June boxing picnic: Broner vs. Porter, Andre Ward returns Saturday

Just like a summer picnic, boxing fans have many dishes to pick from, but it’s hard to tell which will be tasty choices.

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Floyd Mayweather kept the peace between Adrien Broner (left) and Shawn Porter at Friday's weigh-in. Photo: Premier Boxing
Floyd Mayweather kept the peace between Adrien Broner (left) and Shawn Porter at Friday's weigh-in. Photo: Premier Boxing

SAN DIEGO, June 19, 2015 – This weekend’s TV schedule is an indicator how much the boxing scene has changed in the last six months. American fans have four cards worth checking out this weekend, and not a single one is being shown on HBO or Showtime.

The marquee event takes place in Las Vegas under the Premier Boxing banner. Adrien “The Problem” Broner (30-1, 22 KOs) faces Shawn “Showtime” Porter (25-1-1, 16 KOs) in a 144-pound catchweight bout on NBC Saturday night. Broner, who fancies himself the heir apparent in attitude if not in skill to Floyd Mayweather, hopes to rebuild his ring reputation after a rough 2013 with a loss to Marcos Maidana and a shaky outing against Paulie Malignaggi, followed by rehab fights in 2014.

Porter finds himself in a similar position, having lost a tough decision to Britain’s Kell Brook last year. Porter came back with a fifth round knockout of Erick Bone of Ecuador in March.

Adrien Broner (left) has kept up his customary trash talk up to fight night, while Shawn Porter has done his best to ignore it. Photo: Premier Boxing
Adrien Broner (left) has kept up his customary trash talk up to fight night, while Shawn Porter has done his best to ignore it. Photo: Premier Boxing

A Broner bout is never without drama. Manager Al Haymon arranged the catchweight fight, an advantage for Broner. Broner’s loss and near loss were both at the 147-pound welterweight limit. He cannot generate enough power at welterweight to risk a fight against a strong opponent, as he learned against Maidana. Porter agreed to drop from his normal welterweight limit to meet Broner.


READ MORE: Go north, boxing fans: Lemieux vs. N’Dam, Fox Sports 2/Fox Deportes, Saturday 10 p.m. ET

Broner, who has a history of not making weight due to a shaky diet discipline, shocked observers when he managed to hit the scale at 143.5 pounds. Porter hit the limit of 144 pounds. So the fight is on. Broner kept up a steady stream of conversation as he always does. After the staredown, Porter offered a handshake to Broner; Broner turned away. Broner’s mentor Floyd Mayweather stepped in to return the handshake and thank Porter.

There was also discussion whether there was or wasn’t a “rehydration limit,” a Saturday weigh-in limit imposed to control how much either fighter would be able to rehydrate. In theory this favored Broner, but Broner was the man who looked as if he had to struggle to make weight; Porter’s excellent conditioning and work ethic had him in top shape. Perhaps similar to last week’s Cotto vs. Geale bout, the win or the loss happened on the scale Friday.

Erick Bone (left) was game on short notice, but no real match for the rebooted Shawn Porter. Photo: Courtesy PBC
Erick Bone (left) was no real match for the rebooted Shawn Porter in March. Photo: Courtesy PBC

Broner rose quickly through the ranks while in the lower weight divisions, but as he’s struggled to stay closer to lightweight than middleweight, his performance has suffered. He lacks the power to play with the bigger boxers, his defensive skills aren’t always sharp enough to avoid accurate power punchers or busier fighters. Porter averages more than 100 punches more per fight than Broner.

It is rare I admit to disliking a athlete outright, but in the spirit of transparency, I find little to like about Adrien Broner. It isn’t the trash talk; plenty of boxers trash talk, but they can back it up. I dislike a boxer with physical skills and all the support in the world who squanders his potential when his work habits and personal ethics are lacking.

With that on the record, Broner needs to fight inside on Porter to take away Porter’s productivity. Porter needs to employ all of the ring, stay busy and force Broner to engage to wear him out. It’s a dead even fight according to the oddsmakers. It’s unlikely Broner could win with one punch; it’s a greater possibility for Porter. But it’s likely to go the distance and I predict Porter will prevail in a close decision win.

On the undercard, promising 2012 U.S. Olympian Errol Spence (16-0, will strut his stuff against Phil LoGreco (26-1-0, 14 KOs) in a welterweight bout. LoGreco from Toronto, Canada is a last minute replacement for Roberto Garcia, who has now withdrawn from a fight for the second time on short notice due to weight issues.

LoGreco has been training with Jessie Vargas in preparation for his bout next weekend against Timothy Bradley, but hasn’t had a bout in 22 months. My hat’s off to LoGreco for seizing the opportunity, but he will have his hands full with the talented Spence, perhaps the best of the 2012 Olympians. Both came in well under the 154-pound weight limit.

Andre Ward marks his return to boxing after 19 months on Saturday against England's Paul Smith. Photo: Tom Hogan, Hoganphotos
Andre Ward marks his return to boxing after 19 months on Saturday against England’s Paul Smith. Photo: Tom Hogan, Hoganphotos

Also on Saturday night, one of the most highly regarded boxers of this generation, Andre Ward (27-0, 14 KOs), returns to the ring in Oakland, California at the Oracle Arena after a 19 month layoff due to contract disputes. This fight will be the first event for Roc Nation Sports on BET TV, airing at 10 p.m. ET and delayed to the West Coast until 10 p.m. ET.

His opponent is Paul Smith of England (35-5, 20 KOs), and unless you’re a hardcore fan you’re forgiven for having just said, “Who?” Smith is a solid fighter, not spectacular but not a pushover, willing to engage and a good choice for this outing.

Ward lit the boxing scene on fire after winning the Super Six Tournament in 2009 as a decided underdog, then made short work of Mikkel Kessler, Carl Froch, and Arthur Abraham to win. Then he beat Chad Dawson for an encore. He had a big HBO contract and was on top of the world. Since then, his only fight was a blowout of Edwin Rodriguez in November 2013.

Remember this guy? Andre Ward (left) in his last fight against Edwin Rodriguez in Ontario, California.
Remember this guy? Andre Ward (left) in his last fight against Edwin Rodriguez in Ontario, California.

Here we are talking about a catchweight again; the pair agreed to a 172-pound limit, four pounds higher than super middleweight. At Friday’s weigh in, Ward came in at 171.8 pounds, but Smith didn’t even try to make the limit, hitting the scale at 176.4 pounds. This is a cruiseweight size, ridiculous.

Ward’s trainer Virgil Hunter was not happy. It was Smith who asked for the catchweight. But the fight is going to proceed anyway. There isn’t a title involved in this 12 round fight. Let’s face it, it’s a glorified public workout. The card is being combined with a Roc Nation concert. I like to keep my rappers and my pugilists separate, thank you.

Nevertheless, the boxing world is dead curious to see how Ward looks after all this time. A layoff didn’t hurt Floyd Mayweather. Has Ward lost momentum in the ring; and maybe even more important, with the fans?

Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. She is also a serious boxing fan covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego. Gayle can be reached via Google +

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