COMMENTARY | Last Saturday night at the Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, WBC lightweight champ and quick-rising future king of divisive boxing analysis, Adrien Broner (26-0, 22 KOs), had an easy night's work against Wales' tough, but overmatched Gavin Rees (37-2-1, 18 KOs).
When the heavily-favored defending champ forced a fifth round stoppage by the Rees corner, few were surprised. As a matter of fact, there was little real drama at all during the build-up to the bout. From contract signing to ringwalk, few were giving Rees much of a chance.
The intrigue behind Broner-Rees wasn't in the competitiveness of the fight. Rather, it had to do with Broner vs. Broner and whether the 23-year-old Cincinnati native would keep looking like the star-in-ascension he appeared to be while bludgeoning Antonio DeMarco last November.
2012 saw Broner earn the label of "boxing's next big thing" and become a graduate student in the "Money" Mayweather school of boxing villainy. 2013 was supposed to be the year that the young star would begin to pave his own road to superstar status.
However, in his first fight of the new year, Broner performed like a fighter who knew that the odds were completely stacked in his favor and one who felt absolutely no need to fight with any real urgency. He would give away the first two rounds, solely out of disinterest, and then end the bout when he finally decided that it was time to finish things up. It was that easy.
The Rees fight was so easy that Broner's slow start and early-round lack of effort would give rise to criticism and some speculation as to whether Broner's "can't miss" status was more media hype than reality.
By fighting such a longshot, Broner had unwittingly put himself in a no-win situation-- Make things look too easy and lose credit for the win. Make it not look easy enough and run the risk of taking potshots from the critics for a lackluster performance. Broner, by fighting like a man with barely any chance of taking a loss, may have taken a half-step backwards in his rise to boxing's main stage despite, really, doing nothing wrong.
Following Saturday's performance, fans and media couldn't rush to judgment quick enough. From a scan of media coverage and social media chatter, the Broner bandwagon had lost some of its momentum. The can't miss prospect of post-DeMarco buzz was being repainted as, perhaps, not so much of a can't miss after all. The next-generation Mayweather was now being described as a second rate Mayweather clone. By not immediately destroying an inferior Gavin Rees, Broner had opened himself up to his first media/fan backlash.
However, the fact of the matter is that the same Adrien Broner who fought with conveniently calculated aggression against Rees is the same fighter who masterfully brutalized Antonio DeMarco to win the WBC lightweight title.
At 23 years of age, the quality of a fighter's output will vary according to any number of factors. Dealing with differences in height, style, and temperament is part of the learning curve when it comes to professional development-- even for a fighter so obviously gifted.
It should be kept under consideration that Broner, despite the high-profile appearances on HBO and the attention devoted to his career development, is still very much a work-in-progress. At this stage of his career, with such a limited body of work behind him, assessments of Broner's performances are bound to fluctuate in terms of perceived levels of dominance and class. The "Book of Broner" is barely past the first couple of chapters and we just haven't seen enough to expect anything more than the imperfection of raw talent.
"The Problem" has shown himself to be significantly better than the likes of Antonio DeMarco, Vicente Escobedo, and now Gavin Rees. But that's merely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the talent he may find over the course of his career.
Just as it would be wise to withhold zealous, hype-driven praise, it's just as wise to hold off on the overly-critical hatchet jobs-- at least until he has a few more main stage fights under his belt.
Paul Magno was a licensed official in the state of Michoacan, Mexico and a close follower of the sport for more than thirty years. His work can also be found on Fox Sports and as Editor-in-Chief of The Boxing Tribune. In the past, Paul has done work for Inside Fights, The Queensberry Rules and Eastside Boxing. For breaking news, additional analysis, and assorted crazy commentary, follow him on Facebook, @TheBoxingTribune or on Twitter, @BoxingBTBC.
Tim Harrison, Broner stops Rees in five, the rest of the HBO action, The Boxing Tribune
- Sports & Recreation
- Adrien Broner
- Gavin Rees