by Gautham Nagesh
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J.—One of America’s most touted young boxers confirmed his supremacy on Saturday night at Boardwalk Hall, while another learned how costly a single mistake can be in boxing.
Cincinnati’s Adrien “The Problem” Broner dismantled top-ranked lightweight Antonio DeMarco in the HBO main event, putting on clinical display that will have many elevating him near to the pound-for-pound lists. The co-feature saw Detroit’s Johnathon Banks put a screeching halt to the rise of heavyweight Seth Mitchell, knocking the former Michigan State linebacker down three times en route to a third-round stoppage.
Broner was splendid in the main event, slicing up DeMarco with surgical precision. Broner’s timing was impeccable, his aim precise, his balance a wonder to behold. That the fight lasted into the 8th round is a testament to DeMarco’s toughness and heart. The right hands and uppercuts landed by Broner would have decapitated almost any other lightweight in the world. Broner simply dominated, and never looked anything less than absolutely comfortable in the ring.
Broner danced into the ring accompanied by rapper Kendrick Lamar, and looked even more relaxed once he got there. The southpaw DeMarco has knocked out four out of his last five opponents since his only loss against Edwin Valero, but his punches hardly affected Broner. The Problem simply stayed sideways, kept his right up, and used his left shoulder to absorb most of the Mexican’s blows. DeMarco correctly looked for his straight left hand, both to the head and the body. But even when it landed, nothing happened.
In contrast, Broner had DeMarco marked up around the eye by the end of the first round. His right hand appeared attached to DeMarco by a string, because Broner simply couldn’t miss with it. Straight rights, overhand, vicious uppercuts on the insides; they all landed, and were usually followed by equally potent left hooks. DeMarco gamely took the blows and fought back, but any opponent would be demoralized by the lack of success.
Broner’s Philly Shell defense is good enough to save even Andy Reid's job. The two fought on the inside from the 3rd round on, with Broner patiently waiting for his openings and firing the right uppercut. Broner has mastered when to take a punch and when to slip; many of the shots that DeMarco did land had little impact.
By the 7th DeMarco had bravely decided to stand his ground and fire everything he had. It worked slightly better, but he also ate a number of hard rights in response. Those shots would have felled almost any boxer below 140 lbs., but DeMarco has uncommon heart. He kept coming, and somehow lasted into the 8th round, despite a face that resembled an uncooked T-bone.
There is, however, an inevitability attached to greatness. Broner caught up with DeMarco in the 8th round, in the form of a vicious left hook-right uppercut combination that finally sent the Mexican cascading to the canvas. DeMarco’s corner was on the mat immediately to stop the fight, not a moment too soon. A champion deserves to go out on his shield, but if punches were arrows, DeMarco would be suspended in mid-air like Bhishma.
Despite his often juvenile antics, Broner has always had the personality and pedigree to become a superstar. On this night, he silenced any questions about his ability with a virtuoso performance against his toughest foe to date. It is difficult to see any lightweight being able to stand up to Broner, who is instantly the biggest name below 140 lbs.
The Problem was in full effect at the post-fight presser, reeling off one-liners and boldly proclaiming his greatness. When Golden Boy chief Oscar de la Hoya proclaimed Broner good enough to fight junior middleweights, the champ seemed to concur.
"I don’t lose. I don’t even like to lose weight," Broner said.
When the cameras are off, Broner is still jocular, though admittedly more low-key. He can be downright personable in more relaxed settings. Even in the wee hours of Sunday morning at the Caesar’s craps table, he seemed more nice young man than flashy superstar, for the moment. Broner and his entourage were jubilant, basking the admiration of a boxing press firmly convinced by his performance. The question now goes from Is Adrien Broner For Real, to Can Anyone Solve The Problem?
Staff favorite Terron Grant opened the show quickly against Abraham Esquivel, knocking the Mexican down three times en route to a first-round stoppage. Grant came out with his foot on the gas and hurt Esquivel immediately with a right to the body. Grant kept going downstairs, dropping his opponent three times before Esquivel’s corner finally stopped the fight at 2:14 of Round 1. It was a nice showing from Grant in front of the national press after struggling a bit in his last fight.
Bushwick, Brooklyn welterweight prospect Zachary Ochoa scored the earliest knockdown I’ve seen yet against Michael Salcido in the second fight, dropping him immediately after the opening bell with a right hand. The punch happened so quickly that I missed it and was forced to rely on my neighbor and friend David Greisman for the recap. Ochoa followed up with some digging body shots that send Salcido down again, then finished the fight with a right-hand left hook for a third and final knockdown.
The third fight between Philly’s Julian Williams and Jonel Tapia at 154 was a far more tedious affair, with Williams biding his time before stopping Tapia in the 7th round. Williams is a decent technician but can’t punch; Tapia has been stopped in two out of his last three fights. A lengthy delay helped the crowd get good and restless before Philadelphia’s Demetrius Hopkins came out to score a 5th-round stoppage over Joshua Snyder. The 32-year-old Hopkins is the nephew of Golden Boy partner Bernard Hopkins and it shows; few other fighters of his age and experience would be afforded a slot on this card against a foe that’s barely above .500.
The lead-in to the HBO telecast was another 8-rounder at 154, but considerably more exciting. Phil “The Italian Sensation” Lo Greco of Toronto went down on a hard right hand from Daniel Sostre in the first round, putting his unblemished record in serious peril. But Lo Greco battled back and kept coming after Sostre, who appeared to tire after some furious action in the first three rounds. Sostre was rocked in the 4th, but rallied in the 5th as both men teed off.
Lo Greco appeared to be hurting Sostre in the 5th and continued to pressure him in the 6th. A hard shot appeared to have Sostre ready to go, but he somehow stayed upright and fought back. But with his legs gone, Sostre’s punches didn’t have enough to keep the Italian at bay. Lo Greco kept coming, and hurt Sostre again with a final flurry in the 7th. The ref stepped in to stop the fight, perhaps a bit premature, and the crowd made its displeasure known. Of course no one but Sostre’s team would care by the end of the night.