterpunched his way to a controversial decision over former titleholder Daniel Ponce de Leon in California, again on an Alvarez undercard. This writer called Broner “dull and unprepared for his first fight on the national stage.” Disdain for the fight and for Broner was nearly universal.
However, Team Broner wasted little time readying for its next bout, quickly signing to face top ranked Jason Litzau, who had just earned the signature win of his career upsetting Celestino Caballero last November. To prepare, training camp was moved to Colorado Springs, Colorado. “The sparring was more intense. Adrien was letting his hands go more,” said Stafford.
The trainer does admit that Broner was motivated by the criticism and the experience of the Ponce de Leon fight. “It makes him understand that nobody is going to give him anything. He has to earn it.” He also felt that Broner paid more attention to the plan put forth by his trainer. “I watch the tape and he was definitely working hard on the things I told him I found.”
The overall experience helped mature Broner as well, in Stafford’s eyes. “It was his first time on HBO and the first time he was booed. It got to him I think. This time, he trusted in himself.” Stafford also noted that the criticism was the main factor behind Broner’s motivation, “Critics don’t pay the checks,” he joked.
Now Stafford feels his fighter is just one or two fights away from a world title shot but worries if any current champions will be willing to give him a shot. With two titlists in Japan and one in Great Britain, it is a legitimate concern. Their best shot may come against the winner of the Argenis Mendez vs. Juan Carlos Salgado fight scheduled for July 23rd for the vacant IBF crown.
Stafford says the team has yet to sit down, explore the options and chart its course. Making an effort to point out the role his co-promoter, R&R promotions (led by Andrew Williams), played in his development to this point. “Sure, he’s with Golden Boy now but it was R&R that got him good fights from the beginning to get to this point.” But for now, Stafford tells Maxboxing he enjoys seeing his pupil relish some success, “I’m thrilled to death; I’ve been with him since he was six. He’s like a son to me.”
Regardless of the which scenario plays out in the near future, Broner’s critics will have to get used to seeing his name in the championship mix, possibly for a long time. At just 21, Broner still has plenty of upside and time to get better, which he must use to reach the next level. Given his performance last Saturday night, from here on out, his critics and the junior lightweight division now underestimate him at their own peril.
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