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A Note on Broner-Maidana

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Gordon Marino has written, “You can’t get into boxing without an ego. But you have to keep an eye on it.”

Self-control has never been 24-year-old Adrien Broner’s strong point. Much of his life has been a study in excess.

This summer, Broner sat for a video that showed him half-dressed while purportedly defecating into a toilet in Popeye’s and then wiping himself with United States currency. The video was posted on YouTube with the title “Adrien Broner takes a s–t in Popeye’s.” Four days later, it had close to 50,000 hits. The posted comments were not favorable: “Lowlife scum . . . What a effing idiot . . . Retarded . . . Cancer to society . . . Disgusting a—–e . . . His kids are doomed . . . Keep up the good role modeling, Broner.”

Undeterred, Broner posted a sex video in October. This one showed him having intercourse with two women and no condom. On-line comments from viewers indicated that Adrien has more of a future as a fighter than as an X-rated film star.

The circus is fun. But sooner or later, most kids outgrow it. There’s a line between being your own man and doing things that are self-destructive.

“I was young once too,” trainer Don Turner (who has worked with fighters like Larry Holmes and Evander Holyfield) says. “That’s no excuse. Everybody was young once. You make choices.”

Earlier this year, Broner was being hyped as “the future of boxing.” And he’d come to believe the hype that was accompanying his ring success.

“Boxing is hit and don’t get hit,” Adrien told the media. “It’s not, hit, okay, now you hit me. I don’t care if I come out my whole career without getting touched. I’m not in it to go in there and let someone beat up my face. That’s not how you do it. Stay slick.”

But Broner was hitting and not getting hit against lesser fighters. And as Don Turner notes, “You have to be on the receiving end sometimes to know what this game is about. You have to be tested, so you learn how to pass the tests.”

Then, in June, Broner challenged Paulie Malignaggi for the WBA 147-pound title and emerged with a split-decision triumph. But the bloom was off the rose. Malignaggi exposed some of Adrien’s limitations: the wide spread of his feet that inhibits movement, his vulnerability to attack, the inability to transition seamlessly from defense to offense.

But Paulie didn’t have the firepower to finish the job. Adrien upped his record to 27-and-0. That set the stage for the December 14th match-up between Broner and Marcos Maidana.

Maidana is a volume puncher who gives one hundred percent every time out. His record was 34-and-3 with 30 knockouts. But he’d barely survived a shopworn Erik Morales and struggled in victories over Victor Ortiz, Jesus Soto-Karass, and Josesito Lopez. His idea of defense is sitting on his stool between rounds.

Broner was a 3-to-1 betting favorite. However, in most of Adrien’s previous fights, in addition to his skills, he’d enjoyed a size and strength advantage over his opponent. That wouldn’t be the case against Maidana.

Thus, Jimmy Tobin wrote, “Maidana has the power to put Broner’s lights out and the toughness to take second and third helpings of whatever leather he is served. Maidana also boasts the puncher’s resolve, that stubborn arrogance that concedes damage to reciprocate it exponentially. He will not temper his aggression simply because he is punished for it and he has crawled off the deck to practically invade two other prematurely-anointed superstars [Victor Ortiz and Amir Khan]. He is never an easy out.”

Boxer versus puncher is one type of classic match-up in boxing. Another is fighters who quit (e.g. Mike Tyson and Andrew Golota) versus fighters who don’t (e.g. Arturo Gatti). Everyone knew that Maidana wouldn’t quit. The jury was out on Broner.

It was an exciting action fight.

Adrien views himself as a master craftsman. Marcos is a simple brickmaker, but he makes a lot of bricks and was in attack mode all night.

