The sport of boxing admittedly doesn’t hold the nation’s spotlight like it once did, but, even so, it seems this city hasn’t fully embraced the fact that one of its own might be on his way to being the best fighter on the planet.
It wasn’t that Saturday’s victory over Gavin Rees elevated 23-year-old Adrien Broner to the top of the boxing world — it may have just reinforced the notion that the WBC Lightweight Champion might be the finest pound-for-pound boxer active today. After stopping the 32-year-old Rees in Atlantic City, N.J., on Feb. 16, the vanquished foe had nothing but praise for the Westwood native.
“He’s the best I’ve ever been in (the ring) with,” Rees said in the post-fight press conference. “It’s not a case of whether he will go on to be a superstar — he’s already there.”
Broner was a heavy favorite and little during the fight gave any reason to think otherwise. It wasn’t the biggest fight of Broner’s career — that was last November’s victory over Antonio DeMarco — but it was live on HBO and the 135-pound Broner once again showed off his amazing power for a lightweight. Rees, a noted battler, said he expected Broner to hit hard, but was still “stunned” by just how powerful Broner proved to be.
The British boxing press couldn’t contain its collective superlatives following the fight in Atlantic City, with the Guardian calling him “awesome,” and calling his hands “bags of nastiness.” The Daily Mail described his punches as “atomic right hand blows.”
But much of the story surrounding Broner has little to do with his game inside the ring, but his game outside — and even entering it.
He entered the fight against Rees with a microphone, rapping. And his rap sheet is also longer than we prefer to see from our heroes — already with a 14-month prison sentence under his title belt.
Broner, who dominated the junior lightweight division before appearing to start on the same path in his current weight class, may run out of opponents before he runs out of words. The other two lightweight title holders, Scotland’s Ricky Burns and Mexico’s Miguel Vazquez, face off next month, with Broner hoping to take on the winner. The 29-year-old Burns is considered the favorite, but the recently dismissed Rees said his fellow U.K. native has no shot against our hometown kid. Hopefully we’ll get to see that, but even if we’re not watching, much of the rest of the world will.
Thinking Out Loud
With the proliferation of media outlets both online and on TV, it seems the sports world keeps making events out of non-events. And this week we’ve got the biggest non-event in the sports world, the NFL Combine. I went to the 2009 combine and was amazed at just how different it was than the non-stop action on TV would seem to indicate. It’s a big deal to the media, even though the media isn’t allowed to see the actual combine live. The media at the combine in Indianapolis has the exact same view of the running, jumping and other drills that the viewer at home does — the NFL Network feed. That’s it. After that, it’s a non-stop interview session with just about every player who will be drafted from April 25-27. In 2009, the story was the disappearing act of Andre Smith and how that would destroy his stock. Then, of course, the Bengals were killed when they picked him sixth overall, in part because he left the combine early. The positive press from that combine went to Jason Smith and Aaron Curry, two players who performed much better than Smith at the combine and in interviews. Both were taken ahead of Smith and neither have performed as well. For all the doubts about Smith, neither of those players finished out their rookie contract with their original team. Smith did. You’ll hear a lot of things coming from the combine, just remember to take them all with a giant grain of salt. ... And speaking of not overreacting and things that ultimately mean nothing, spring training is here. Already I’m sick of the over-analyzing of Aroldis Chapman’s move to the starting rotation. Before we judge it, let’s remember he was the Reds’ best starter last spring — a repeat performance this spring doesn’t mean he’s going to be a great starter during the season, nor will a step back mean he can’t start. Spring training games are practice games — nothing less, nothing more. It will be interesting to see how consistent Chapman’s slider is or how much he uses a changeup, but, ultimately, the decision will belong to the Reds. In the end, if Bryan Price thinks he belongs in the rotation, I’ll agree until I see otherwise.