New York, N.Y.—Adrien Broner likes to play. He also likes to talk. And talk. And talk. He brings charisma, excitement, power, speed. Just ask him. He’ll tell you. He’ll tell anyone, “I’m the best boxer of my era.”
Broner (25-0, 21 knockouts) will be putting his WBC lightweight title on the line this Saturday in Atlantic City against Gavin Rees (37-1-1, 19 KOs), a former WBA super lightweight titlist who will be fighting in the United States for the first time. The fight will air on the 2013 premiere of HBO’s World Championship Boxing.
But “The Problem” had a slight problem of his own on Tuesday afternoon during the last press conference promoting the fight when his namecard was accidentally switched with that of Rees.
Seated on the dais, the white piece of cardboard in front of Broner read “Gavin Rees.” And Broner couldn’t help but grab it up and use it as a great prop, holding the card aloft and asking who that guy was, claiming he didn’t know his opponent’s name.
It stirred a few laughs from the gathered press and the handful of fans that were there at B.B. King Blues Club and Grill in Times Square. Broner toyed with Rees, calling his bald head a melon, a boulder and a cabbage head.
Rees wasn’t laughing when he took the podium.
“You’re one cocky c___,” Rees said. “What will you say about that, when I knock you out cold Saturday night?” Broner grinned and replied, “You’re just a target. It will be target practice. How can I miss that head? How can I?”
Broner, very animated, as always, was the center of attention. Right where he wants to be.
“You, I can’t underestimate, but if we stood face-to-face, I probably wouldn’t see him,” Broner said, again rousing another burst of laughter from the crowd. “I know who I am facing, and I respect him as a fighter. I respect every fighter, because only a boxer knows what we go through once we get inside that ring. I respect … Cabbage Reed … whatever his name is. I don’t know his name. I don’t know his name—but I respect him. We don’t watch no tape, I never seen him fight before. I heard he was a world champion at light welterweight, just by saying that, he’s not a look-over.”
Rees, who’s been in the U.S. for four weeks now, feels Broner has a lot of weaknesses that he can exploit. He knows not many are giving him a chance to win.
“I’m going to outbox him and I’m going to out-fight him, I’ve been boxing training for years and I’ve never been knocked down in my life in a fight,” Rees said. “I was stopped in the 12th round against Andreas Kotelnik [in losing the WBA super lightweight title on March 22, 2008], but I was on my feet. I was never on the canvas. I only lost seven times in 23 years of fighting. My early career, I never really trained, always on the beer. I was fighting at a weight I really shouldn’t have been fighting. I’ve never been on the floor—not even in sparring. This guy isn’t going to put me down. I’m a tough cookie.”
Rees laughed when it was mentioned that Broner’s flamboyant style has a way of getting under an opponent’s skin.
“I have thick skin,” Rees said, chuckling. “He’s going to have worry about me when I’m throwing punches at him. He doesn’t know what he’s facing.”
Broner admits that he doesn’t. He claims he hasn’t watched any tape of Rees. He just concerns himself with what he has to do and his conditioning.
“I really haven’t looked at Rees, I never saw him fight, but I do know he was a world champion at 140, and I know what it takes to be a champion,” Broner said. “I know he’s going to come to fight. His one loss was to Kotelnik, and Kotelnik is a big puncher, but he’s not Adrien Broner. I just don’t watch tape of fighters. Like I said before, I do not train for fighters. I train to stay in shape. As long as Adrien Broner is in shape, I’m going to be okay. I’m God-gifted. He blessed me with talent and a lot of gifts. I can adjust to opposition anyone brings to the table.
“I won’t be reckless, but once that bell rings, I can pick a guy away in one round. Right now, I’m focused on Calvin, or whatever it is. I just don’t know this guy’s name.”
When Broner was challenged on that and someone blurted out, “you’re lying,” Broner laughed and retorted, “The only time I’m lying is when I’m laying down. I don’t know this guy’s name. I’m going to worry about this rockhead guy on the 16th. I don’t know his name. I don’t. But he can probably tell you what my middle name is. In anything I do, I have this confidence, in anything I do. I can beat anybody right now. I’m the best boxer of my era.”
Photos: Rich Kane – Hoganphotos/Golden Boy Promotions