Boxing in the year 2017, so far, has been experiencing an upswing with a slew of fights in which it was pretty hard to decipher the opponent from the A-side. On March 4th, two top welterweight titlists squared off in Keith Thurman vs. Danny Garcia. Two weeks later, Gennady Golovkin won a close decision over Daniel Jacobs in a middleweight title bout. In April, IBF heavyweight title holder Anthony Joshua stopped Wladimir Klitschko, the most dominant fighter in the division for a decade, in the 11th round of a great back and forth bout. A month later, on the last weekend of May, welterweight sensation Errol Spence Jr. stopped IBF title holder Kell Brook in the 11th round of another action-packed bout.
A week from Saturday, on June 17th, light heavyweight champ Andre Ward will fight a rematch with the man he won the title from last November, Sergey Kovalev. And this coming September middleweight champ Gennady Golovkin defends his title against Saul “Canelo” Alvarez in what many consider to be the most anticipated bout since Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao met in May of 2015. Yes, it’s been a terrific 2017 for boxing.
As we sit here in early June there’s another compelling fight on the calendar for July, and it’s not Manny Pacquiao vs. Jeff Horn on July 2nd. The fight the boxing world is contemplating will take place on July 29th between former four division title holder Adrien Broner 33-2 (24) and reigning WBC lightweight title holder Mikey Garcia 36-0 (30), who has won world titles in three weight divisions. Broner and Garcia will meet at the junior welterweight limit of 140, a weight Broner has struggled to get down to and higher than Garcia has ever fought at.
Both Adrien and Mikey are highly skilled, but that’s where the similarity ends. At Broner’s best, his fight with Garcia would’ve been an interesting fight to ponder. But that’s no longer the case. Broner has fared well, to a degree, in his self-promotion but elite fighters see him as being beatable. Stylistically Broner, 27, and Garcia, 29, are night and day different. However, the biggest gulf between them is their character and approach to fighting and how they’ve gone about their careers.
Broner, a physically gifted fighter, was at one time consumed with being the next Floyd Mayweather in terms of creating controversy and fighting as the headliner on big PPV bouts. From a skill vantage point, it’s not a reach to say Broner was Floyd’s equal, but Mayweather was not only more fundamentally sound than Broner, he also took his career more seriously and never let his weight balloon after fights. Broner not only lets his weight escalate, but he’s just as interested in being a rapper as he is a fighter, whereas Floyd just hung out with them.
At such a young age, his bout with Garcia looks like a crossroads fight and one where if he loses, he’ll most likely be reduced to being a trial horse for up and coming fighters with big potential. In the minds of some it’s not a guarantee the fight will even take place. And that’s because Broner could easily do something stupid and end up in jail or fail to make weight.
The entire card could be cancelled. But I don’t think that will be the case. I get the sense that Broner realizes this could very well be his last shot and that he desperately needs a good showing and to beat a big name fighter instead of coming up short like he did against Marcos Maidana and Shawn Porter. What I can’t block out of my mind is a Zebra never changes its stripes and Broner hasn’t earned the benefit of the doubt. I’m going strictly on a hunch that Broner gives this fight his all.
Garcia is the antithesis of Broner in and out of the ring. Mikey is as fundamentally sound as a fighter could be. His game isn’t based on athleticism and flash. Outside of the ring Garcia takes his career seriously. He was on the shelf for two years in litigation with Top Rank Promotions for what he thought was his, and won his independence. It’s easy to glean Garcia has a road map for where he wants to go and how he sees himself getting there. He no doubt has his eyes on future big fights with Vasyl Lomachenko and Terence Crawford. In order for him to get there, he must defeat Broner.
Think about this: one fighter will be training with the sole purpose of making weight. His entire camp will be centered on how many rounds and minutes he can get in and whose job is it to watch what he eats. That’s James Toney incarnate. Instead of implementing strategy and coming up with a plan that can unravel the unflappable and consistent Garcia, Adrien will be thinking about what he can’t eat.
The other fighter, Garcia, will be honing his strategy and not worrying about whether he can make weight (think of Bernard Hopkins). Mikey will be working on cutting off the ring, as Marcos Maidana and Shawn Porter did successfully against Broner, forcing Broner to work when he doesn’t want to. No, Garcia isn’t the same type of attacker as those two, but he’s much smarter in the ring and even more effective. He’s also a much more accurate puncher and will hit Broner more cleanly than just grazing him.
On the surface Adrien — if he’s in great shape — could give Garcia trouble with his physicality and speed. Fighters who are grounded so well with boxing basics can be flustered by elite speed and unconventional styles, and at times that can be Broner. The problem is that even if Adrien is at his best, it might not be enough because Garcia is so solid and likely to make Broner pay for his mistakes and shortcomings.
When it comes to overall skill, Broner and Garcia are close; they just go about fighting differently via their style and mindset. The thing that sets them apart is their approach. One lives day by day and only in the moment. That’s Broner. The other, Garcia, is methodical and knows how much it means to win first and talk second.
Recently, Garcia said…..”Originally, my plans were to unify at 135. If that was not available, I’d look for big names to defend my title against at lightweight, but that was not quite available and Adrien Broner is a much bigger name, a bigger star, so it made more sense to go and pursue the Adrien Broner fight than making a title defense.
“I would like to come back down to lightweight and unify or defend my title [after this] before I permanently move up. If unification matches are available at 135, that’s what I will do.”
That sounds like a fighter who has laser focus to match his skill, power, determination and character, a fighter who has too many things going for him to lose to a fighter who is thinking about what he can’t eat for the next six or seven weeks.
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Frank Lotierzo can be reached at GlovedFist@Gmail.com