NEW YORK, N.Y. – Floyd Mayweather is 35. Manny Pacquiao isn’t too far behind, at 33. Sergio Martinez is 37. Boxing’s superstars are aging, and the sport is searching for the next best thing.
Adrien Broner could be it. He’s 23, brash and talented, and he knows it. He also carries a boyish charisma that fight fans may come to embrace.
Broner, along with trainer Mike Stafford, was at the HBO offices on Wednesday for an invitation-only media gathering, partly to announce Broner’s first HBO Championship Boxing headliner against WBC lightweight titleholder Antonio DeMarco on Nov. 17 at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City.
“This fight I’m just going to go out and have fun, that’s what I do,” Broner said. “This is a fight where I don’t have to really do too much talking. This guy, he smiles all of the time. I don’t know if he’ll be smiling after I throw a couple of hooks and jabs, but we know he smiles all of the time. It makes it a lot easier than a guy who’s trash talking and trying to be someone they’re not. DeMarco is just being himself and I’m still going to be myself and trash talk and do me.”
Broner’s victory over Vicente Escobedo in July garnered 1.4 million viewers, the most-watched HBO Boxing After Dark show so far this year. It also stirred a good deal of controversy when Broner (24-0, 20 knockouts) weighed in for the 130-pound fight at 133¾ pounds.
But there is a side of Broner not many get to see. He displayed parts of that to the gathered media Wednesday, relaying a story about the first HBO fighter meeting he attended with the cable network’s broadcast team.
Bob Papa, who was handling the blow-by-blow chores, asked Broner if he was excited to be on HBO. Broner shifted around in his chair and fired back at Papa, “‘Are you excited to meet me?’ I don’t think they expected that,” Broner said, laughing.
The push to put Broner on that larger stage has begun. Part of that push, which you’ll see in the following question-and-answer session, was to dispel any qualms about Broner’s work ethic. It’s a message Broner wanted to get across, Stafford wanted to assure, and HBO wanted to emphasize.
Q: Are you planning to win multiple titles in other weight divisions?
AB: Most definitely. For me, boxing isn’t just boxing. After I’m done with boxing, I want to be the best boxer to ever put on a pair of boxing gloves. I want to do things that nobody has ever done. I don’t know how long that will take and I’m trying to do it. One of them is to stay undefeated.
Q: Do you have a list of guys you want to fight?
AB: Everybody, everybody. I’m very flexible. I can go up and down in weight. I can go 135, 140, ’47, the right guy at ’54. I can do a lot of things. [Brandon] Rios, [Mike] Alvarado, those guys would be on my list, but can anyone see those guys fighting me? Rios is good, Alvarado is good. At the end of the day, I just feel I have God-given talent. I put in the hard work.
No one sees that part, though. Just yesterday, just because we were coming up here [to HBO] I did 25 rounds straight, four or five sparring partners, 45 minutes, no rest, right back to the bag. You know, I didn’t get touched. I’m ready. It doesn’t really matter.
Q: Is there anyone you still look up to?
AB: I still show my respect; even though he’s going to have his first professional fight, (three-time U.S. Olympian and Cincinnati native) Rau’shee Warren, I always looked up to. He gave me my first whupping. Seriously, he did. He was always a big inspiration to me to stay focused. To stay number-one at the amateur level, like he did, something I never got a chance do to, I always looked up to him for that. He’s a great fighter. I finally saw Floyd [Mayweather] at 12, and he kind of took over after that.
Q: What do you appreciate about Floyd, since people compare the two of you a lot?
AB: With Floyd, his work ethic is one of the biggest things that I look up to. A lot of people can say this and that about him, but he’s always going to be ready and he’s always going to be in shape and under them lights, he’s going to perform. That’s what I look up to, because you have guys that go in the gym and perform like the best fighter in the world, but under them lights, they can’t adjust and they can’t get out their real talent. I don’t why, but there is just something about those HBO lights that does something to people.
Of course, I like the comparisons. I’m 23. This is just the beginning of what I’m going to do and what I can be, and I’m already being compared to the best in the sport of this era. I feel like I’m doing everything right, everything that I’m supposed to do.
Q: Do you emulate Mayweather’s style?
AB: If you do anything, there’s always someone you’re going to look up to, and it doesn’t matter if it’s writing, or making computers, or anything. Someone you’ll look up to and something you’ll take from what they’ve done and put it into what you do. That’s what I did. I saw a lot of things that I liked [about Mayweather], I tried it, and it worked for me. So if it’s not broken, I’m not going to fix it.
Q: Can you break down DeMarco and what potential fight we might see?
AB: DeMarco is a world-class fighter. They just don’t give away belts, you have to win them. I saw the [Jorge] Linares fight. He stayed in it and he got the job done. He’s definitely going to come to fight. That’s why I respect him. Even in the [Edwin] Valero fight, he didn’t want to give up. His corner stopped that fight. I know in this fight, there’s going to be some heavy blows. He can hit, but it doesn’t matter what he comes with, I’m just at another level. I don’t see this guy really doing too much.
Q: Do you sense fans are satisfied with DeMarco as a proper opponent for you?
AB: I know I can make this fight look easy. I make all hard work look easy. The critics are always going to have something to say. What are they going to say? ‘He was supposed to do that, he has more talent, he was faster.’ They’re always going to find a way so say something and to critique. I say critics are like buttholes. I don’t listen to them. If I wanted to hear a butthole, I would pass gas. I don’t listen to them.
Q: If Floyd Mayweather is still around in one or two years, can you see yourself fighting Mayweather?
