Adrien Broner has the opportunity every fighter dreams of this Saturday — a homecoming on HBO in his first world title bout.
Broner (21-0, 17 KOs), a 22-year-old junior lightweight contender who was a standout in the amateurs, has swiftly moved through the pro ranks. His bout for the vacant WBO 130-pound belt against Argentina’s Vicente Rodriguez marks his third appearance on HBO in 2011.
The Cincinnati native is elated to have the opportunity to show his fans how far he’s come.
“Who wouldn’t want their first world title shot in their hometown — headlining on HBO?,” Broner told RingTV.com. “It’s a big night and we’re gonna stay focused and do what we have to do to get the victory.
“The city’s buzzing, I’m trying to bring the whole city out.”
THE RING’s No. 6-rated junior lightweight is anxious for the WBO strap and is ready for all challengers in 2012, confident that whomever Golden Boy puts in front of him, he’ll take them out.
“Whoever is trying to grab the rope to hang themself,” said Broner of who he would like to face in 2012. “It really don’t matter who they put in front of me. I’ll definitely be ready.”
With talented featherweight contender Yuriorkis Gamboa entering the stale 130-pound division, a bout between the two undefeated fighters would be a welcome bout. Gamboa, a phenomenally fast Cuban Olympian who has held tow major featherweight titles, is coming off a one-sided technical decision over former 122-pound beltholder Daniel Ponce de Leon, the best opponent on Broner’s resume.
However, Broner views himself as Gamboa’s equal, and perhaps even more of a name at junior lightweight.
“At the end of the day, I don’t need Gamboa, Gamboa needs me,” Broner boasted. “He can’t go up to ’35, he can’t go up to ’40, he can’t go up to ’47. If he did, that would surprise me, he’s a small guy. So at the end of the day he needs me to make the big fight. So if he wants it, then, tell him he can have it — to sign the contract.”
While Broner doesn’t believe Gamboa can rise far in weight, at 5-foot-7, he thinks he can rise in weight as his body matures.
“I’m flexible, I’m able to go up to 135, 140,” said Broner. “We’re just gonna get this fight over with first, and we’re going to the drawing board after November 26th.”
In Broner’s HBO debut this past March, he fought the hard-punching De Leon. And though he came away with a 10-round points victory, Broner failed to please the public, and even worse, some felt he lost the bout. He more than made up for that performance in June, by scoring a one-round blowout of Jason Litzau on HBO.
“I probably didn’t do what the crowd wanted me to do, but I’m not fighting for the crowd, I’m fighting for my career,” Broner reflected. “There’s always gonna be critics, even if I go out on Saturday and knock this guy out in the first round, they’re still not gonna give me the credit. … So I just get in there and don’t listen to the critics. I just do me at all times.”
Broner knows people view him as cocky, but he feels people would view differently if they knew him. He simply enjoys being an entertainer.
“Some people say I’m cocky, but that’s just me,” Broner said. “That’s just the way I carry myself inside the ring. If you know me outside of the ring, that’s not the way I carry myself. I’m a good entertainer, I entertain. I’m explosive. Who don’t wanna see someone who’s fast, explosive and wants to put on a show?”
Asked about his unique pre-fight tradition of having a team member brush his hair during introductions, Broner stated “Sugar Ray Robinson combed his hair, but I’ve never seen anybody brush their hair.”
Broner is ready for Saturday, knowing that bigger things lie ahead for him in 2012.
“If he makes one mistake, it can a very early night,” said the fighter nicknamed “The Problem”. “When you come to the fight, you better have your chips, your pop and all of that ready before my fight ‘cause it can end at any time. His record tells a lot, he’s 34-2, 18 knockouts. We have to be on point, can’t make no mistakes ‘cause it only takes one punch.”
Broner, though, while weary of getting reckless, is certain of a victory, viewing Rodriguez as a “steppingstone” as a money-fight with Gamboa perhaps lies ahead.
“It’s my time to shine like the sun is out,” Broner said. “I’m gonna do that and I’m gonna be fresh, fly and flashy.
“He’s just in the way, he’s a steppingstone. I’m gonna step over this guy.”
Photo by Mark Zerof – Hoganphotos/Golden Boy Promotions
Mike Coppinger is a regular boxing contributor to USA TODAY and THE RING. He is a member of THE RING Ratings Advisory Panel, the Yahoo Sports Boxing Panel and the Boxing Writers Association of America. Follow him on Twitter: @MikeCoppinger