Ten seconds into round one, Maidana tagged Broner with a left hook that propelled Adrien into the ropes. Suddenly Broner had a bad case of the wobbles, and Marcos was all over him. Later in the round, Adrien spun out of the corner and thrust his hips against Maidana’s rear end, simulating anal intercourse. Showtime (the network that prides itself on the mini-series Masters of Sex) chose not to replay the moment in the sixty seconds between rounds. More significantly, referee Laurence Cole let it pass, which was a prelude to his losing control of the fight. Broner led with his head, raked his gloves across Maidana’s face, and used his forearms and elbows as offensive weapons throughout the bout. Marcos went low often enough that it was also an issue.

Meanwhile, twenty-five seconds into round two, Broner was floored by a left hook, the first time in his pro career that he’d been on the canvas. He rose on shaky legs and took a pounding.

That set the pattern for bout. Maidana was relentless, winging punches from all angles with both hands and keeping the pressure on all night. Broner is accustomed to pot-shotting opponents who can’t hurt him. Here, Maidana exchanged because he wanted to, and Broner traded blows when he had no choice. Often, Adrien held on like he and Marcos were slow-dancing.

Simon and Garfunkel sang, “I’d rather be a hammer than a nail,”  and Broner was the nail to Maidana’s hammer. Marcos beat the confidence out of him and exposed one more flaw: Adrien’s inability to make adjustments during a fight.

Midway through round eight, a left hook up top put Broner on the canvas for the second time. He rose; Maidana came in for the kill; Adrien clinched; and Marcos headbutted him. Broner thought about the situation for a moment. Then, looking very much like a drowning man who has just seen a life preserver bobbing in the water, he gave a thespian performance that saw him sink to the canvas (carefully, so as to break his fall with his knee) and roll over onto his back while simulating agony. When finally he rose, he refused to answer the referee’s query, “Are you all right?” Cole then deducted a point from Maidana for the headbutt and, to Adrien’s apparent dismay, decreed that the fight should continue. Lost in the drama was the fact that Broner’s performance had earned him an additional seventy seconds to recover from the knockdown.

When it was over, Broner had been outlanded by a 269-to-149 margin that included a 231-to-122 disadvantage in power punches. Adrien’s best punch of the night was a cheap-shot left hook to the jaw after the bell ending round eleven. He talked the talk before the bout but didn’t walk the walk when it counted. The judges scored the fight 117-109, 116-109, and 115-110 for Maidana.

In some ways, the most disheartening aspect of the evening for Broner was how limited his ring skills (as opposed to his natural physical gifts) looked. Maidana has limitations. Last year, Devon Alexander won ten out of ten rounds against him and made Marcos look like an amateur by simply moving and jabbing.

Broner left the ring immediately after the bout and refused to give an on-air interview. Later that evening, he told Barry Tompkins, “I’m still young, fly, and flashy. We’re going to live tomorrow like we won the fight. I’m still going to party. My first party is going to be on Tuesday in Cincinnati. If you want me in your club. I will be in your club. We’re gonna have fun.”

That’s part of the problem.

Broner is a good fighter with potential that has not yet been fully developed. The question is, where does he go from here? Does he work to get better, or does he go back to fighting less challenging opponents and leave it at that?

Thomas Hauser can be reached by email at thauser@rcn.com. His most recent book (Straight Writes and Jabs: An Inside Look at Another Year in Boxing) has just been published by the University of Arkansas Press.

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Thomas Hauser is the author of 52 books. In 2005, he was honored by the Boxing Writers Association of America, which bestowed the Nat Fleischer Award for career excellence in boxing journalism upon him. He was the first Internet writer ever to receive that award. In 2019, Hauser was chosen for boxing's highest honor: induction into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. Lennox Lewis has observed, “A hundred years from now, if people want to learn about boxing in this era, they’ll read Thomas Hauser.”

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Billam-Smith Avenges Lone Defeat; Retains Cruiser Belt in a Messy Fight

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In a mild upset, Bournemouth’s Chris Billam-Smith, an overachiever, successfully defended his WBO cruiserweight title with an inelegant 12-round unanimous decision over previously undefeated Richard Riakporhe. In the process, Billam-Smith, who advanced to 20-1 (13), avenged his lone defeat. Riakporhe won a split decision in their previous encounter five years ago in London.

