July 21 on HBO, Adrien Broner, 23(19)-0, will defend his WBO 130-pound belt against Vincente Escobedo, 26(15)-3, at the City Bank Arena in Cincinnati, Ohio. Earlier this afternoon, I interviewed the supremely self-confident 22-year-old champion by telephone.
Broner expressed no doubts that he will outclass the former Olympian just as easily as he has every other opponent so far. "I'll beat him. Everybody knows it."
But like the old saying goes, it ain't bragging if you can back it up. And few boxing writers or fans give Escobedo much chance against "The Problem."
Escobedo in a very good fighter with an impeccable amateur record. As a professional, he has done well, but lost when he has faced championship-level competition.
He was beaten badly by unanimous decision against Robert Guerrero in November of 2010, knocked down once each in rounds three and six. He hit the canvas a couple other times on what looked to me like they might have been knockdowns.
Against Guerrero, he showed a tendency to throw wide, which left him open to counter hooks and uppercuts, two of Broner's specialties. Escobedo had no answer for Guerrero's speed and timing when he countered.
I would estimate that Broner is quicker than the Ghost.
Escobedo also lost to Michael Katsidis by split decision in a world title fight. The third loss on his record is particularly interesting.
In April of 2006, in his 10th fight, he dropped a split decision to then 13-1-1 Daniel Jimenez. Jimenez was later KO'd in two by Eloy Perez.
Last February, Broner destroyed Perez inside of four.
This will be Broner's last fight in the super featherweight division, where, he complains, "Nobody will fight me."
With the move to 135, he plans to hunt belts: "There aren't going to be no test fights. We're going after the champions. If they'll fight me."
Broner confirmed that his stay at 135 would be temporary as well, adding that he felt he would top out in the 147-154 range before his career was done.
Broner was his characteristically confident self when contemplating his future climbing up the weight classes, though tight-lipped about who he thinks would make good potential opponents for him. When asked specifically about Yuri Gamboa, Broner stated "If he wants to fight me, he can fight me."
After a pause, he added, "He won't fight me, though."
"It doesn't matter," he said, when I asked him who he felt would be an opponent that could really push him and elevate his stature. "I make everybody look like nobodies."
Broner was more talkative about the subject of his native Cincinnati and its reputation as a great boxing city. "There must be something in the water there," he said, agreeing that the atmosphere had played a part in helping him to mature into the highly regarded young world champion he is today.
"They love boxing there," he said. "I love to fight for them."
Broner's status in his hometown is perhaps the best current example of the way the sport's health always seems to be infused by strong, young regional stars who create the opportunity for large, sold-out arena cards in parts of the country besides Las Vegas or other usual suspects.
At the same time, young stars like Broner hit their stride as premium cable main event fighters already familiar with what it is like to be a major sports star in a major league sized city.
Adrien Broner's title defense against Vicente Escobedo on July 21 may or may not be a competitive fight. I'm inclined to guess that it ultimately won't be.
Escobedo is a tough, hungry guy, and he will come to fight. I expect he will move right into range to trade with Broner and that Broner will make him pay dearly for it.
Even if Escobedo can stay away from a disastrous bomb, I still just can't see him being able to inflict more damage on Broner than Broner will inflict on him. Broner is simply quicker and more powerful on top of having great footwork and deadly accurate counter-punching.
But even if Broner wins in the manner most fans and writers expect him to, the fight remains noteworthy and worth watching, simply for the opportunity to watch a remarkable young boxing talent continue his evolution.
Boxing seems to be entering a period when some exciting young stars are finally starting to emerge out from under the shadows cast by Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao. The legend's son, Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr., is set to make his PPV debut at 25 this September 15. The 21-year-old Saul Alvarez is, meanwhile, so confident about his own popularity that he has scheduled himself to fight on the same night, across town.
To judge from what I see in readers' comments and read from other writers, Adrien Broner is clearly emerging as the same type of potential star In the United States.
I've already seen the sort of never-ending comment section arguments between his haters and fans that routinely crop up on most Floyd Maweather, Jr. stories. I'll go on record now predicting that Broner-Gamboa is going to end up being Pacquiao-Mayweather revisited, the fight everybody is dying to see.
If Escobedo does somehow manage to pull off an upset, to prove Broner's self-confidence was actually hubris, it will be tremendous high drama.
But more likely fans will be rewarded with drama of another, the drama of an emerging superstar writing the latest chapter of his resume.