Monday, March 20, 2023  |


Talking Marcus Browne body language with trainer Derrick James


Public perception of Marcus Browne, and his chances to defeat Artur Beterbiev tonight in Montréal has been interesting to gauge.

When the battle got announced, I was lightly surprised at how many folks posting on social media announced they liked the 24-1 (16 KOs) lefty from Staten Island to beat the Montréal resident, originally from Russia.

I thought Beterbiev had more of a rep as a badass, and that virtually everyone would be theorizing that his power would be rendered the same way against the PBC fighter as everyone else Beterbiev has met.

And I knew that Browne had some questions hanging as a cloud over his head. In his lone loss, to 36 year old Jean Pascal in August 2019, Browne went down in round four and twice in the seventh and dropped a decision.

Many folks who saw Browne matched with Hot Rod Kaladzjic in 2016 thought he deserved to take an L, citing Hot Rod’s round-six knockdown of the New Yorker who repped America at the 2012 Olympics.

It is possible we see Browne reaching his full potential tonight, that he’s reached a level of maturation which will be reflected against Beterbiev

Wins over Thomas Williams and Sean Monaghan in 2017 and Francy Ntetu in 2018 silenced snipers a bit, but they took aim at Browne even though he scored a decision win versus Lenin Castillo in September 2018 because his chin got checked, he was sent to the mat in round six.

Fingers got wagged by some in 2018 and 2919 as Browne experienced tumult with a former lover, resulting in a few situations in which authorities were alerted.

His next fight was bloody but his chin held up fine, and he won a UD12 over proud vet Badou Jack. In his last outing, Browne, age 31, did the expected, in handling Denis Grachev, 20-12-1 entering. You needed to bet $10,000 on Browne to net $100 so yeah, this was a rust shedder.

Add all that up, and yes, I was thinking Browne would be dismissed by most pundits pro and amateur alike when the scrap got announced.

Artur Beterbiev in the ring ready for combat

Who here thinks Beterbiev is ripe to be upset?

But no; it seems that not as many people are as sold on Beterbiev as I’d assumed.

And it actually makes sense, being that hardcore fans know Beterbiev hasn’t been an active fighter, and at 36 they understand that on any night the IBF and WBC light heavy titlist could experience an in the ring blowout courtesy of Father Time’s touch. Those liking Browne to upset Beterbiev sometimes cited an iffy chin. Artur hit the deck in his 2014 match with Jeff Page, and from there he earned some wins (over Gabriel Campillo, Alex Johnson, Isidro Prieto and Enrico Koelling) which swelled his record, but didn’t leave fans awestruck. Combine that with Beterbiev’s promotional issues, right shoulder surgery and infrequent appearances, and yeah, he wasn’t hitting the heights backers thought he could have.

Beterbiev’s fight against Callum Johnson gave him a win, yes, and he kept his perfect record of wins by KO, but there was a big BUT attached to that October 2018 triumph. In round two, the two were trading, and the Brit Johnson stood in the pocket fearlessly. His left hook found the Beterbiev soft spot and down went Beterbiev. Arthur’s’ legs were a bit iffy, but he settled himself, and reset, and carried on to gain the stoppage in the third.

Think maybe Browne has studied those tapes which show the context of Browne going down? Think maybe also his new trainer, Derrick James didn’t spend ample time watching tape for tendencies and deficiencies to exploit?

Might as well get more into that element of the mix of intel to sift as we ponder who wins Beterbiev v Browne atop the Top Rank on ESPN+ card. Late summer, Browne pulled up stakes in NY, and jetted to Texas. He hit James’ gym, and it sounds like he humbly inserted himself into the James Gang. In other words, it’s not like Browne just hooked on with James and didn’t get enough time to have James’ methods, strategies and tactical suggestions seep into his brain and body.

I didn’t sense “scared” or “worried” in Browne

That popped into my head as I studied the photo of Browne and Beterbiev at the Thursday weigh in faceoff.

Me, I saw encouraging body language from the Staten Islander as he stood proud, tall and resolute while maintaining a gaze on the Russian. It got me thinking a bit harder about his chances in the light heavy tussle. So, I messaged James, RING trainer of the year for 2017. I asked him to share a bit on how he’s looking at this challenge for his new student, who had three months of time with James, and that included interaction with Errol Spence, the welterweight practitioner.

What’s the prediction turned in by Derrick James, the 49 year old tutor? “That Marcus will win and I will be the first trainer in history to have three unified champions,” James answered, suggesting Browne will depart Canada enjoying a status boost that Spence and Jermell Charlo already can boast of.

“I see it as Marcus boxing and creating openings that he can capitalize on,” James continued. “It will be a very tough and grueling fight. It could be a fight that both fighters could be hurt. We want to affect Beterbiev mentally and emotionally, not only from a physical perspective.”

Interesting, I didn’t expect to hear that component, that desire to move Beterbiev off the comfort zone he showed in wins over Oleksandr Gvozdyk (October 2019) and Adam Deines (March 20, 2021) after dealing with a rib injury and a case of COVID.

James told me that my reading of Browne’s demeanor and posture at the weigh in was not errant. Browne has communicated how much he’s picked up in being part of the James crew in Dallas, the trainer shared, and yes, he’s sensing the boxer could well be poised for a breakthrough triumph.

It should be considered, I think, that exiting the comfort zone of his home state, and seeking a boost on efficacy with a tutor switch, combined with an uptick in maturity following his domestic dramas, could mean Marcus Browne is as well situated as he could be headed into this assignment. “It’s going to be a hell of a fight, Michael,” said James, allowing that he can’t be certain his new guy will retain all info from their sessions and remain fully focused on staying defensively aware and savvy and strategic on offense. “I think,” James finished, “it’ll come down to preparation and fortitude.”