This was a messy fight marred by excessive clinching. Referee Steve Gray, who earned his pay, warned both fighters during the match for a laundry list of infractions and eventually deducted a point from Riakporhe for leading with his head. The point deduction came in the final round and sealed the win for the Bournemouth fighter who prevailed on scores of 116-111 and 115-112 twice. Riakporhe declined to 17-1.

The fight was contested outdoors at the Crystal Palace soccer grounds in South London. The sky was grey and a light rain was falling when the show started, but the rain let up well before nightfall.

Billam-Smith, who is trained by Shane McGuigan, was making the second defense of the title he won with an upset of Lawrence Okolie. The other cruiserweight title-holders are Jai Opetaia (IBF), Gilberto Ramirez (WBA) and Noel Mikaelyan (aka Noel Gevor). Billam-Smith would be a decided underdog to Opetaia. Fights with Ramirez and Mikaelyan would likely be snoozefests.

Semi-Wind-up

Olympic silver medalist Ben Whittaker, a light heavyweight whose arrogant showboating has translated into a large social media following, went 10 rounds for the first time in his career and won a lopsided decision, advancing his record to 8-0 (5). Whittaker’s opponent, Ezra Arenyeka, a 28-year-old Nigerian, brought a 12-0 record that on closer inspection included only three wins over opponents with winning records.

Arenyeka plowed forward much of the fight, but kept a high guard and had trouble letting his hands go. In round seven, he lost a point for hitting Whittaker in the face with an elbow. The scores were 100-89 and 99-90 twice.

Also

In another mild upset, Jack Massey won the vacant European cruiserweight title with a 12-round decision over Isaac Chamberlain. Massey, who improved to 22-2 (12), is a stablemate of reigning IBF female welterweight champion Natasha Jonas who was part of the broadcasting crew. He went 10 rounds in a losing effort with former heavyweight title-holder Joseph Parker in January of last year before returning to his natural weight class. This was a competitive fight with several momentum swings.  Chamberlain, 16-2 heading in, lost by scores of 116-112 and 115-113 twice.

Dan Azeez, who had Hall of Fame trainer Buddy McGirt in his corner, was expected to have an easy time with Hrvoje Sep, a 38-year-old Ukrainian, but Azeez (20-1-1) had to work hard to salvage a draw with Sep (12-2-1) in an 8-round light heavyweight match.

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Notes on Saturday’s Boxing Action Topped by the Return of Gervonta ‘Tank’ Davis

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Notes on Saturday’s Boxing Action Topped by the Return of Gervonta ‘Tank’ Davis

Gervonta “Tank” Davis returns to the ring on Saturday after an absence of nearly 14 months that included a 44-day stint in a Baltimore jail. In the opposite corner is St. Louis southpaw Frank “The Ghost” Martin.

Davis (29-0, 27 KOs) is now the undisputed lightweight champion of the WBA. He had been sharing that distinction with Devin Haney who was de-frocked when he moved up in weight. Martin (18-0, 12 KOs) is also undefeated and their match is the main attraction of a four-fight pay-per-view on Amazon Prime Video and affiliates including PPV.com (list price $74.99) where viewers have the opportunity to interact with the hosts, namely Jim Lampley, Lance Pugmire, Chris Algieri, and Dan Conobbio.

One other world title fight and two contrived interim title fights support the main event. The title fight, which will serve as the PPV opener, pits WBC middleweight title-holder Carlos Adames (23-1, 19 KOs) against former U.S. Olympian Terrell Gausha (24-3-1, 12 KOs). Adames became a full-fledged title-holder last month when the organization stripped trouble-plagued Jermall Charlo of the belt within hours after his DWI arrest in Texas.

Tired of waiting around for Canelo, David Benavidez elected to move up in weight where he will face former WBC light heavyweight champion Oleksandr Gvozdyk.

