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Azad Championship Report: Adrien Broner: "I've got big shoes to fill"


This week marks the 30th anniversary of Aaron Pryor vs. Alexis Arguello I, a classic battle that will forever live in the annals of boxing for its savagery and infamy (“Give me the bottle. No, not that one. The one I mixed.”). As in all arts, patrons are always looking for something or someone new to remind them of works and artists they loved in the past. Comparisons and parallels are inevitable.
And so it’s only natural that this weekend’s showdown between WBC lightweight champion Antonio DeMarco of Mexico and Cincinnati’s Adrien “The Problem” Broner (live from Boardwalk Hall, Atlantic City, HBO, 10 p.m., ET/PT) is being compared to that showdown. It’s an easy but erroneous comparison. For one, Arguello was moving up in weight to Pryor’s weight class. In this case, it’s the opposite as Broner, a former 130-pound titleholder who lost his belt on the scales, is making his official lightweight debut here.


“I got taller and I got stronger,” Broner said on a media conference call when asked if he had outgrown 130. When he made his debut on HBO against Daniel Ponce de Leon in March of 2011, he was listed at 5’5”. Today he stands 5’7” and is a physically imposing fighter for a debuting 135-pounder. “I’m only 23. They say you don’t stop growing until you’re 25 so…”
While DeMarco does fight more like a boxer than his Mexican roots would indicate and is a tall lightweight (much like Arguello), the only thing Aaron Pryor and Broner have in common (besides championship belts) is their hometown. In terms of style, Broner is more like his admitted model, Floyd Mayweather Jr. It’s a comparison he has no issue with.
“Not at all,” said Broner. “He’s a great guy. I love him. No homo.”
From his use of the shoulder roll, the adaptability of his style and ring intelligence to his ability to draw attention with one outrageous quote or act after another, Broner has clearly studied his idol much the way Kobe Bryant studied Michael Jordan.
Pryor-Arguello I was about a fading champion going for glory in one more division by facing a dangerous fighter the elite wanted no part of. Beating Arguello was supposed to be the gateway to many more big fights to come for Pryor.
Antonio DeMarco is not a faded champion. With a 28-2-1 (21) record, the 26-year-old DeMarco is a champion forged in fire. His more high-profile loss, a ninth round, on-the-stool stoppage courtesy of the late, great Edwin Valero in “El Inca’s” last bout, was also the most educational fight of his career. DeMarco has not lost since and is coming off a five-fight winning streak featuring the two best wins of his career: a 44-second knockout of John Molina Jr. and a come-from-behind 11th round stoppage of Jorge Linares. This is a fighter coming into his own, not one with a foot out the door.
“It’s definitely a defining fight for me but it’s also the kind of fight that can cross me over into a world most boxers can’t go to,” said Broner. “The lightweight I am facing is the best guy out there. I know what I am going up against.”
If this fight resembles any other, it is Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs. Jose Luis Castillo I. Like Mayweather, Broner is making his debut at 135 fighting for the WBC lightweight belt held by a Mexican warrior who has solid scalps on his résumé. At the time, Castillo’s big wins were over Stevie Johnston and Cesar Bazan but he had not quite broken through with fans as an elite fighter. He also brought four TKO losses into the bout with him. A lot is on the table for both men but particularly for Broner, who is looking to ultimately one-up Mayweather.
“Of course I will,” said Broner of surpassing Mayweather for all time. “Those are big shoes to fill. I only wear 6½, so it’s going to be tough.”
One way to do that is to succeed where Mayweather failed. In his first fight with Castillo, Mayweather struggled, winning a close decision but losing the fight in the public’s eye. He rematched Castillo immediately and outboxed him easily. Beating someone the caliber of DeMarco easily or at least decisively will go a long way with the public. This same public is divided into two camps when it comes to Broner: those who like his flashy antics and believe he is the real deal and those who don’t. Broner doesn’t seem to care - as long as you are watching.
“It’s very important. It always starts local. If you don’t have a big name in your hometown, how do you expect to have a big name anywhere else?” Broner rhetorically asked of building his brand as a local draw and now expanding into other markets. “It’s definitely important. Me? I’m worldwide with it. I’m trying to go global. I want to find out if somebody on Venus knows me.”
As Broner stated, he is a young man still growing. He’s not even close to his physical prime yet. While DeMarco, on paper, appears to have the style to trouble anyone, he is a true lightweight while Broner may just be passing through the division on his way to 140-plus pounds.
“I don’t even think it will be a match there,” said Broner when asked if he expects to not be physically challenged until he reaches the 140s. “With the talent I have and the work ethic I put in, I can make any fight look easy. It depends on me.”
When he first debuted on the big stage against Ponce de Leon, a southpaw slugger who, in recent years, has added a boxing dimension to his game, he appeared to beat Broner by close decision. Broner was awarded the win and a flood of criticism has followed him ever since. Broner has not struggled since that fight and in spots, has looked downright spectacular while taking on limited or compromised competition. DeMarco, a southpaw himself, represents the best challenge Broner has faced in several fights.
“They are different folks; you know? You don’t fight everybody the same,” Broner said when asked to compare the two southpaws, Ponce de Leon and DeMarco. “Like I said, you don’t fight everybody the same. That was the past. I got through it with flying colors. Now we got DeMarco on the table and we will be victorious in a fashionable way.”
Whether it is Pryor-Arguello I, Mayweather-Castillo I or simply a very good fight like DeMarco vs. Broner, a comparatively defining result remains to be seen. The gateway to greatness lies in a decisive victory for either young champion. We can’t know if DeMarco is simply the most experienced fighter Broner has faced or the best. As always, the fight will tell us that.
You can email Gabriel at, follow him on Twitter at and catch him every Monday on “The Next Round” with Steve Kim. You can also tune in to hear him and co-host David Duenez live on the BlogTalk radio show, Thursdays at 5-8 p.m., PST.
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