“He’s always been like a big brother to me,” said Broner. “I always looked up to that kid. I was always under his wing. He made me a better boxer, a better fighter.”
Broner took to fighting early and often as an amateur, quickly learning his new trade and relishing the damage he and his brother could do as they competed in tournament after tournament. Ultimately, the two earned twin nicknames and Broner still answers to his to this day.
“I have a twin brother, Andre Broner; he used to box, too,” explained Broner. “We used to raise havoc everywhere we go. We were kids. A lot of people liked us and we won a lot of tournaments. My twin, he found himself giving up and leaving it up to me. I just kept it going and every time I got in the ring, I dominated. Every tournament I went to, they said, ‘Awww, we have a problem. The twin is here.’ My brother’s name is ‘The Solution.’”
Broner’s name stuck as he racked up win after win. Broner intimated that the pressures and trials of coming from the hard streets of “Cincy” derailed him a bit and he left the sport before qualifying for the 2008 Olympics. At age 16, Broner returned to the sport and it was at this time, he met his current promoter, Andrew Williams, who runs R&R Promotions out of Cincinnati.
“I’m from Cincinnati. I kind of got off track,” admitted Broner. “But now, I am on track in this boxing thing. I’m dedicated to the sport. I love the sport and I am doing what I love to do.”
“Unfortunately, some things came up that prevented him from fighting for the ’08 Olympics,” said Williams, who declined to elaborate, instead focusing on the positive future ahead of his fighter. “It was an opportunity missed by him and I think he understood and was determined to not let anything get in his way as he became a pro. The good thing for him is that he is 21 years old and has almost 20 fights under his belt. As we know, the average good career might go 40 fights. I think the future for this kid is tremendous. He is fighting on a regular basis. Right now, he is not doing a lot of rounds. The fights are going one or two rounds. We don’t expect everything to go like that. But as long as we can make it last, then we will. He has 15 knockouts in 18 fights. We’re looking forward to fireworks this weekend.”
After a brief break, Broner returned to the ring and fought on a Williams card. It was here that Broner hooked up with Williams, along with his trainer, Mike Stafford. Both have been supporting him ever since.
“When I came back to the gym, my last amateur fight I was 16,” said Broner. “I fought the number one amateur guy in the nation, Isaiah Williams. He was with the Northern Michigan University camp. That was my first fight ever with Andrew Williams. All the time I tried to fight on an Andrew Williams cards but a lot of guys knew who I was and they wouldn’t fight me. So I finally got a guy in, I was 16 and he was a lot older than me. I really showed up on him. And after that, Andrew fell in love with me and him and trainer Mike Stafford have been with me ever since.”
Most of Broner’s fights have been early knockouts, leaving him with only 59 rounds in 18 bouts. But the quality of this young fighter is evident as he seems to alter his style to suit the task at hand.
“You don’t go into every fight fighting the same,” Broner explained of his change in tactics. “Sometimes, it depends on the opponent. For the most part, I’m going to bring speed, power, quickness and use my mentality to outthink a fighter. I’ve been boxing since I was six. I’m comfortable in the ring. I am very comfortable with it and I know what I am going to do and I execute my plan.”
While he has been blowing a lot of opposition out of the water, the competition has not been bad. He has only fought three sub-.500 fighters and one fighter making his debut (which was also Broner’s debut back in May 2008). While it is hard to get him quality fighters that can build both his record and his skill set, Williams credits the high standards of the Ohio boxing commission, who asks that their fighters take on quality opposition rather than the “Bum of the Week” club.
“We have to give some kudos to the state of Ohio,” said Williams. “The commissioner is really tough and he is not going to allow him to be put in soft. It’s been a struggle to find the right guy to fight but it’s good to be promoting a fighter who is willing to fight. This state is a tough state. It’s made us a little bit tougher.”
“If you look at my record,” said Broner, “I have a lot of guys who are good competition and pretty records. I’m not being too cocky; I feel I am on another level. That is in my head and when I get in the ring, that is how I perform. At this point, it really doesn’t matter. The same result [comes from me] going to win.”
These days, promoters look to build records a lot of the time rather than fighters. This is neither the goal nor the plan of R&R Promotions, who is working with Golden Boy Promotions to develop Broner both as a fighter and as a local draw.