It was inevitable that Benavidez (28-0, 24 KOs) would out-grow the super middleweight division. He carried 180 ¾ pounds for his second pro fight when he was 16 years old. Gvozdyk (20-1, 16 KOs) stepped away from boxing after getting stopped by Artur Beterbiev in a unification fight in October of 2019. He was badly beaten in that fight although he was ahead on two of the scorecards through the nine completed rounds. He missed all of 2020, 2021, and 2022 before returning to the ring in February of last year, shaking off the rust in a 6-round fight, and subsequently won two bouts by knockout. The Ukrainian turned 37 in April.

In the other interim title fight, super lightweight Gary Gary Antuanne Russell (17-0, 17 KOs) meets Alberto Puello (22-0, 10 KOs) in a battle of southpaws. Puello, a 29-year-old Dominican, briefly held the WBA diadem at 140, but had it stripped from him when he tested positive for PEDs.

Gervonta Davis has proved to be one of the biggest draws in boxing. Among American-born fighters, no one is currently at his level as a ticket-seller. However, it will be surprising if his bout with Frank Martin tomorrow night in Las Vegas at the MGM Grand can match the numbers he achieved in his last outing where he was pit against the charismatic Ryan Garcia who he stopped with a body punch in the seventh round. In all four of the fights on tomorrow’s pay-per-view, the favorite is chalked in the 7/1 range. Moreover, a DAZN event in Puerto Rico that overlaps the early portion of the pay-per-view may nibble away at the receipts.

Three high-grade 10-round preliminaries will precede the pay-per-view. These three fights, “teasers” as it were, can be accessed for free regardless of Prime membership. The action in the “free” portion of the card begins at 5:30 pm ET/2:30 pm PT.

DAZN

The DAZN card is a Matchroom promotion in Manati, Puerto Rico. IBF 140-pound world champion Subriel Matias makes the second defense of his title against Brisbane, Australia’s Liam Paro. A late bloomer, Matias (20-1, 20 KOs) has knocked out all of his opponents including the only man to defeat him (Petros Ananyan). Paro (24-0, 15 KOs) looked sharp in his last fight wherein he TKOed Montana Love, but will be up against it in Puerto Rico. Matias, who is making his first start in his hometown since 2019, is already looking ahead to a match with Regis Prograis.

The Matias-Paro ring walk is expected to commence shortly before 11 pm, ET/8 pm PT.

PEACOCK

For diehard fight fans in the U.S., it will be wall-to-wall boxing for about 11 straight hours beginning at 1:30 pm ET/10:30 am PT when NBC’s subscription channel, Peacock, begins its coverage of the WBO cruiserweight title fight in South London between Chris Billam-Smith (19-1, 13 KOs) and Richard Riakporhe. (17-0, 13 KOs).

Billam-Smith, who is trained by Shane McGuigan, will be making the second defense of the title he won with an upset of Lawrence Okolie while seeking to avenge his lone defeat. These two met in a 10-rounder back in July of 2019 with Riakporhe emerging the winner by a split decision.

Billam-Smith’s last two fights have been in his hometown of Bournemouth. Tomorrow, he fights on the grounds of the Crystal Palace Football Club of which Riakporhe is a big supporter. The bookies like the Londoner’s chance to prevail again. The challenger, Riakporhe, is an 11/5 favorite.

Fights to Watch (All Times Pacific)

Peacock: Chris Billam-Smith vs. Richard Riakporhe: 2:00 p.m. (prelims beginning at 10:30 a.m.)

DAZN: Subriel Matias vs. Liam Paro: 7:45 p.m. (prelims beginning at 4:30 p.m.)

AMAZON PRIME VIDEO PPV: Gervonta Davis vs. Frank Martin plus three: 5:00 p.m. (prelims beginning at 2:30 p.m.)

