It was 30 years ago this week that Hall of Famer and former IBF and WBA 140-pound champion Aaron “The Hawk” Pryor celebrated his most defining victory — a 14th-round knockout of the late Alexis Arguello on Nov. 12, 1982.
On Saturday night on HBO, former WBO junior lightweight beltholder Adrien Broner (24-0, 20 knockouts), who, like Pryor, is from Cincinnati, will engage in what he acknowledges to be his career-defining moment.
That’s when Broner rises in weight to challenge WBC lightweight titleholder Antonio DeMarco (28-2-1, 21 KOs), of Tijuana, Mexico, as part of an HBO-televised doubleheader at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City.
On Wednesday afternoon, Broner and Mitchell visited an Atlantic City Boys and Girls Club that was among several in the area that were damaged by Hurricane Sandy, but not before Broner took part in a national conference call promoting his clash with DeMarco.
“This is my best opponent so far on paper. It’s the biggest fight of my career thus far. I’m not looking past nobody. You have to take every fight one at a time, and that’s what I’m going to do,” said Broner.
“After this victory, we’re going to go back to the drawing board. But I’m just focused and I’m ready to show my talent. This will be a fight where I’ll be able to show a lot more of my skills.”
A 23-year-old, slick-boxing, power-puncher and defensive specialist, Broner is coming off an HBO-televised fifth-round knockout of Vicente Escobedo in July that was executed before Broner’s hometown fans at U.S. Bank Arena in Cincinnati.
Broner is 11-0 with 10 knockouts while fighting in Cincinatti, where Pryor, who turned 57 last month, was 12-0 with 10 stoppage victories.
Broner will be after his fifth consecutive stoppage win against DeMarco, having proven himself to be a breakout star with the triumph over Escobedo, which scored a 3.4 rating. That number ranked as HBO’s top Boxing After Dark telecast out of the nine shows aired this year with 1.4 million viewers.
Since winning a unanimous decision over current southpaw WBC featherweight beltholder Daniel Ponce de Leon in March of last year, Broner has scored first-, third- and fourth-round knockouts over Jason Litzau in June of last year, Martin Rodriguez in November and Eloy Perez in February, followed by the win over Escobedo.
“Some of my last few fights, even though they were ranked No. 1, at the time, they got down-graded because of my skill level being so high,” said Broner. “Hopefully, this time, I’ll get the credit. But if I don’t, oh well.”
Where Pryor is known for pointing an ominous fist at his opponent in the ring prior to his bouts, and for crashing a Sugar Ray Leonard press conference before challenging him to a fight at the podium, the immensely popular Broner has been criticized for his outspoken, flamboyant nature.
Some fans expressed outrage, and media members condemned the fact that Broner’s was allowed to fight Escobedo, being that it was contested over the junior lightweight limit because Broner missed weight by 3 1/2 pounds, an infraction that cost him his WBO belt at the scales.
Broner carries the rap monicker “AJ Da Problem” and regularly posts videos on Youtube. His entrance for Perez was highlighted by his dancing and rapping a cut of his own creation.
After vanquishing Escobedo, Broner’s in-the-ring interview ended with a mock marriage proposal to his girlfriend only to get down on one knee and to have her brush his hair, as he has had his father do in the past.
Broner’s stylistic boxing idol is unbeaten, eight-time, five-division title-winner, Floyd Mayweaer Jr., whom he said is “like a big brother,” even as he vowed to surpass Mayweather’s accomplishments.
Broner has been advised to keep on talking, but also, to keep on winning by Pryor, who retired with a mark of 39-1 that included 35 KOs.
Meanwhile, DeMarco, 26, will be after his sixth straight win and his fifth by stoppage during that run opposite Broner, and is coming off a 44-second knockout of John Molina in September.
“DeMarco is a very accurate puncher. He’s not a volume puncher. Yet every shot that he throws has a target,” said his promoter, Gary Shaw.
“Now, those punches that he does throw, they hit the target very hard, and they’re called accumulative punches. When they make contact, they do damage in accumulative types of ways.”
That was the case in October of last year against two-division beltholder Jorge Linares, who was ahead in the fight before being bludgeoned and bloodied into submission at 2:32 mark of the 11th round.
DeMarco has not lost since falling by ninth-round knockout to the late Venezuelan Edwin Valero (27-0, 27 KOs) in February of 2010, when DeMarco failed to earn the WBC’s lightweight belt in the final bout Valero’s career.
“Even from the beginning of the fight, I could tell that my punches were hurting (Linares). That became my focus and not whether I looked good or bad. I just tried to focus on landing my punches effectively, which was part of my preparation, and that’s why I believe I was able to win. That’s what we wanted to do from the beginning was to start out by really punishing him,” said DeMarco, during an interview last October with RingTV.com.
“We wanted to make him feel the punches. We thought that would be a way to stop his feet. So in about the fifth or sixth round, thanks to my determination, that was what made him slow down and begin to stand toe-to-toe more. I just believe that my heart was bigger than Jorge Linares. My desire grew and my desire was greater than his in the end.”
While Broner acknowledges DeMarco’s skill and determination, he believes that he will be able to neutralize it.
“In boxing, a knockout is only a punch away, so it don’t matter which round the fight is in, a knockout is only a punch away. So, of course, you have always got to be careful. But at the same time, he was fighting good guys, but he wasn’t fighting Adrien Broner. He fought guys that are doing the wrong things when they could have been doing different things at that time,” said Broner.
“You’re going to see a totally different Adrien Broner on Saturday night. I’m going to be able to show more of my skills because DeMarco has such talent that they say if a good talent goes against another good talent, it just brings the better talent out of the elite fighters, so, you know, I’ll get to show a lot. “There are going to be a lot of differences, not only in speed, but I’m stronger than a lot of people think. On Saturday, you’ll see that.”
Below are Broner’s answers to questions posed by RingTV.com during Wednesday’s conference call.
RingTV.com: Do you see this fight as being a defining fight for you?
Adrien Broner: It’s definitely a defining fight for me. Not only is it a defining fight, but it’s a fight that can cross me over into another world that a lot of boxers can’t go to. A lot of people are saying that this is my biggest test, and of course it is.
I’m going up in weight. it’s my first fight as a lightweight. I’m fighting the best guy out there, and that’s Antonio DeMarco. So I’m ready and I know what I’m going up against.
RingTV.com: Pryor also said that it’s important that you carry on the Cincinnati legacy which includes Ezzard Charles, so how important is local legacy to you and how important is your legacy overall?
AB: It’s very important. It always starts locally. If you don’t have a big name in your home town, how do you expect to have a big name anywhere else?
So, you know, it’s definitely important. For me, I’m worldwide with it. I’m trying to go global. I’m trying to find out if anybody on Venus knows me.
RingTV.com: Pryor expressed the fact that it is okay to talk as long as you back it up, so how important is it to you to hear that from someone like him and to get that kind of support?
AB: I once heard that “real recognizes real,” so I guess that he’s a real guy, and he recognizes that what I’m doing is real. I’m just being myself. A lot of people have criticized me and say whatever, but I’m just being myself.
RingTV.com: What do you hope to accomplish today during your visit to the Atlantic City Boys and Girls’ club?
AB: I just want to put some smiles on peoples’ faces, man. I just want to make somebody’s day better. If I can brighten somebody’s day by just showing up, and helping out and helping to clean up, then I’ll do it. I would do that every day if I could.
Photos by Naoki Fukuda
Photo by Tom Hogan, Hogan Photos, Golden Boy Promotions
Photos by Naoki Fukuda
Photo by Ethan Miller, Getty Images
Lem Satterfield can be reached at [email protected]