About boxing: Broner vs Garcia preview
Chris Williamson previews the intriguing 140lbs clash between a resurgent Mikey Garcia and a man with something to prove in Adrien Broner...
In January this year, despite Carl Frampton, consensus fighter of the year in 2016, and Leo Santa Cruz re-matching one of the best fights of the previous twelve months, they arguably had their thunder stolen moments earlier as Mikey Garcia brutally signalled his return to world championship class.
The speed and brutality with which Garcia removed the WBC lightweight title from Dejan Zlaticanin’s thick waist evoked memories of similarly swift destructions, like Don Curry’s clinical KO of Milton McCrory and Thomas Hearns’ violent manhandling of the great Roberto Duran.
This was the third ‘world’ title Garcia (36-0) has won, after stints as WBO boss in the featherweight and super featherweight divisions, before a fall out with promoters Top Rank led to a period of inactivity from early 2014 to summer 2016. On the evidence presented against Zlaticanin, the Mexican-American looks as though he’s never been away.
Garcia told Mark Butcher during an interview for the July 2017 issue of Boxing Monthly magazine that the enforced break from the sport has helped him return better than ever. "It actually helped me come back more motivated, hungrier. Stronger than ever," the 29-year-old Californian declared.
All of which leads many to wonder why on earth Adrien Broner has chosen to take on Garcia at this stage of his career. Having said that, when one looks at the trajectory of Broner's career and where he has struggled - against bigger, stronger pressure fighters - to make this high-profile match against a smaller man makes some sense.
At the lighter weights, Broner looked outstanding and a future superstar as he breezed to his first two 'world' titles at super feather and lightweight, beating good men in Eloy Perez, Antonio DeMarco and Gavin Rees.
The Cincinnati native then skipped junior welter to narrowly beat Paullie Malignaggi for the WBA welterweight title in June 2013 at the same arena he fights Garcia at this weekend, before being on the receiving end one of the more celebrated and iconic beatings in years at the hands of Marcos Maidana six months later. The Argentine floored Broner twice en route to a unanimous decision win during which, if nothing else, Broner showed plenty of heart.
Broner spent eighteen months licking his wounds and decisioning fringe contenders before he was soundly decisioned by Shawn Porter just below the welterweight limit in mid-2015. Despite being floored by a superb left hook at the tail end of the contest, Porter was too big, too strong and too active for the self styled 'Problem'.
The weight class agreed on here introduces an interesting sub-plot: the match has been made at the junior welterweight limit of ten stone (140lbs), with the Garcia camp insisting on a financial penalty of $500k if Broner fails to make weight, as he has done in the past.
Garcia - champing at the bit on his return - is chasing the biggest fights regardless of weight. "I still have plans on coming down to 135 to unify the titles or defend the lightweight (title)," he told a media call recently.
"But, you know, after being in boxing so long and learning the policies on the business about it, you got to be flexible. You got to be able to adjust and make those adjustments and continue with my career. I'm not going to sit around, wait for a fight and chase anybody. I'm here to take on the biggest fights available, the biggest challenge available, whether that means at 135 or at 140 or possibly even 147."
As to whether he could be biting off more than he can chew at the higher weight, Garcia claims that even the supposed punchers he's faced so far have failed to hurt him.
"I've been faced with some guys that are supposed to be heavy punchers, but I haven't felt their power," Garcia claimed. "I have the right game plan and didn't really feel it. Dejan was supposed to be a big power puncher; I didn't feel it.
"[Orlando] Salido is a heavy hitter. He has become champion even after I beat him. He still became champion several times and beat some tough guys. And I didn't feel his power. But I think Adrien Broner is the guy that probably hits the hardest out of everybody especially because we're moving up in weight. He is a bigger man naturally than me as far as weight. So we'll find out Saturday night."
Broner’s style is relatively orthodox, adopting aspects of the Mayweather-style defence and impressive athleticism, although he can be a slow starter and somewhat predictable. Against a fighter as cerebral as Garcia a lack of variety in his work is likely to lead to serious trouble.
Nevetheless, Broner claims his status here as underdog leaves him unfazed. "I don't care about being the underdog because at the end of the day, man, I don't make no money off of that," said Broner. "They're just - there're some gambling people, man. There're some people in Vegas, man. It's okay though. I bet they won't do it again [make me the underdog] after this fight."
Broner has been beset by out of the ring problems, including being sentenced to serve three days behind bars earlier this year for contempt, as a result of arriving late and intoxicated at court. He also had another period of incarceration in 2016.
Now, though, he says he is dialling down the chaos in his life, a move which has started by symbolically distancing himself from his previous crass branding.
"Everybody keeps saying 'About Billions' but now it's 'About Boxing'," Broner claimed earlier this week. "So as you can tell I left the 'About Billions' lifestyle, I left it alone for this whole camp. So, you know, my main focus is just getting in the best shape I can so I can go mess Mikey up. And that's it.
"You know, it's nothing personal if I hurt him, I know he's definitely trying to come hurt me, but I'm coming to mess him up. I've said like we're too close right now and I feel like punching his face. It's time to take boxing more seriously. When you touched the type of money I've touched at a young age, man, you don't know how to handle it. Like I said before, I'm older. I got experience in life. I know what I want to do and that's be the best Adrien Broner I can be."
To my ears, this sounds like a routine we've heard before. While Broner can go through prolonged lackadaisical spells, Garcia tends to keep a high tempo and has a television-friendly, aesthetically pleasing style. Garcia also has a terrific, fast jab which he uses as both a defensive and offensive weapon, even flooring the tough Salido with it while winning the WBO featherweight title four years ago. His straight right or right hook form formidable weapons, especially when counter-punching an oncoming opponent.
I expect a motivated Garcia to have far too many facets to his game for Broner. He's quick, heavy-handed and highly skilled. My pick is for Garcia to hand Broner the first stoppage defeat of his career, probably late on and perhaps via corner stoppage with Broner's team recognising that his cause has become hopeless.