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Boxing at the Paris Olympics: Looking Ahead and Looking Back

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One hundred years ago, Paris was the host city for the Summer Olympics. What goes around, comes around.

In the upcoming Paris Games, boxers will compete for medals in 13 categories. The number remains unchanged from Tokyo, but the ratio has been modified. In Tokyo, there were eight weight classes for men and five for women. The men have lost one and the women have gained one, so in 2024 it is seven and six.

Eight American boxers made it through the qualifying tournaments and will represent Uncle Sam in the City of Lights.

The U.S. boxing contingent in Paris

Men

Roscoe Hill, flyweight (51 kg), Spring TX

Jahmal Harvey, featherweight (57 kg), Oxon Hill, MD

Omari Jones, middleweight (71 kg), Orlando, FL

Joshua Edwards, super heavyweight, Houston, TX

Women

Jennifer Lozano, flyweight (50 kg), Laredo, Tx

Alyssa Mendoza, featherweight (57 kg), Caldwell, ID

Jajaira Gonzalez, lightweight (60 kg), Montclair, CA

Morelle McCane, welterweight (66 kg), Cleveland, OH

Paris, 1924

At the Paris Summer Games of 1924, boxers competed for medals in the eight standard weight classes. The competition was restricted to men. Female boxers were excluded until the 2012 Games in London where the women were sorted into three weight classes: flyweight, lightweight, and middleweight.

Twenty-seven nations sent one or more boxers to the 1924 Games. In total, there were 181 competitors. The United States and Great Britain had the largest squads. Each sent 16 men into the tournament, the maximum allowable as each nation was allowed two entrants in each of the weight classes.

The United States and Great Britain each walked away with two gold medals. The other gold medal winners represented Denmark, Norway, Belgium, and South Africa. But the U.S. team garnered the most medals, six overall including two silver and two bronze, two more than the runner-up, Great Britain.

What’s interesting is that three of the six U.S. medalists came out of the same gym, the Los Angeles Athletic Club. They were proteges of the club’s boxing instructor George Blake who would go on to become one of America’s top referees. The trio included both gold medalists, flyweight Fidel LaBarba and featherweight Jackie Fields, and silver medalist Joe Salas who had the misfortune of meeting Fields in the finals.

LaBarba and Fields were mature beyond their years. LaBarba was 18 years old and hadn’t yet completed high school when he secured a berth on the U.S. Olympic team. Fields, a high school dropout, was even younger. He was 16 years, five months, and 11 days old on the day that he won his gold medal. That remains the record for the youngest boxer of any nationality to win Olympic gold.

Fields and LaBarba both went on to win world titles at the professional level. Let’s take a look at their post-Paris careers. We will start with Fields and save the brilliant LaBarba for another day.

Jackie Fields  

Jackie Fields was born Jacob Finkelstein in the Maxwell Street ghetto of Chicago. His father, an immigrant from Russia and a butcher by trade, moved the family to Los Angeles when Jackie was 14 years old.

Jackie Fields

Jackie Fields

Fields turned pro in February of 1925. Despite his tender age, he was fast-tracked owing to his Olympic pedigree. But his manager Gig Rooney blundered when he put Jackie in against Jimmy McLarnin in only his seventh pro fight. A baby-faced assassin, born in Northern Ireland and raised in Canada, McLarnin, destined to be remembered as an all-time great, was more advanced than Jackie and blasted him out in the second round.

Fields rebounded to win his next 16 fights. His signature win during this run was a 12-round newspaper decision over Sammy Mandell, the Rockford Sheik. Mandell was the reigning world lightweight champion, but because this was officially a no-decision fight, a concession to Mandell, the title could not change hands unless Fields knocked him out.

Fields’ skein ended at New York’s Polo Grounds where he was out-pointed across 10 rounds by Louis “Kid” Kaplan, a 108-fight veteran and former world featherweight title-holder. But Fields built his way back into contention and claimed the world welterweight title in March of 1929 by winning a 10-round decision over Young Jack Thompson at the Chicago Coliseum. They fought for the title vacated by Joe Dundee who was stripped of the belt for failing to defend his title in a timely manner.

