Adrien Broner to Make First Title Defense at Lightweight—Next Step: Who Knows?

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Adrien Broner to Make First Title Defense at Lightweight—Next Step: Who Knows?
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Saturday, February 16, will mark one of the most highly anticipated nights of the young year to date for boxing fans, as 23-year-old phenom Adrien "The Problem" Broner (25-0, 21 KOs) makes his return to the ring at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J., for the first time since winning the WBC lightweight title in November, to face former junior welterweight champion Galvin Rees (37-1-1, 18 KOs) of Scotland. The bout will be broadcast live on HBO.

Rees could very well be the toughest test to date for the Cincinnati native. In only his second bout at 135 pounds, Broner will face a former 140-pound world champ.

But according to what Broner told me when I interviewed him by phone earlier this week, a slightly larger opponent has not caused any changes in preparation. "My training's been going great," he said. "Everything exactly the same as always, nothing different."

As the old cliche goes, why fix what ain't broken. In winning the title from Antonio DeMarco, Broner was utterly dominant, beating the defending champion up badly before stopping him in eight.

Broner's meteoric rise has left few observers doubting that his future is bright. Just where that bright light will end up shining remains to be seen. 

When I interviewed Broner at one point last year, he told me he expected to eventually top out in the 147-to-154-pound range. When I spoke to him this week, I asked him how long he expected to stay at 135:

It's hard to say. I could see myself going after belts...I'd love to unify the lightweight title, but who knows...It will depends who is willing to fight me.

The possibility of unifying the 135-pound belts actually seems almost tantalizingly close right now. In March, Ricky Burns and Miguel Vazquez are scheduled to unify their IBF and WBO belts. Also in March, Richard Abril will fight for the vacant WBA strap against Sharif Bogere. 

In theory, at least, there is time to unify all the belts by year's end. Broner just might have the star power to make it happen, should he keep winning. 

But aside from a possible scrap with Burns, none of those bouts has a whole lot of box office sizzle. Vazquez is among the most elusive fighters in the game, but his bouts can be less than compelling.

I saw him fight live last October, and again on the Marquez-Pacquiao undercard in December. He's not a fighter I am anxious to see again, even against Broner. 

Abril, too, is a defensive specialist. I thought he clearly deserved to win in his split decision loss to Brandon Rios last year. But it was also pretty much the only fight I've ever seen Rios in that was less than completely exciting. 

Speaking of Rios, I think the entire boxing world would perk up at the possibility of Broner stepping up to 140 to fight him. But Broner fights for Golden Boy and Rios is one of Top Ranks most exciting fighters, so it is extremely unlikely they would risk sacrificing the Mexican-American star's perfect record just to build the legend of one of their rival's top young stars.

But setting Rios aside, the junior welterweight division is still stuffed with potential superfights for Broner against other exciting young stars like Danny Garcia or Lucas Matthysse.

So, my own guess is, don't expect to see Adrien Broner sticking around 135 for long. Most likely he will pass this next test against Rees, and perhaps he'll collect another lightweight belt or two later in the summer.

But I expect to see him fight at 140 pounds by year's end.  

 

Briggs Seekins is a Bleacher Report Featured Columnist. All quotes were obtained firsthand. Follow Briggs Seekins on Twitter.

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