NEW YORK – As a member of the 2012 U.S. Olympic team, Marcus Browne represented his country in London in the light heavyweight division. It was an unforgettable highlight in the now 22-year-old Staten Island, N.Y. resident’s life. But so was his third pro bout last month, when Browne made his New York debut as a professional in front of a passionate, near capacity house at Barclays Center in Brooklyn underneath Bernard Hopkins’ conquest of Tavoris Cloud.
The rangy southpaw had no difficulty in dispatching Josh Thorpe in the first round, and afterwards was met by throngs of supporters in the stands wearing shirts in support of the young man whom they saw grow from dominating the New York amateur scene to winning national tournaments.
Browne seemed to embrace and share moments with all in attendance, clearly appreciative of his friends and family from the neighborhood who sprung for seats to the fight.
It’s a scene that Browne (3-0, 3 knockouts) looks to replicate this Saturday, when he faces Taneal Goyco (4-5-1, 2 KOs), of Philadelphia, Pa., at Barclays Center in a four-round bout supporting the Danny Garcia-Zab Judah RING magazine welterweight championship.
With this being the third straight major boxing event in New York in as many weeks, the sport’s presence in The Big Apple seems to be on an upswing. Still, the amount cards are disproportionate to the amount of local homegrown talent.
Judah, a former junior welterweight and welterweight champion, is a Brooklyn native but now lives and trains out of boxing’s true world capital of Las Vegas. This will be just the first of the three major cards in the New York area this month to feature a New Yorker in the main event.
WBO middleweight titleholder Peter Quillin, who makes his first title defense against Fernando Guerrero in the co-feature, is an adopted New Yorker after spending most of his youth in the Midwest, but now bases his training camp in Los Angeles.
Browne is a rarity, a New York-born and bred prospect whose value stretches beyond the number of tickets he is able to sell. Having won the New York Daily News Golden Gloves at Madison Garden three times as an amateur, performing in front of big audiences at home is nothing new to Browne.
“I was born and raised out here; I’ve been performing out here since the Golden Gloves in ’08,” said Browne. “I’m just sticking to what I do and that’s just put on a show and not just be an average fighter. (I want to) put a smile on people’s faces, make people go home thinking, ‘Damn, who is that kid? I really like how he fought.’”
To see Browne now – a humble yet determined young man who starred in a Sesame Street skit with Elmo prior to the Olympics, who performs household chores for his mother Doris, a Liberian native who owns the local eatery Mona’s Cuisine – is to see a completely different person than the one who first walked into the Park Hill Boxing Club as a 13-year-old tough guy. That’s according to Pat Russo, a former NYPD sergeant who was on the force for 20 years.
Russo, who is now the director of the gym renamed Atlas Cops N Kids, remembered Browne as a young tough guy from the streets who thought he was the baddest kid in the neighborhood before a well-placed body shot in his first sparring session dropped him to a knee – and back down to earth.
“He had a little bit of a chip on his shoulder and you can’t have a chip on your shoulder in the boxing game because that chip was immediately knocked off,” said Russo. “And he was shown that you can be a tough guy in the streets, but it’s different in a boxing ring.
“The first time that he sparred he seen that when he got caught with a body shot and went down to one knee. A lot of kids won’t come back after that. Marcus was back there right after that and said to himself, ‘I like this, I’m going to get good at it. And he stuck with it for the next 10 years. Now he’s an accomplished athlete.”
As the program’s first Olympic boxer and an example of the redeeming qualities of self-improvement through boxing, Russo sees Browne as someone who has a lot to offer his community outside of the ring as well.
“He’s a perfect example of the kids that the boxing program is meant to target, the ones that straddle the fence and could go either way,” said Russo. “Thank God he made the right choices in life and now he’s an Olympic athlete and now a professional boxer. Now we rely on him to be the role model, to be the face of Atlas Cops N Kids boxing. That ain’t the way to go, being the street tough guy. It’s going the way that Marcus went.”
There is still a lot for Browne to offer in the ring, too. Being handled by the reigning Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA) Manager of the Year Al Haymon, Browne has worked himself onto several high-profile cards, while continuing to work with trainer Gary Stark Sr. to improve his skills in the ring. Browne’s continued success as a professional is contingent upon his own willingness to continue developing as a versatile boxer-puncher, a fact not lost on Browne.
“I’m just real focused on being perfect,” said Browne. “Me, I’m my own worst critic. If I don’t throw a jab right, if I don’t throw a hook right, my trainer and myself, we work hard on those things. Right now, we’re just focusing on not making any mistakes. In the amateurs you can get away with silly mistakes but in the pros those are mistakes you can’t make.
“I’m ready to perform in front of my supporters and show them the new and improved Marcus Browne.”
Photos / Elsa-Golden Boy
Ryan Songalia is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA) and contributes to The Ring magazine and GMA News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. An archive of his work can be found at www.ryansongalia.com. Follow him on Twitter: @RyanSongalia.