Sometimes you throw money at a problem and it goes away. But if you saw Escobedo getting emotional after the loss to Broner, you recognize that simply getting paid off didn't make everything right for him.
Boxing is a business. Boxing fans are often battered with this adage whenever their expectations for true competition rise too high. If boxing is a business, then boxing is a show business. And the show must go on. And the stars must be born. The adage begets the cliché.
Saturday night in Cincinnati, Ohio, Adrien ‘The Problem’ Broner stopped Vincente Escobedo of Woodland, CA in the fifth round. For the business minded, a show occurred after some minor inconveniences. Money changed hands. A potential star was groomed. Wipe our hands and move on to bigger and better things.
Adrien Broner knows he is being groomed for superstardom. Not just HBO appearances, but HBO Pay Per View extravaganzas in Las Vegas with multi-million dollar gates, celebrities, high rollers, diamonds and escorts, tens of millions of dollars in pay-per-view revenue, people gathering in family rooms, bars, garages, movie theatres throughout the country to witness his greatness. Adrien Broner knows this is the goal and he knows that those invested in reaching this goal will do what it takes to protect that investment.
Adrien Broner knows a loss now could close the avenue to superstardom. Coming into the fight, most were sure Adrien Broner had a skill advantage over Vicente Escobedo. Adrien Broner came in overweight for this fight, surrendered his title, and violated his contract with Escobedo in order to ensure his strength advantage. Broner did not punish his body and struggle to make weight. In Broner’s only difficult fight to date his opponent, Daniel Ponce De Leon, possessed almost equal strength. Broner wasn’t looking for a struggle.
Adrien Broner had to give up his title for coming in 3.5 pounds overweight. For many fans titles are meaningless anyways. Too many titles and controlled by organizations no better than mafias. Have titles have become stage props to be dusted off, shined and polished for ring entrances? There will be plenty more belts for Adrien Broner.
The problem was that Broner violated his contract allowing Escobedo to walk away from the fight and leaving HBO stuck with production costs and Broner’s hometown Cincinnati fans left paying for a show without a star. Money solves problems. Escobedo doesn’t get paid if he doesn’t fight. The powerful interests supporting Broner can ensure that Escobedo never appears again on HBO. Escobedo has a newborn at home and a manager and a trainer to pay. Broner’s people can afford to make Escobedo an offer he cannot refuse. After negotiations, Escobedo is reportedly paid almost twice his purse, more than he would probably make the rest of his career.
In the end, Escobedo gets a career pay day for a fight no one expected him to win and Broner and HBO get a fight.
Win-win they say in business. Except for one thing, somebody forgot to forward the business memo to Vicente Escobedo.
Another boxing adage goes that the truth comes out in the ring. During his post-fight interview following his loss Vicente Escobedo started to break down in tears. When asked why he stated, “a little bit of everything. I was away from my family and my wife. Just to come all this way and not get a fair fight and I’m a bit emotional. I came here to fight.” To this statement Jim Lampley added the instant eloquence that can on occasions make him a great announcer, “Honest emotion from an honest fighter.”
There are still some men if given the choice would not trade their dreams for commerce. There are still some boxers for whom winning a world title represents the penultimate validation of a career. There are still men for whom agreements are meant to be honored, not renegotiated. There are still boxers who punish their bodies for months at a time to fight at an agreed upon weight. There are still boxers that expect their opponents to do the same. There are still boxers that want nothing more in the world to beat the best and to win the title in a fair fight.
Maybe Vicente Escobedo should be mocked for holding such antiquated notions and for not knowing the reality of the bargain he entered into. If that is the case, then Saturday night was one of those nights where the ringmasters of the business could not hide from the audience watching the show another of professional boxing’s essential truths – that the men performing for us are in fact not men at all, but pieces of meat.