AB: Of course, if he’s around. I really don’t see him staying around too much longer. I don’t know why he would do that; that would be dumb. Everyone knows age catches up to everybody. There’s always another young lion out there with the talent that you have and puts in that work. That’s just too dangerous. I don’t think he’ll do that. I love him and all, but if he’s on the other side of that ring, I have five kids, he has to get it. I love him to death, I love him to death, but I don’t care who it is on the other side of the ring. When I get in there, it’s straight tunnel vision.
Q: Can you beat Floyd now?
AB: Honestly, and I’m going to be honest not only with you, but with myself, I’m 23 and I still have a lot to work on. I’ll tell you this, at 23, I would have kicked his ass when he was 23. I do what he does now in his prime.
Q: Sergio Martinez admitted he wanted to feel Julio Cesar Chavez’s power. Would you take a chance like that against DeMarco to see what he has?
AB: One thing about that, that was one of the silliest things you could ever do. [Martinez] could have got knocked out. They could have stopped that fight. Boxing is hit and don’t get hit. Hold, hit, don’t get hit. It’s not hit, okay, now you hit me. That’s rock ’em, sock ’em. One shot can end your career. I don’t care if I come out my whole career without getting touched. I’m not in it to go in there and let someone beat up my face. I have to sit in front of my kids and they’re like, dad, ‘What’s that?’ ‘I wanted to feel this guy’s power, so I let him hit me in the face.’ No, that’s not how you do it. Stay slick. You can’t hit what you can’t see. A lot of people have power, but if you can’t land a shot, power is nothing.
Q: You made some comments recently that you don’t get the proper following because of your race?
AB: I was telling the truth; African-Americans don’t really follow each other in boxing like the Hispanics and Mexicans, the Puerto Ricans do. I’m just saying the fans support their fighters. They support their fighters. It’s so hard for us to support our own, because coming up where we come from; they don’t want to see the next man doing better than them. That’s just how it is. I’m so used to it; I don’t let it get to me. I came off looking like a racist. Black fans don’t support black fighters; it’s the truth. We have to connect with them, and grab them. They want to see excitement; they want to laugh; they want to be entertained. I’m not just a professional fighter. I’m an entertainer, too. I love to entertain.
Q: How much theater goes into who you actually are?
AB: Since the first grade, I’ve been a class clown. That’s just me. You can ask my first grade teacher. I can be in detention by myself and I can make her laugh. It’s funny. A lot of people think these things I do are staged and scripted. These things I do are off the top like a toupee. Whatever I feel like doing, I do it. Like when I told my dad to brush my hair the first time, I just felt like I needed my hair brushed at the time, so I told him to brush my hair. When I did that to my girl, she didn’t even know I was going to do it, I just thought it would be funny to do it, and I did it. I’m spontaneous. I like to have fun. That’s just me. I believe in myself.
Q: Why did you take the Vicente Escobedo fight, if you knew you weren’t going to make weight?
AB: A lot of people don’t know this, but I told them from the beginning that I didn’t want to fight him at 130 after my fight (vs. Gary Sykes) got cancelled with the Lamont Peterson(-Amir Khan rematch). That was going to be my last fight at 130. During that time, my body was growing and expanding. I definitely learned something from it. I think a lot of people looked past it, because I fought Escobedo, who had never been stopped, and I went in there and I stopped him. I made it look easyÔÇöand I put on a good show. People were like, he missed weight, but I can’t wait to see him fight again. They just want to see me. I come from a place where you have to get in where you fit in. Sometimes you have to take what you get. You never know what would have happened if I didn’t take that fight. I probably wouldn’t have got the 1.4-million views if I didn’t take that fight.
Q: Do you concern yourself with being portrayed as a villain?
AB: I’m a not villain. I’m just being me. My mom always said to be yourself. I’m just being me. On any given Sunday, I don’t care if I’m at Walmart, I don’t care if I’m at a daycare, I don’t care where I am, I’m going to be me. I’m going to do what I do. I know it can rub off on some people the wrong way, this guy is too cocky, or he’s too arrogant, or this or that. But once you get to know Adrien Broner, people just fall in love with me. I think I’m misunderstood; maybe because of what people see and what they cut and put on HBO. Some of that. They can film me for two days, but they’ll pick out the things that make me look a certain way.
Q: You got into some trouble in your youth?
AB: I always came back to boxing, no matter what growing up, I always thought it was would take me over the top. I was 18 at the time, and in 2008, I missed the Olympics. I come from Cincinnati. I got into some trouble, some big trouble. They tried to give me some football numbers, you know, receiver like numbers, like 85 years. Stuff like that. Football numbers. I beat the charges, and by the grace of God, it was his sign of showing that I have to get serious. That’s how I took it. The first day out, I went to the gym, and they all said I looked better than before when I left. I was in for about a year and two months. I’ve been through a lot.
I think, for me, I was in there about the right time to get my head together. When you’re in jail too long, you’re in the prison of your mind. If it didn’t happen to me, I probably wouldn’t be here alive today. Jail saved my life, to be honest. Boxing took me over the top, but jail made me stop doing the things I was doing.
Q: Do you have a timeline?
AB: The way I see it, I have a clock on my back. I’m ahead of my time. At 23, I can be the top guy in boxing in the next one, two, or three fights, depending if I perform to the levels that I’ve been performing. That’s something no one has been doing. No one is giving great performances and consecutive knockouts that I’ve been giving. Who knows? Who knows where I will be in a couple of years? Who knows how big I can go? I have this strange goal, and I’m serious, I want to be the first boxer to generate a billion dollars. That’s with a ‘B.’ [Mike] Tyson did half that. I think I can do it. Anything is possible.
Photos / Ethan Miller and Joe Robbins-Getty Images