The year of big name fighters facing each other continues this weekend at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York where former four division title holder Adrien Broner 33-2 (24) meets three division title holder and current WBC lightweight titlist Mikey Garcia 36-0 (30). At stake, as of July 21st, is a newly minted paper title with a green belt the WBC is calling the Diamond light welterweight title. Sadly the alphabet commissions don’t grasp that when two top fighters at or near their prime actually face each other, which is the case here, it doesn’t need a default title to justify the bout.
Even the fighters know it……”Boxing is going back to the old days, where the best fight the best,” Broner said. “And Mikey is definitely one of the best out there today.”
“[Broner’s] definitely accomplished a lot, he’s an accomplished fighter,” Garcia said. “When he’s at his best, he’s really at his best, and that’s what I expect.”
The importance of this fight to both fighters can’t be stressed enough. Garcia has said this is the biggest fight he could actually have on July 29th and Broner insists that if he gives one of his best performances it will make him a superstar. And they’re both correct. Garcia has never faced an opponent as big or as skilled as Broner, nor has Adrien been in the ring with a fighter as fundamentally sound and purposeful as Mikey Garcia. Add to that the intrigue surrounding Broner as to whether he can get down to the 140 pound catch-weight without being drained, coupled with the fact Garcia has never fought above 135, and there are a few things about to converge. And if that weren’t enough, Broner and Garcia have contrasting styles.
Broner, 27, is a gifted freelancer who doesn’t go into his fights with a detailed objective. Adrien relies on his speed, over-exaggerated shoulder-roll and ability to put his punches together and pick his spots to win rounds. He fights in spurts and is a little bit of a con in the ring. Garcia, 29, is a fighter who does things the way the textbook calls for them to be done. He doesn’t make technical mistakes, his punchers are precise and delivered on balance and his subtle pressure can force his opponents into mistakes if they rush things trying to occupy or disrupt him. On the inside he is terrific and always finds room and angles to punch with authority.
Much of the conversation pertaining to this fight has been centered on Broner. And that’s because he is a fighter believed to have wasted much of his talent by going through periods of inactivity due to his personal behavior out of the ring, and because of his lack of discipline, reflected in his penchant for ballooning up in weight. Going up and down in weight weakens a fighter. The yo-yo has forced him to rush and push his work during many of his recent bouts, and he has tired as the fight progressed against even average opposition. However, I expect Broner to show up in great condition and be totally focused for this one. That’s because Adrien knows that not only is his career as an elite fighter teetering on his showing in this fight, but if he’s not at his best, Garcia is capable of embarrassing him and really making him look sad and foolish. And Broner bringing that mindset on the 29th makes the fight that much more difficult for Garcia.
Mikey Garcia is a fighter who is always in great shape, knows the strength and limitations of his opponents, and is usually successful making them fight from their weakness. But that won’t be easy against Broner if Adrien is on his game. Garcia knows Broner is going to look to flurry and shoe-shine, to offset that he must use his good basics and push the fight in a way that leaves Broner only two choices, to open up and try to keep Garcia from getting too close -or- let him get inside and look to clinch so he isn’t exerting himself and can hold and catch a breather. Conversely, if I’m Garcia, I want Broner to have to work and throw – thus he’ll tire faster and I’ll get better counters and shots at him while he poses after getting off with a few slaps disguised as punches.
The style contrast between Broner and Garcia will be one worth watching. One guy will be looking to win with athleticism and flash while the other will be looking to neutralize it with fundamental defense and punching. Both can be offset by the other, so it should boil down to the fighter who can fight his fight without tiring while at the same time refusing to bend or be denied. Garcia’s strengths and style travel well and are always there – whereas Broner, to really be effective, needs to be in great shape and then hope nothing happens during the combat that takes him away from what he must do.
I expect Broner to show up with his A-game and, if he does, he can hang with Mikey Garcia…for a while. Adrien has a pretty good chin and knows how to survive. But at some point during the fight Garcia is going to hit Broner with something that doesn’t look all that significant to the viewers, but it’s going to shake and spook him….and from that point on he’ll fight more to survive and save face than to win and impress. Broner, in his losses, has shown a lack of character, mostly letting himself get pushed around once things started not going his way. And I can’t get it out of my mind that Broner has lost to the two best fighters he faced, and I can’t even say for sure what his signature win is.
On the other hand, Garcia has consistently shown character throughout his career. In this fight, the result could really come down to whose character is stronger. Garcia’s constitution could be the difference. It might be close, or maybe Mikey fights the best fight of his career and wins by stoppage, which would be monumental since Broner has never been stopped. Either way, Garcia has the style and structure, punch and work rate to nip the best Broner and move on. Broner will most likely fight well enough in the loss that he extends his career and earns another crossroads bout down the road.
Mikey Garcia is one of the most complete and best pound-for-pound fighters in boxing and his best days may still be in front of him, but if he sleeps on Adrien Broner, he could be in for a surprise. And as Garcia recently said, he’s the favorite mostly because he’s been more consistent – not because his skills are necessarily better.
Photo credit: Amanda Westcott / SHOWTIME
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Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com