Love him or hate him, Adrien Broner is back Saturday
SAN DIEGO, Calif., February 18, 2021 – There is nothing more frustrating to a boxing fan than to watch an athlete with natural talents squander it due to bad choices.
The current poster boy for wasting his potential is former four-division champion Adrien Broner of Cincinnati (33-4-1, 24 KOs). Broner returns to the ring after a two-year absence on Saturday to face Jovanie Santiago of Puerto Rico (14-0, 10 KOs) in his 40th professional bout at Showtime’s pandemic “Fightsphere” at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut.
Eight years ago, Broner defeated Paulie Malignaggi for the WBA welterweight title and his third division time at age 23. It was a rough, ugly split decision, but Broner’s potential seemed unlimited. His brash persona and misbehavior outside the ring captured as much fan attention as his ring performances.
Then came Broner’s career interruption against Marcos Maidana of Argentina. Broner admitted he hadn’t taken training seriously for the Malignaggi fight, and he’d bear down to make a statement against Maidana. Maidana did all the talking, knocking down Broner for the first time in his career on the way to a definitive unanimous decision.
Since then, Broner has attempted and failed to recover. He suffered defeats to Shawn Porter, Mikey Garcia, and then a beatdown by then 40-year-old Manny Pacquiao, while winning eyebrow-raising decisions and a handful of wins against unimpressive opponents. He lost his last title on the scale in 2016 against Ashley Theophane and hasn’t owned a belt since.
Consider Broner’s distractions: a criminal conviction for assault in 2018 and a civil lawsuit out of the same incident, ending in an $855,000 settlement by Broner to the victim. His purse Saturday should cover a big chunk of it. Broner also owes a good bit of child support. No one is really sure how many children he has – is it five with four women or seven with six women?
Broner is fortunate to have loyal friends, including Showtime Sports executive Stephen Espinoza, manager Al Haymon, and Gervonta Davis, who Broner admits have all given him money. He’s also lucky to have loyal fans who still cheer him on.
Broner is staging one more comeback against the prospect Santiago, secured after several other opponents fell through. The fight was set for 140 pounds, the same weight as the Theophane fight when Broner lost his last title on the scale. Broner said he’d cleaned up his act, quit drinking, and was eating healthy. But he came into camp in Florida with 35 pounds to lose.
Thursday, Showtime officials announced the fight would be contested at the welterweight limit of 147 pounds by both fighters’ mutual agreement. Santiago apparently was also struggling and had no issue with it. But all eyes are on Broner.
Broner: ‘I’ve got what it takes to win more championships’
At Thursday’s pre-fight news conference, Broner promised he was focused on business. “Anybody who fights a name like Adrien Broner is going to always train to their best ability, so I’m not looking at this as a fight where I just go in and destroy this guy,” said Broner. “I’m just going to go to do what I have to do to get the victory, look good inside and outside the ring.”
Broner says he knows he’ll be a world champion again despite a 25-month layoff. “I just feel like I’ve got what it takes to win more championships in different weight classes, so that’s what I’m going to do. At the end of the day, he’s here because of me and everybody in this room is here because of me, so that’s special. Saturday night, the only thing that’s going to be special is this whooping I’m giving out. He’ll know then.”
Jovanie Santiago, also age 31, gets the biggest fight of his career and said he’s ready for Broner. “He’s a big name and I’m going to try and win for Puerto Rico. Winning this fight would be the best thing that’s happened in my career and my name would get a lot bigger in the boxing world. I don’t have anything to lose,” said Santiago. “Adrien Broner has everything to lose so he better bring his A-game against me. A win for me would catapult me into a world title shot.”
Santiago is hand-picked for Broner. He’s fought just 62 pro rounds against 235 rounds by Broner, and the only name fighter on his record is a washed-up DeMarcus Corley in 2017. But much the same things were written about Mauricio Lara of Mexico, who destroyed Josh Warrington last weekend.
Boxing loves a comeback story. So much depends on the version of Broner who shows up Saturday. Just as many people will tune in to watch him lose as watch him win. Showtime doesn’t really care what their motivation is as long as there are eyes on the screen.
Big heavyweight fun: Otto Wallin vs. Dominic Breazeale in co-feature
Otto Wallin of Sweden (21-1, 14 KOs) returns after making a big impression in his fight against Tyson Fury. He then dispatched American Travis Kauffman with ease in five rounds and proved his performance was not a fluke, even after recovering from COVID-19. Wallin faces veteran Dominic Breazeale of California (20-2, 18 KOs).
“It’s one thing to be in the heavyweight division,” said Breazeale. “When you’re in the ring with a big guy like me it’s like getting hit by a Mack truck,” said Breazeale. “In the heavyweight division, there’s respect for guys who have power, there’s respect for guys who have speed. I’m a big athletic strong guy, and Otto is going to find our fast Saturday night.” Breazeale, now training with Abel Sanchez, says he’s better conditioned, stronger, and more confident. “Sometimes subtle changes make a boxer’s career,” said Breazeale.
“You can’t forget I’m 6-6, 240, I’m not that small,” said Wallin, saying he’s more well-rounded. “I’m faster than Dominic, I’ve got better footwork, better defense, and better offense. I got to bring that in there and do what I’m good at.”
The winner tees up a bigger payday against one of PBC’s available heavyweights. It’s a long-term game to position themselves for a title fight down the road when the dust settles between Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua. This could be the fight of the night.
Ambitions at stake: Robert Easter Jr. vs. Ryan Martin
In the opening bout, former lightweight champion Robert Easter Jr. (22-1-1, 14 KOs) of Toledo, Ohio faces Ryan “Blue Chip” Martin (24-1, 14 KOs) of Chattanooga, Tennesee, in a junior welterweight fight. Both Easter Jr. and Martin need the win for different reasons. Since Easter Jr. lost to Mikey Garcia in 2018, he’s had two lackluster fights, a draw with Rances Barthelemy and a 10-round decision over Adrian Granados in October 2019. Easter Jr.’s career needs a jump start. Martin Jr. was a fast-rising star until he ran into Josh Taylor in the World Boxing Super Series in 2018. He took 18 months out of the ring and had two tune-up bouts in Florida in the second half of 2020. Will the veteran Easter Jr. muster one last run, or will the 27-year-old Martin renew his ambitions?
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is a veteran boxing observer covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News. Follow Gayle on social media at@PRProSanDiego.
Please credit “Gayle Falkenthal for Communities Digital News” when quoting from or linking to this story.
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