Boxing writer Kieran Mulvaney shadowed former WBO junior lightweight beltholder Adrien Broner prior to the 23-year-old’s HBO-televised fifth-round knockout of Vicente Escobedo in July, a triumph executed before Broner’s hometown fans at U.S. Bank Arena in Cincinnati.
The result was an intimate portrayal of Broner (24-0, 20 knockouts), who will pursue his fifth consecutive stoppage win against WBC lightweight titleholder Antonio DeMarco (28-2-1, 21 KOs), of Tijuana, Mexico, as part of an HBO-televised doubleheader at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City on Saturday night.
“I get more happy, because I know it’s my time,” Broner told Mulvaney in the basement lounge of a hotel, minutes prior to being transported to the fight venue to face Escobedo. “It’s my time to shine. The lights will be on me.”
Broner was absolutely right.
Broner proved himself a breakout star with his domination of Escobedo, which scored a 3.4 rating – a number that ranked as HBO’s top Boxing After Dark telecast out of the nine shows aired this year with 1.4 million viewers.
Among the HBO boxing broadcasts Broner-Escobedo surpassed were the network’s tape-delayed re-broadcast of Tim Bradley’s controversial split-decision over Manny Pacquiao in June, as well as Danny Garcia’s upset fourth-round knockout of Amir Khan in July.
Before entering the ring against Escobedo, Broner lost his WBO belt at the scales for missing the contracted weight of 130 pounds both the day prior to the fight and during a Saturday morning re-weigh — hence the move to 135 pounds to challenge DeMarco.
“I think I did enough at 130,” said Broner, before being driven to the arena in his Range Rover. “I don’t think there’s nothing for me at 135, or 140 or 147 either. Easy work.”
“With the talent that I have, the type of guy that I am, the charisma that I have, I knew that there would be some point in time when boxing will revolve around Adrien Broner,” said Broner.
“Patience is the key. Everybody has their time. But once you give me the chance to be in that circle, I’m never going to leave.”
Broner also explained his nickname, which is “The Problem.”
“That’s always been my nickname,” said Broner. “Me and my twin brother [Andre,] any time we came to a tournament, they’d all be, ‘Oh, it’s a problem. The twins are here.”
AARON PRYOR AND THE 30TH ANNIVERSARY OF WIN OVER ALEXIS ARGUELLO
Hall of Famer and former IBF and WBA 140-pound champion Aaron “The Hawk” Pryor, who has advised Broner to keep on talking but also to keep on winning, celebrated the 30th anniversary of his most defining victory on Monday – a 14th-round knockout of the late Alexis Arguello on Nov. 12, 1982.
A native of Cincinnati like Broner, Pryor is most well-known for his two classic battles against Arguello, the other being a 10th-round stoppage win in September of 1983.
Pryor retired with a mark of 39-1 that included 35 KOs, and was 12-0 with 10 stoppage victories when fighting in Cincinnati, where Broner is 11-0 with 10 knockouts.
“There’s nothing wrong with predicting what you’re going to do,” said Pryor, who turned 57 last month, in regard to Broner’s outspoken nature.
“It’s a little bit cocky, you know. But like I’ve told him, ‘You can do all of that if you want to, but you gotta win. You’ve got to win. You’ve got to go out there and fight the fight that you predicted to everybody that you would.’”
Also known for pointing an ominous fist at his opponent in the ring prior to his bouts, and for crashing a Sugar Ray Leonard press conference before challenging him to a fight at the podium, Pryor could not be reached for comment on Monday because he was en route to attend Tuesday’s funeral services for Hall of Fame trainer Emanuel “Manny” Steward in Detroit.
BANKS TO ATTEND STEWARD’S FUNERAL ON TUESDAY AFTER LAST WEEK’S ‘FOUR-A-DAYS’
Banks said he was participating in a Monday press conference in his native Detroit promoting his clash with Mitchell, adding that he will be in attendance at Tuesday’s memorial services for Steward.
Before his death on Oct. 25 at the age of 68, Steward instructed RING, IBF, WBA and WBO heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko to replace him with Banks in preparation for Klitschko’s unanimous decision over Polish-born challenger Mariusz Wach on Saturday at the O2 World Arena in Hamburg, Germany.
The win over Wach (27-1, 15 KOs) was the 17th straight for Klitschko (59-3-1, 50 KOs) during a run that has included 12 knockouts.
The 6-3 Banks takes an 8-0-1 mark that includes four knockouts into his clash with Mitchell, having last suffered defeat as a 200-pound cruiserweight by eighth-round stoppage against Tomasz Adamek in February of 2009.
Banks said that doubling up as fighter and trainer last week was brutal.
“I set my schedule to where when Wladimir trained in the morning, then I would train before he did. So by the time he got into the gym, I was already there, waiting on him. In the afternoon, it was the same schedule,” said Banks.
“Again, I would train before him, and by the time he got there, I was dressed for him and ready to go. At the end of the day, I was completely exhausted, and I slept like a baby every single night. It was four-a-days. It was just like four-a-days.”
