ATLANTIIC CITY — When referee Raul Cauz Jr. came to the rescue of former two-division beltholder Jorge Linares, signaling a come-from-behind, 11th-round knockout victory for Antonio DeMarco, the WBC’s new lightweight titleholder thrust both arms skyward and burst into tears.
The triumph, at Staples Center in October of last year, ended a worst-to-first saga for a fighter who was once a homeless teenager foraging for food in the streets of Tijuana, Mexico.
“I was just emotionally excited. It was something that I will never forget. I had dreamed about something like this. I never imagined that it would be something that would be realized the way that it was.To be a world champion and to win it this way, it just sent a lot of things through my mind. I thought about my three-year-old daughter, Camilla. I thought about my wife, Tanya. I thought about my parents,” said DeMarco during an interview with RingTV.com.
“I thought about my life on the streets struggling to survive when I was 16, 17 years old. I thought about the people who gave me food to eat during that time here in Tijuana. There was just so much, and so many memories that went through my mind. I felt so excited that I just can’t describe it. It was like a fairy tale that came true. I mean, I spent two years or so sleeping in the streets. I went from sleeping in the streets to becoming a world champion.”
A 26-year-old married father with another on the way, DeMarco (28-2-1, 21 knockouts) will carry similar passion into Saturday night’s defense against former WBO junior lightweight titletholder Adrien “The Problem” Broner (24-0, 23 KOs), a slick, 23-year-old boxer-puncher, in an HBO-televised showdown at Boardwalk Hall.
A resident of Los Mochis, Mexico, DeMarco was able to purchase a home with the money earned with last month’s 44-second knockout of John Molina, which represented his fifth straight win and his fourth by stoppage during that run since falling by ninth-round knockout to the late Venezuelan Edwin Valero (27-0, 27 KOs) last February.
DeMarco is taking on perhaps his most formidable rival since Valero in Broner, whose fifth-round stoppage of Vicente Escobedo in July represented the fourth consecutive knockout victory since winning a unanimous decision over current WBC featherweight beltholder Daniel Ponce de Leon, a southpaw, in March of last year.
“It’s an important fight for my career, but I think that I have had an even bigger fight, like the one with Edwin Valero, and that will help me to enter the ring with more confidence,” said DeMarco.
“It will be the talent of Adrien Broner against the hunger and heart of DeMarco. Without a doubt, he’s a very elusive and intelligent fighter. But we came prepared for that, and even more.”
Against Linares, DeMarco drew strength from his experience against Valero, which bore similarities to that October bout. Where Linares out-landed DeMarco, 216-to-97 in total punches and 149-to-83 in power punches, Valero out-landed DeMarco 270-80 overall, 183-33 in power shots, and had an 87-47 advantage in jabs.
Like he did against Linares, DeMarco bloodied Valero, his left hand opening a first-round cut beneath his rival’s right eye. In the second round, DeMarco opened a gash over Valero’s forehead as well as his right eyelid thanks to a left elbow that grazed the oncoming Valero’s face.
But unlike his fight against Valero, DeMarco did not retire on his stool against Linares.
“I have something very important to fight for, and that’s my family,” said DeMarco. “That gives me more hunger to keep moving forward.”
DeMarco will attempt to rely on similar motivation against Broner, whose style he compares favorably to that of Uzbekistanian Almazbek “Kid Diamond” Raiymkulov (27-2-1, 15 KOs).
DeMarco trailed on one of the three judges’ cards before scoring a ninth-round knockout of Raiymkulov in February of 2009.
“There was a fight that gave me exposure, and it was a very difficult fight. That fighter was Kid Diamond,” said DeMarco. “But in my mind, I’m well-prepared. In my mind, I’m only thinking about winning.”
Citing the fact that Broner was widely considered by some to have lost to Ponce de Leon, DeMarco believes that his own southpaw style could also be an issue for Broner.
“Every fight and every fighter is different,” said DeMarco. “But we took a little bit of that fight to see what we can hurt him, and to examine the places that he might be vulnerable.”
Promoted by Golden Boy, Broner called out DeMarco following the win over Escobedo, this, after having lost his WBO belt at the scales before entering the ring against Escobedo, which made his rise into the 135-pound division a natural step.
“This is a little bit of an advantage for me because I’m the world champion, and I’ve been fighting at this weight for a little bit longer,” said DeMarco. “But if he wants to, we can fight in the welterweight class at 147 pounds, because I’m that confident that I’m going to win. I have the solution to ‘The Problem.'”
Tom Hogan, Hogan Photos, Golden Boy Promotions
Tom Casino, Showtime
Tom Hogan, Hogan Photos, Golden Boy Promotions
Lem Satterfield can be reached at email@example.com