“It’s been our goal from day one,” said Williams. “We’re happy to be working in conjunction with Golden Boy Promotions, which has allowed us to promote [Broner] on a local level and promote him on a national level. It’s a great partnership because he has never been shelved. He has been fighting on a regular basis. With a company like Golden Boy, they have a lot of fighters they have to accommodate. For us to be able to do this and with the history of Cincinnati boxers, it’s tremendous for our city. Our city is behind us 100%. They are excited about this kid. Our thinking is that if you can’t build a champion who is going to draw, you can’t draw at home. Our goal from day one is to make this kid a draw and we are going to make Golden Boy Promotions come into Cincinnati and do a fight and not someplace else.”
As Broner’s star rises locally, the pitfalls to building a draw at home also rise; the constant distractions, friends and family asking for tickets, the wrong elements looking to pull his focus and build his ego before he has fully arrived, etc. Williams sees what he has in Broner and is cognizant of the trappings of local success. With that in mind, Williams mixes up the locales of the training camps, emphasizing solitude to keep his charge on track, as well getting him work with other top fighters in the sport. Most recently, Broner has worked with St. Louis resident and junior welterweight titleholder Devon Alexander, who is preparing for his January 29 fight with titleholding counterpart Timothy Bradley.
“I know there drawbacks to fighting at home,” said Williams. “I’ve watched it happen. Fighters drop the ball at home. I watched Ricardo Williams. I’ve seen Tim Austin lose here at home. People are pulling at these kids. And they are trying to get their attention to get tickets. I don’t think the public understands how important it is for them to be mentally ready for it. So my goal when these fights come here is to pull him and put him in the neighboring state just across the bridge from us. It gives him that peace and serenity that he needs before the fight. I told him that today and he wants to get back home, see his family and stuff like that. But he has a job to do and you need to be focused to be able to do that job. I don’t need people asking him for tickets and pulling his focus. So we are aware, so I am doing everything as his promoter to keep him on track and not let people drive him crazy when it’s time to fight.”
Speaking to both men, you get the sense there is an incredible amount of trust between them. This is not just promoter and fighter but, rather, a partnership. Williams and Broner discuss opponent selection as well as future goals.
“As a promoter, we rely a lot on his opinion,” explained Williams. “All these young kids know how to get on the computer and find everything. He gets on the computer and we find out what he thinks. This kid he is fighting tomorrow is 10-1 with eight knockouts. He can punch. I got on the internet and I was like, ‘Wow.’ I was relying on how he feels. Immediately, Adrien is like, ‘Oh, I know. I see something. Let’s take this fight.’ So he is good at analyzing these fighters- as a fighter- I think a lot better than we can. He is seeing things that he can exploit. I think when you watch him, you can see that he knows. His array of punches is just tremendous what he is hitting people with and what he sees. He sees a lot.”
Broner explained that he generally watches tapes, if only to see what things he can exploit.
“I watch a couple times,” explained Broner. “I find out who I am going to fight and I watch. I find out who they are and I watch them on YouTube. If I see that there is an opening, that they are doing a lot wrong, then that is what I practice on. Sometimes, it be a long examination and sometimes it be, ‘Ah, I know this is going to be another regular sparring day.’”
Who Broner faces tonight at the Taft Masonic temple in Cincinnati is John Revish, 10-1-2 (8), a boxer/puncher with some solid skills. But “The Problem” doesn’t foresee one. If anything, this is another steppingstone on the way to building toward national fame and the big stage that awaits him under the new advisement of uber-adviser Al Haymon.
“I’ve seen him,” said Broner. “To me, he is a good boxer. I take nothing away from anyone who gets in the ring. I have to respect his boxing skills. He’s just not of my caliber. I’m going to make him look exactly as I said. I can’t tell you the plan, then I am giving away what I am going to do. But if you can, come see me and you will see what I am talking about.”
While the bout is not televised, it’s safe to say with Golden Boy, R&R and Haymon backing this exciting young fighter, I won’t be saying that about his future fights very often.
You can email Gabriel at email@example.com, follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/gabriel_montoya and catch him on each Monday’s episode of “The Next Round” with Steve Kim or tune into hear him live on Thursdays at 5-8 PM PST when he co-hosts the BlogTalk radio show Leave-It-In-The-Ring.com. Gabriel is a full member of the Boxing Writers Association of America.