BANKS SEES NO ADVANTAGE IN SPARRIING SESSIONS WITH KLITSCHKOS, LENNOX LEWIS
In Banks, Mitchell faces a longtime sparring partner to the Klitschko siblings.
Although he has also served as sparring partner for former undisputed champion Lennox Lewis, Banks said he does not see the scenarios as an advantage against Mitchell.
“Sparring those guys doesn’t give me an advantage because none of those guys is Seth Mitchell. I take my hat off to Seth Mitchell, because I think he’s a helluva fighter, and that’s the way I personally feel about him. It doesn’t give me an advantage at all,” said Banks.
“Seth Mitchell brings a whole different energy to the ring than most opponents, and I feel that I bring a different rhythm than most opponents, so I think that’s what’s going to make the fight a helluva fight. So working with those guys doesn’t give me an advantage.”
On the other hand, Banks considers it an edge to have a trainer’s approach to assessing his rival.
“I’m not going to say that it’s an advantage, but it definitely gives you another piece of equipment as far as being prepared for different things. Looking at it from a training standpoint, a trainer’s job is usually to speak and to give directions,” said Banks, whose trainer is Steward’s nephew, Sugar Hill.
“I try not to look at it from a trainer’s standpoint, because I can’t speak to anybody and give them directions except for myself. But it gives me a different outlook about boxing, which is really good, and that’s a part of it that keeps me motivated and has me really excited about fighting all of the time, just because of that different outlook as a trainer.”
Banks partially blamed extreme weight-loss for the setback against Adamek, prompting his move into the heavyweight division.
“The move up to heavyweight was simply because I was killing myself too much to make the 200 pounds. I could make the weight, but I couldn’t perform at the weight, and that was my problem. I was too weak trying to get down to 200, and it just took its toll on me,” said Banks.
“It took a toll on me in a big way. Not taking anything away from Adamek. He did what he was supposed to do. But I really had nothing left to continue to fight as a cruiserweight. As a heavyweight, it’s just my willingness to work hard, same as when I was a cruiserweight. I’m just trying to work as hard as I can, and that’s what it’s all about.”
MITCHELL MODELED RAY LEWIS, RANKS MIGUEL COTTO AS HIS FAVORITE FIGHTER
Promoted by Golden Boy Promotions and a former scholarship linebacker at Michigan State, Mitchell was named Maryland’s Defensive Player of the Year at Gwynn Park High in Brandywine by the Associated Press, and began boxing shortly after graduating from college with a degree in criminal justice.
Managed by Sharif Salim and trained by Andre Hunter, Mitchell is considered by many to be America’s best hope at ending the country’s drought of champions in a division dominated by the Ukrainian Klitschko brothers, Vitali and Wladimir.
No U.S.-born fighter has held a heavyweight title since 2007, when Shannon Briggs briefly wore the WBO’s strap. In 2006, Rahman held the WBC belt while the IBF title was held by Chris Byrd. American John Ruiz, the first Latino to win a heavyweight belt, held the WBA title during stretches over the course of 2001 to 2005.
MITCHELL: BANKS IS ‘A SLICK FIGHTER’
Since battling to a split-decision draw with Alvaro Morales in March of 2008, Mitchell has won 23 consecutive fights, including 18 by knockout, and has stopped his past 10 opponents.
Although he is coming off knockouts in the second and third rounds over Timur Ibragimov and Chazz Witherspoon in December of last year and April, respectively, Mitchell does not anticipate a quick night against Banks.
“I think with the Chazz Witherspoon and Timur, like I’ve said before, I think that my team has done a great job in moving me, but he brings something different than I saw in my last two fights. I think Chazz was a busier fighter, but he wasn’t as slick. Johnathan, he’s a slick fighter. He has subtle things that he does like when he steps to the side and comes over with the right hand and things of that nature,” said Mitchell.
“He’s a boxer that doesn’t run or use his legs a lot to move around the ring and make it a boring fight, but he definitely knows his way around the ring and takes small steps. He economizes his movements to get the punches that he wants. Those are some of the things tshat we’ve noticed, and some of the things that we’ve definitely worked on to try to eliminate some of the things that he wants to do.”
Mitchell continued his characterization of Banks as “a solid test,” as well as having “a different style.”
“I didn’t think that I was going stop Timur in the second round, or Chazz. I thought both of those fights would go six or seven rounds. I prepare for the distance and I’m definitely in shape when I get into the ring,” said Mitchell, whose longest route-going performance was an eight-round unanimous decision victory over Zack Page in December of 2009.
“I know a lot of people said they are wanting to see me go into deep waters because I haven’t been past the eighth round since . But conditioning is the last thing that’s on my mind when I step into the ring, so I’ll be ready. I don’t expect this fight to be a short fight. Mentally, I’m prepared to go 12 rounds. Whatever happens, happens, but I’ll be ready mentally and physically.”
Photos by Getty Images
Photo by Tom Hogan, Hogan Photos, Golden Boy Promotions
Lem Satterfield can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org