In October of 2011, believing him fully rehabbed from a stunning first-round knockout loss to Juan Carlos Salgado, Golden Boy Promotions pitted lightweight Jorge Linares against Antonio DeMarco. Only two fights removed from being stopped by Edwin Valero—a man who fought under a perpetual full moon—DeMarco was carpet-bombed by Linares. He hunkered down through the assault however, eventually breaking Linares’ nose en route to an 11th-round TKO. DeMarco can spoil the plot again when he faces Adrien Broner on Saturday night at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
Broner, 24-0 (20), whose more charming moments include tweeting pictures of himself eating Twinkies before failing on the scale prior to his bout with Vincente Escobedo and disclosing his fear of Middle-Eastern men on airplanes, has managed to captivate audiences in a way other prematurely lionized fighters have not. His resemblance to Floyd Mayweather, Jr., in style and arrogance endears him to those who spend six months waiting to get a fix of their quasi-retired idol. For others, the Cincinnati, Ohio, fighter is the type of character whose potential downfall is particularly appealing. And in a bloodsport—where everyone inevitably gets punched in the mouth—there is real marketability in animosity.
Antics aside, between the ropes Broner looks the part. There are caveats to that appraisal, of course, with quality of opposition being the most glaring example. Broner has yet to face a real test, save for a scare courtesy of Daniel Ponce De Leon in a fight that typified GBP’s endearing trait of unintentionally tough matchmaking. Fighters like Eloy Perez and Vincente Escobedo were perceived as threats in part because of the influence of West Coast media support. Broner easily dispatched both fighters—with an admittedly criminal size advantage in the Escobedo fight—but how much credit he deserves for doing so varies according to one’s sympathy for the opposition. Difficulties of appraisal aside, all are in agreement that DeMarco represents the greatest threat to Broner thus far. In DeMarco, 28-2-1 (21), Broner faces the genuine article, a tuning fork for determining the tone of his future.
While most main events have the unpredictability of fixed mortgage rates, DeMarco-Broner presents a number of alternatives without furnishing a clear outcome. Broner’s rendition of the shoulder roll defense, though not employed with the mastery of Floyd Mayweather, Jr., has proven formidable, and he can lead and counter from a defensive posture with fluidity. While not a concussive puncher, Broner is a respectable one who finishes his opponents when he hurts them. DeMarco, however, is equipped with the tools to carve a loss into Broner like The Harrow from In The Penal Colony. He is rangy, durable, relentless, and at lightweight—unlike Broner’s chin—DeMarco’s power is a proven commodity. The comparisons to Floyd Mayweather, Jr., are obvious and frequent enough to distort the reality that Broner is hittable. His level of competition and his size could explain why Broner has taken punches well thus far, and his chin remains in question. DeMarco, Los Mochis, Mexico, hits hard enough to furnish an answer to that question. If Broner cannot discourage DeMarco, landing enough injurious punches to stem the assault, Broner will find himself in the first real fight of his career.
Implicit in the challenge of discouraging DeMarco is Broner’s ability to dictate when and where the fight is fought. If Broner can set the pace, move forward behind his jab, get his punches off and then return to a safe range, he will control the action. At 5′ 10”, DeMarco does a good job of fighting at range, but it is unlikely he fights on better-than-even terms with Broner from distance—and fighting on even terms won’t win him a decision. If DeMarco can use his underrated footwork to crowd his quarry, dig to the body, and forces exchanges, Broner will have to open up, lest his inactivity cost him. It is in the more intimate exchanges that Broner stands to be hit cleanly, in the frenzy that DeMarco can, like the torturous Colonel Joll, compel a choice on someone who would not otherwise make it.
Of course, if DeMarco represents real danger, then his selection as Broner’s first opponent at lightweight is puzzling. It is decidedly unlike manager Al Haymon to seek challenges for his fighters, who are grossly overpaid to underwhelm on HBO and Showtime. Tough competition is especially inscrutable in the case of Broner, who is developing into somewhat of a draw. Perhaps Broner’s team figures DeMarco is getting too much credit for steamrolling John Molina and outlasting a fragile Linares, and that the bump in his Q-rating makes this the most opportune time to beat him. As intriguing as this fight appears, if the Broner brain-trust is correct, and if Broner’s flashes of brilliance are the product of real fighting substance, the fight could be as lopsided as an abandoned seesaw.
Kierkegaard wrote, “Either/or is the key to heaven…Both—and is the way to hell.” With this fight, the either/or scenarios are fairly clear. Better that Broner and DeMarco mitigate each other’s successes, that they give us both—and that they give each other hell.
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