ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. – You don’t have to like him, but you have to respect his skills.
After a year-long reign as WBO junior lightweight titleholder, Adrien Broner moved five pounds north to the lightweight division to face THE RING’s no. 1 rated contender, WBC titleholder Antonio DeMarco, at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J. And after eight one-sided rounds, Broner celebrated in a neutral corner with a crunk-style two-step as DeMarco lay vanquished on the opposite side of the ring following a damaging right hand to the body that opened up the door for a Broner left uppercut.
New York-based referee Benjy Estevez Jr. nodded in recognition of DeMarco’s corner’s white towel, and after completing the mandatory eight count, waved the bout off at 1:49 of the eighth round. Cincinnati native Broner moved his unbeaten mark to 25-0 (21 knockouts) with the victory.
Despite the tremendous punishment that DeMarco (28-3-1, 21 KOs) of Los Mochis, Mexico, had absorbed, you couldn’t fault the referee for allowing him to continue as long as he did. DeMarco had shown uncanny determination to power back against the favored Jorge Linares last October, losing most of the early rounds before stopping him on cuts in the eleventh.
Broner, who began the night dancing to the ring accompanied by rapper Kendrick Lamar, used his vaunted speed in the first three rounds as he picked off the southpaw’s lunges with check hooks and short right crosses. But as DeMarco stepped up the attack and forced Broner to stand his ground, Broner answered back with a beautiful display of in-fighting in Round 5 that was reminiscent (sorry for the comparisons) to Floyd Mayweather’s conquest of Jesus Chavez in 2003.
Still, DeMarco remained standing despite absorbing 52 punches in the fifth, and in the sixth round he took advantage of a momentarily winded Broner to land effectively to the body with both hands. After coming on strong once again in the seventh, it was clear that DeMarco would be unable to find the answers needed to solve “The Problem.”
“His shoulder rolls and his defense were hard to penetrate,” admitted DeMarco, who said afterwards that he agreed with the stoppage. “But I fought my heart out and I’ll be back.”
“I wanted to make a statement tonight and I think I did,” said Broner, who has stopped his last five opponents. “He was definitely the toughest opponent I’ve fought and he was the strongest and could take a punch. I’ll fight anybody, I’m gonna be running this city and sport for a long time to come. I don’t try to knock out people but I know I have the ability to press him and get the cheese (knockout).”
Broner’s highest praise of the night came from DeMarco’s promoter Gary Shaw, who declared Broner “the best lightweight I’ve seen in recent times.”
“If the press isn’t ready, I will crown him the next Floyd Mayweather,” continued Shaw. “He’s that good. He has a total game, the shoulder roll, the defense. I know Antonio DeMarco can really bang. Broner stood in there and took everything.”
For Broner, who at 23 has yet to reach his physical prime, the options at lightweight are competitive if underwhelming. There is British WBO titleholder Ricky Burns, the 35-2 (10 KOs) action star who has called out Broner in recent months. There is also IBF titleholder Miguel Vazquez (32-3, 13 KOs), who will defend against unbeaten Filipino Mercito Gesta on the Manny Pacquiao-Juan Manuel Marquez IV undercard.
“Burns will get burned,” said Broner, when asked whom he’d like to face next. Broner also mentioned Juan Manuel Marquez as a desired rival. “A lot of guys, they want to fight me, well they say they want to fight me. We’re gonna go back to the drawing board with [manager] Al Haymon and [promoter] Golden Boy Promotions and see what we come up with.”
Broner’s biggest tests lay at 140 pounds, where Golden Boy stablemate Danny Garcia (25-0, 16 KOs) reigns as THE RING’s champion. Matches with Lucas Matthysse, Amir Khan and Brandon Rios would also make for exciting tests.
“He could go up to 154 if he wanted to, that’s how special he is,” said Golden Boy Promotions president Oscar De La Hoya. “The great thing about Broner is that he’ll fight anybody. From what I saw tonight, who else could he fight at 135 that could give him a challenge? He could unify if he wants to. He should just fight the very best, he’s ready for it.”
If one thought that Broner’s success would humble him, guess again.
“What more could I say after a performance like that? That I’m good? Nah. I’m great? Nah. I’m elite. I’m an elite fighter who could make a great fighter look like an amateur, and that’s what I did today,” declared Broner at the post-fight press conference.
What’d I say about not having to necessarily like Broner? The most important part is, you have to respect his game.
Photos / Naoki Fukuda
Ryan Songalia is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA) and contributes to GMA News. He is also a member of The Ring ratings panel and can be reached at email@example.com. An archive of his work can be found at www.ryansongalia.com. Follow him on Twitter: @RyanSongalia.