The jubilation that Fields felt in winning the title was tempered by an ugly incident in the eighth round when a race riot broke out in the balcony. One man died when he jumped or was pushed off the balcony and scores were injured; “more than thirty” according to one report. Many ringsiders, to avoid flying objects, took refuge inside the ropes but the contest continued after the disturbance was quelled and the ring was cleared.

Fields made the first defense of the title against Joe Dundee. They fought at the Michigan State Fairgrounds in Detroit before an estimated 25,000.

Fields had Dundee on the canvas twice before Dundee was disqualified in the second round for a low blow. The punch was clearly intentional. Fields, to his great distress, wasn’t wearing a protective cup. Heading in, Joe Dundee was still recognized as the champion in New York, so one could say that Jackie Fields unified the title.

After a series of non-title fights, Fields lost the belt to old rival Young Jack Thompson. At the conclusion of the 15-round contest, Young Jack was a bloody mess – he would need to go to a hospital to have his lacerations repaired –but Thompson, who also came up the ladder in California rings, was fairly deemed the winner. This would be the last collaboration between Fields and Gig Rooney. The wily Jack “Doc” Kearns, who had managed Jack Dempsey and was then involved with Mickey Walker, horned right in and became Jackie’s new manager.

Kearns maneuvered Fields into a match with Lou Brouillard who had wrested the title from Thompson four months earlier and Fields rose to the occasion, winning a unanimous 10-round decision in Chicago to become a two-time world welterweight champion. It was a furious battle, wrote the correspondent for the Chicago Tribune. “[Fields] hit Brouillard with everything but the water bucket.”

After another series of non-title fights, Fields risked his belt against Young Corbett III. They fought at the baseball park in San Francisco before an estimated 15,000 on the afternoon of Feb. 22, 1933.

Fields was damaged goods. He had suffered a detached retina in his right eye in a minor auto accident and there was no cure for it. Corbett III (Rafaele Giordano) was a southpaw which was all wrong for a boxer with blurred vision in his right eye. Jackie fought back valiantly after losing the first five rounds, but lost the decision. The referee’s card (6-3-1 for Corbett III) appeared a tad generous to the loser.

Fields retired after one more fight. A closer look at his final record (72-9-2, 31 KOs) shows that he had 19 fights with 10 men who held a world title at some point in their career, including six future Hall of Famers (Jimmy McLarnin, Louis “Kid” Kaplan, Sammy Mandell, “Gorilla” Jones, Lou Brouillard, and Young Corbett III), and was 12-6-1 in these encounters. He was stopped only once, that by the great McLarnin in Jackie’s seventh pro fight.

Jackie Fields Post-Boxing

Fields wasn’t in good shape financially when he left the sport. His various investments were shambled by the stock market crash of 1929. For a time, he lived in Pennsylvania, first in Pittsburgh and then in Philadelphia where he was a distributor for the Wurlitzer juke box company and a sales executive with a distillery.

In 1957, he purchased an interest in a gambling establishment, the Tropicana Hotel in Las Vegas. (Note: In Nevada, prior to 1967, public corporations were prohibited from owning or operating a property that housed a casino. Anyone purchasing one or more shares, called points, had to submit to a background check which did little to stanch the influence of the mob.)

Fields eventually sold his shares, but remained with the Tropicana in a public relations capacity. During the 1970s, he served on the Nevada State Athletic Commission. He passed away in 1987 at age 79 at a nursing home in Las Vegas after being hospitalized for a heart ailment. In 2004, he was inducted posthumously into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

For all that he accomplished as a pro, Fields always insisted that his proudest moment came in Paris. “As I stood there, with the band playing the Star Spangled Banner, I cried like a baby, I was that thrilled.”

PHOTO: 2024 U.S. Olympian Roscoe Hill

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