CINCINNATI, OH. — Despite adopting “The Problem” as his moniker, Adrien Broner is hoping he has the solution for what ails the junior lightweight division.
While his crunching third-round stoppage of Vicente Martin Rodriguez in his hometown on Saturday won’t convince all of his detractors, Broner is in prime position to breathe life into a long-dormant weight class.
The show at U.S. Bank Arena was Broner’s first turn headlining a card televised by HBO and he delivered, hurting the game but overmatched Rodriguez with a right uppercut and turning out the lights with a flush left hook. Broner gyrated in victory as the ref tolled the count, but grew emotional soon after winning his first “world” title from the WBO.
“I dreamed of this. I put on a great performance. I’m just ready to move forward. Sky’s the limit,” Broner told HBO’s Max Kellerman, calling the evening the fulfillment of a lifelong dream.
The fight had its share of detractors going in since Rodriguez was considered far from world championship material. Former beltholder Ricky Burns passed on the fight and vacated his title to move up to lightweight against Michael Katsidis, while unbeaten 130-pound contender Eloy Perez refused to make the fight in Broner’s backyard.
But Adrien’s handlers are intent on breathing life back into a historic fight town that has produced the likes of Aaron Pryor and Ezzard Charles. So Martinez was deemed sufficient for the fight, which drew a large and vocal crowd on the holiday weekend.
Broner alternatively dazzles and confounds but hometown fans got his best tonight. His combination of speed and power is downright frightening when employed correctly. Adrien spent the first round boxing intelligently and countering, but the Argentine sucked him into a brawl during a close second. Broner responded by firing the counter-right uppercut, which found home in the third to great effect. Rodriguez gamely tried to respond to the ensuing flurry before a flush left hand ended the night and left him slumped between the ropes.
The 22-year-old boxer-puncher still lacks a marquee win and his struggle against Daniel Ponce de Leon earlier this year means few will consider him worth of his belt until he beats a true contender. While the division lacks depth, Cuban featherweight phenom Yuriorkis Gamboa has signaled his intention to move up and a matchup with Broner could turn the winner into a bonafide household name. Whether that fight comes next will likely be left to Broner’s manager and boxing may of mystery Al Haymon, who was ringside with clients Andre Berto and Floyd Mayweather.
In the main supporting bout, Washington D.C.-area featherweight prospect Gary Russell Jr. registered a spectacular one-punch first-round knockout against late substitute Heriberto Ruiz. Russell is one of boxing’s most touted prospects but the counter-right hook he landed flush on Ruiz’s chin was his most explosive result to date. Ruiz lay on his back and stared up with glassy eyes, unable to distinguish between the arena lights and the stars circling his head.
Another Haymon client, Russell has been similarly criticized for the low quality of his opposition but his latest showing should help extend his buzz beyond hardcore fight fans.
Highlight-reel knockouts were in fashion this evening as recent Haymon signing Chris Pearson won his professional debut at middleweight with a series of crunching hooks in the first round. Steve Chadwick attempted to rally from a knockdown but another left hook forced the ref to step in immediately.
Heavyweight prospect Deontay Wilder landed the punch of the fortnight in the opening round of his tilt with local heavyweight David Long. The towering 2008 Olympic bronze medalist connected with a straight right that nearly decapitated Long and rendered the count meaningless.
Holland, Michigan welterweight Juan Garcia scored a mild upset over unbeaten local fighter William “Action” Jackson while featherweights DeVonte Allen and Salvador Perez fought to a four-round split draw in the opening bout.
Photo / Craig Bennett