While message boards and Twitter are all aflutter about Saul Alvarez and Jose Sulaiman and the magical world of vacant belts, a badass fight of a co-feature is going down this Saturday night at the Honda Center in Anaheim, CA. Maywood Boxing Club stalwart (by way of Mexico) and number one featherweight in the world, Daniel Ponce de Leon, looks to defend Southern California’s honor by solving lightweight Adrien “The Problem” Broner. They will meet at the crossroads of 130 pounds to see who goes up and who goes down.
Broner is a 5’7”, 21-year-old, right-handed prodigy with a shades of Roy Jones but with foundations of Pernell Whitaker, a kid with all the talent and a lot of the tools to become a world titleholder and eventually a champion.
To date, the kid they call “The Problem” has been nothing but that to his opposition, stopping 16 of his 19 opponents. The downside of that is that despite 300-plus amateur fights, Broner only has 60 pro rounds under his belt and has only gone as deep as eight rounds en route to decision.
“I’m not nervous about that,” Broner told Maxboxing.com, Wednesday night. “That kind of runs in my family because I get stronger as the rounds go on; that’s what I want. I want to take somebody into deep water and beat on him more.”
“This is obviously a step up for Adrien,” conceded Broner’s co-promoter, R&R Promotions’ Andrew Williams. “[Broner] was welcoming to it. Golden Boy as his co-promoter and some of the other people on his team felt this was a big step up and a tough fight. But I think we feed off Adrien’s energy and always ask his opinion. His opinion immediately was that he’d like to take the fight. He thought he was ready for the fight, that this fight would introduce him to the world on a big stage. He feels that it is his time, so he was comfortable that it was right now.”
Ponce de Leon is 30 years old, 5’5” and slow but a battle-tested southpaw nonetheless. Despite having lighting and thunder in either hand, he was annihilated in one round against Juan Manuel Lopez back in 2008. Since that fall from title beltholding grace, Ponce has retooled his style while rattling off seven wins in a row. The last four, including a spectacular third round KO victory over of Antonio Escalante last year, have shown growth in his technique and patience in his game that makes him incredibly dangerous now. At 30, Ponce de Leon could be peaking.
Broner has only been scheduled to go ten rounds three times, resulting in a first round TKO win over 11-2 Rafael Lora, a six round technical decision over 10-4-3 Carlos Claudio, and a second round stoppage against 11-1-1 Guillermo Sanchez. On the other side, Ponce has 200 rounds under belt and has only lost only twice in 43 fights. 34 of his opponents have not seen the end of the scheduled rounds.
That said, neither Ponce’s experience nor recent win streak have Broner worried at all.
“Negative,” answered Broner. “I give him all respect but I’m going to do what I have to do to get the victory.”
“I mean the kid is in tremendous shape,” said Williams. “For every fight, he has been in shape for the rounds required. It’s the opponent just don’t make it.” He laughed. “You know what I mean. He’s prepared. If it was to go ten, we’ve been scheduled to go ten several times. It’s just the opponent couldn’t make those rounds. I don’t think he can last ten rounds with Adrien.”
Scouting his opponents is part of Broner’s job description as well. Williams knows he has a natural-born fighter on his hands and he trusts Broner’s hunter instinct. For each fight, Broner takes a look at the opponent and decides. This one was a no-brainer for the confident young man. I couldn’t tell if Broner was joking or not (and he wasn’t telling) when I asked if he had watched any tape of Ponce de Leon to prepare and what he saw.
“I tried to watch him but, frankly, he bores me,” said a deadpan Broner.
So much for the fighter breakdown.
“I can’t say the game plan but you’ll see when I get into the ring,” promised Broner. “I think I am overall the better fighter. I feel like I was ready a few fights ago.”
“I personally thought we could wait but he convinced me that he is ready,” added Williams. “The kid is not as green as everyone thinks he is. This is probably his 340th fight. He’s been fighting since he was six years old. They talk about inexperience; it’s understood from the opposition at the pro level. But 340 fights…I think he’s more than ready for this challenge.”
Conventional wisdom says that youth, speed and size will win out. While Ponce de Leon’s style might play right into his strengths, Broner isn’t looking at things quite that simply.
“Somewhat but it’s what I make of it,” said Broner. “I can make it hard or I can make it real easy. I think I want to make it really easy.”
“Don’t go get popcorn when I get in the ring,” Broner laughed. “Do not go to the concession stand.”
As I delved further into the style of De Leon and offered it might be tailor-made in some ways for him, I suggested that it might take a fighter like Broner himself to beat him, someone fast, strong and perhaps bigger.
“I don’t think a guy like me can beat me. I think I’d beat myself,” joked Broner.
“They asked that question in Cincinnati.” Williams laughed. “’What would you do if you were fighting Adrien Broner?’ Adrien said, ‘I would take another fight.’”
While some may not see the Honda Center as the big stage, I should mention the fight is the co-feature to the aforementioned “Canelo” vs. Hatton junior middleweight fight broadcast Saturday on HBO’s “Boxing After Dark.” The card also features the return of the ferocious James Kirkland as well as middleweight contender Daniel Jacobs. While those fights are tilted toward the comebacking Kirkland and the rebuilding Jacobs, who is having his first fight under Freddie Roach, Broner is taking on a legitimate challenge. The power Ponce de Leon possesses is very real. With their styles and knockout artist mentalities, this is going to be a very entertaining fight. Dazzling in front of a big L.A. boxing crowd could go a long way to expanding beyond Broner’s healthy Cincinnati fanbase. Broner and Williams have rightly jumped at the chance to steal a future star-studded fight card in impressive fashion.
“Adrien convinced me that it was time,” said Williams. “We think boxing was to a point where the fights weren’t there. The right people weren’t fighting each other, weren’t taking challenges or have a hyped-up mystique where guys are fighting and the level of competition is not there. So you have to congratulate him for urging us to take the opportunity. He said, ‘I want the fight.’ These fights they are approving, those are fights we can get anytime. Let’s make this transition to the next level and the fights to be able to do it in. The kid is intelligent and this is what he came to me with. Logically, it became easy for me, once he put it out there and I thought about how talented he is. It wasn’t a question of the other guy or him being confident or if he could set him up and knock him down. Nobody at 130 pounds that can touch this kid. I know that is an aggressive thing to say but that is really how we feel.”
“It’s definitely my time,” said Broner. “Now it’s time to put all the cookies in the bag and let’s go.”