Why did ‘The Problem’ cross the Mexican, long-limbed, hard punching, mentally strong, southpaw world lightweight champion in his first fight in the lightweight division? To get to the other side, the HBO PPV side. Adrien ‘The Problem’ Broner, the faces lightweight champion, Antonio DeMarco, this Saturday night in Atlantic City in a fight necessary for those invested in Adrien Broner to determine whether he has the goods worthy to take to the PPV market.
After spending millions on the likes of Andre Berto and Victor Ortiz only to see them fall short of PPV bone fides, maybe HBO, with its reduced budget, and those who need HBO to line their pocket, Al Haymon and Golden Boy, want to find out sooner rather than later what Adrien Broner can do. Antonio DeMarco, a legitimate world champion, should provide them with an initial determination. DeMarco will also provide Broner with answers to questions he may have not yet thought to ask about himself.
There are many shortcuts to name recognition and HBO/Showtime dates in today’s boxing, but unless your last name is Chavez or Alvarez, there are limited avenues to easy PPV. PPV status still must be earned. While boxing fans will watch whatever dreck HBO and Showtime put in front of us, because that is what we do, even suckers have their limits when asked to shell out an extra $59.95.
The road for an African-American fighter is even more difficult. Andre Ward, currently the best fighter in the world, may be the most mature, likable, level headed pro athlete in the world, but he may never headline a PPV bout unless he challenges a Klitschko. Tim Bradley, how are things working out for you? Even Money used to be Pretty Boy. So I don’t begrudge Broner his attitude, his flash, his contrived brush performances or his exuberant authentic ones. Nor do I begrudge his false confidence, for the time he is fighting on the biggest of boxing stages that confidence will have to be real.
The road to PPV today runs through Mexico. Pacquiao had to travel through Erik Morales. Mayweather had to travel through battles with Jose Luis Castillo. Their first fight was Mayweather’s first fight at lightweight. Broner has chosen to try to travel through Tijuana’s DeMarco in a planned Sherman’s march through south of the border fighters, with a quick blitzkrieg of Ricky Burns to expose himself to the European market, before settling down to the rich landscape of name junior welterweights.
Broner and his trainer foresee him walking through the lightweight division. I need to see more to decide if he isn’t more than a highly talented bully, a frontrunner. For all his hand speed, punching power and quickness of head and upper body, the one asset that Broner worked to his greatest advantage against his most recent string of opponents has been his size and strength. Broner has been able to walk himself into the range that best suits his ability to land, take what his opponents throw at him, and then unleash his way to victory. This strategy has worked to remarkable success, except against Daniel Ponce de Leon.
Adrien Broner’s fight against Ponce De Leon may provide some insight into how Saturday’s fight plays out. Broner struggled both with Ponce’s southpaw stance, the power of his punches, unpredictable movement, physical strength and implacable will. Broner was unable to dictate the when and how of the fight. His output struggled because of it. Broner likes punching midrange. Ponce would dance out of range, then come in unexpectedly. Early in the fight, Ponce would jump in with lead lefts to the body, then flurry, and fairly successfully duck and block Broner’s counters. Broner adjusted. In the 9th and 10th round of the fight, Ponce made a change in tactics that may be crucial for DeMarco. Ponce’s use of the jab and feints from the southpaw stance opened Broner up for the cross. Using the one-two and following up with volume forced Broner to fight. Ponce landed repeatedly. Also, Broner grabbed and held every time Ponce tried to stay inside. Broner showed a real discomfort inside when he didn’t control it.
Like Ponce de Leon, we know DeMarco, also a southpaw, will not wilt, will not be bullied, and will keep fighting. Everything about DeMarco speaks about the strength of his will. DeMarco has survived living out of the gutter of Tijuana as a youth, stood strong through a possession at the hands of the manic hobgoblin that was Edwin Valero, and adjusted to the speed and skilled precision of Jorge Linares on his way to earning his championship.
Antonio DeMarco is capable of beating Adrien Broner. DeMarco fights with patience, intelligence and fire. DeMarco can throw a jab with enough accuracy, timing and conviction to disrupt forward progress. His cross, his best punch, is arrow straight and fast. He throws it off the double jab, as a lead, as an outside counter and very effectively off the pivot on the inside. He can rip a right hook on the inside and uppercuts with either hand. He relishes exchanges, but is smart enough not to seek them. His defense is far better than he is given credit for, often stepping back just out of range, but also slipping, ducking and blocking from the outside and while coming in. DeMarco has the proven conditioning to fight 12 hard rounds.
There is no question that DeMarco will land on Broner. Broner is no Floyd on the defensive end. What remains to be seen is if Broner feels DeMarco’s punches such that Broner cannot dictate the when and how. If Broner can pay DeMarco’s power no mind, DeMarco can be forced to the ropes, as he was in the later rounds against Reyes Sanchez, and Broner may be able to do his thing. Also, DeMarco leaves his head up and at the same level when leading with the cross, a fault Broner could draw out. But, if Broner has to respect what is thrown and DeMarco can stay active from the outside in, avoid flush counters and the referee lets DeMarco work in close, then folks, Broner will be forced to look deep in himself to find what type of a fighter he truly is. He may be forced to fight and he may be forced to box, but he will be forced.
Broner may carve through DeMarco with ease. Maybe he really is that special. The betting odds are heavy, heavy in Broner’s favor. Those who put money on such things definitely believe in Broner destroying DeMarco. I believe that the potential is there for this fight to be one where you start watching from the couch and end up standing two feet in front of the T.V., with your heart racing, hearing the late Emanuel Steward exclaiming from above, “Oh, my Gawd!”