It started with his pledge to “put on a show.” What was intended as entertainment, considering the showman, was more than the miserable expectations a mismatch can produce. What was intended as entertainment, considering the showman, was sure to involve extracurricular self-indulgence of the grooming and rapping variety. For those looking for a fight, what was intended as entertainment at Boardwalk Hall, Atlantic City, New Jersey, Saturday night included self-proclaimed showman Adrien Broner dismantling Gavin Rees over five lopsided rounds.
Rees, Newbridge, Wales, had some success in the first round, mainly with left hooks he dug to Broner’s ribs; those punches served as the most significant shrapnel produced by an early carpet bombing of his opponent. An eye-catching straight right and more bodywork found the mark for Rees in the second round as well. It was on the weight of those few scoring blows, and superior activity, that Rees could be awarded the first two rounds. Rather than steamroll Rees like the some overmatched, inept midget, Broner, Cincinnati, Ohio, was content to counter Rees’ jab with left hooks and slam the occasional lead right between the Welshman’s gloves.
For two rounds Broner’s patience allowed a chimerical sense of competitiveness to color the action. Despite the fact that Rees’ unexpected activity was hardly a genuine threat, that Broner was never phased by the blows he absorbed, or that Rees, for all his earnest slugging, was clearly being stalked and measured by his foe, as deep into the fight as the second round, one could argue that the “quantity vs. quality” debate between the ropes was far from resolved.
Indeed, the plucky Rees, 134 1/2, even punished Broner for his histrionics, catching him with a clean left hook while Broner mugged. To this point, a more generous observer might have suggested that this unanimously derided exercise in futility had a shallow pulse. Perhaps feeling a bit of his thunder stolen by his insolent foe, Broner, 134, staged a drumhead trial in the third round. He banged Rees to the ropes with a wound-up right and there unloaded with both hands. In that worrying moment Broner did what Rees—for all his success in the preceding eight minutes—could not do: he provided a glimpse of the future.
Broner gave Rees another glimpse in the fourth round, flooring him with a single right uppercut. His rolling pupils repositioned in their sockets, the plucky Rees got to his feet and waded beyond his depth, inviting a fight in both his punching and his theatrics. Broner refused to oblige, however, slipping and blocking Rees’ innocuous assault before strafing him with a discouraging uppercut and hook to the body as the round ended.
The end came when Rees, with Broner’s right forearm pushing down on the back of his neck, dropped his guard as if anticipating a break in the action. He was punished for this cardinal sin by a left uppercut that muddled his guts and crumpled him to canvas. However much he plays the entertainer, Broner is first and foremost a fighter. When Rees failed to protect himself, Broner hit him as a fighter would—with the most vicious punch available. Trainer Gary Lockett allowed Rees, 37-2-1 (18), to preserve his pride in getting to his feet, but threw in the towel as Broner ramped up the evil. The official time of the stoppage was 2:59 of the fifth round.
Henry Higgins’ best efforts couldn’t turn this haggard instalment of “HBO World Championship Boxing” into something presentable. Many would suggest that Broner himself, one of the sport’s premier parvenus, could use a touch of refinement as well. His behaviour however, and the armchair psychology employed to interpret it, are secondary matters. What is paramount in boxing of course, is the violence, and Broner, 26-0 (22), is plenty polished in that regard. Questioned about future opponents—in particular lightweights Ricky Burns and Miguel Vazquez—Broner responded cryptically. While not explicitly saying he would move to junior welterweight, Broner said that Burns and Vazquez were only stars in the lightweight division because he was not in it. In a sense he is right: Broner is above the lightweight division. A fight against either Burns or Vazquez would ultimately produce the same result (if perhaps with varying degrees of consciousness removed). Neither Vazquez nor Burns are in Broner’s league—no one at 135 pounds is.
“I didn’t give you much to see, but I put on a show,” said the showman. If he of the “anybody can get it” mantra is indeed moving to junior welterweight—the turf of promotional stablemates Amir Khan, Danny Garcia, Lamont Peterson, and Lucas Matthysse—there should be stern tests in his future. It is there, and perhaps above, that the showman will prove his worth as a fighter and an entertainer.
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CORRECTION:Due to an editorial mistake, this post originally stated that Broner-Rees was telecast as a Boxing After Dark show. It was actually a World Championship Boxing production.