Sometimes it takes a wake-up call for a great star to respond to his true potential.
That's exactly what Adrien Broner got in the early rounds of his WBC lightweight title fight against Gavin Rees on Saturday night. After surviving the gauntlet and finishing off Rees with a huge body shot en route to a fifth-round TKO, Broner cemented himself as boxing's newest star.
Here's the official tweet from HBO Boxing announcing Broner as the winner:
Broner scores a knockdown off a body shot, and Rees gains his feet but can't pull it together. His corner throws in the towel in Rd 5.— HBOboxing (@HBOboxing) February 17, 2013
Broner now boasts an impressive 26-0 mark during his professional career, including his 22nd KO victory after Rees threw in the towel after the fifth round on Saturday. His brash personality and killer jab speed have made him one of the sport's biggest risers over the past few years, and that was on display during this title fight.
After the first couple of rounds, we could all smell trouble brewing.
Rees got off to a strong start, clearly winning the first two rounds and looking like the more prepared fighter of the two. He didn't overpower the champ by any stretch, but he made sure his defense and timing were both on point and would have taken those two rounds into any decision.
However, Broner struck back, and after his third-round combination that pushed Rees back, it was clear that it was a matter of time before this one was over. Broner himself noted that Rees proved to be a tougher challenge than even he thought (via ESPN Boxing on Twitter):
Broner on Rees: "That's a tough steak, but I ate it."— ESPN Boxing (@ESPNBoxing) February 17, 2013
Leading into this event, many have proclaimed Broner as the sport's next big star.
Comparison's to Floyd Mayweather have been abundant. Even Money May might be impressed by the hand speed and striking ability that the 23-year-old has displayed so far in his professional career, something that was on full display in the final three rounds on Saturday night.
It's clear he's got all the tools, and that's why he garnering attention all over media markets.
Grantland's Jay Caspian King pondered whether this kid was the future of boxing in his latest piece. Ultimately, his eight-round battle against Antonio DeMarco put him on the national map, but he's had an air of confidence that we haven't seen in quite some time in boxing circles.
USA Today had a piece on his epic rise on Friday afternoon from Bob Velin, chronicling all the talk to go along with his ability on the canvas. Among everything said in the piece, one quote from Broner stood out, and it's one that I have a feeling we'll remember for a long time if he continues along his current path:
I'm trying to be the best boxer to ever lace up a pair of gloves.
Sure, it's cliche. Sure, plenty of youngsters have those goals and aspirations.
But this guy is doing it right now.
Rees was no joke. The guy was 37-1-1 coming into the fight, and is an accomplished fighter from Wales that has dispatched many a challenger in his day. He doesn't have the luster of some of the current pound-for-pound kings, but it was clear that he's a tough out—just in the first two rounds.
But Broner survived that first wave and still managed to get out of the ring before the final bell rang. It's becoming a trend in his fights, as the 22 KOs suggest.
When Oscar De La Hoya is mentioning you in the same breath as Muhammad Ali, you're doing something right (per the USA Today piece):
Broner likes to kid around, he likes to say it the way it is, but there's this sense of him just joking around, being funny. It's something that obviously Muhammad Ali had. It's not being cocky; it's not being arrogant; it's him just being a kid and having fun.
Some feel that Broner needs to grow up a little bit. Others feel that his kiddy act is part of what makes him such a great fighter. Kevin Iole wants to see him dominate a fight before we put a crown on his head an anoint him the next "Great One."
I like Broner as a fighter a lot. BUT someone needs to tell him fans don't want clowning in fight. They want to see him perform like a star— Kevin Iole (@KevinI) February 17, 2013
At just 23, there's still plenty for Broner to accomplish.
As Iole notes, he hasn't dominated every fight like a star, and those complaints will only mount further as he gains more notoriety. Still, after two very impressive performances against accomplished and veteran fighters like DeMarco and Rees, wonder is starting to set in about where Broner's potential really lies.
ESPN's Brian Campbell and I are wondering the same thing—what's next?
A superfight against fellow youngster Amir Khan? Maybe one against Brandon Rios? What about mentor and current boxing great Mayweather?
All within his reach.
Of course, Broner would have to move weight classes to challenge any of those fighters. With the way he's been dominating the WBC lightweight division, it's hard to envision the young fighter not wanting a tougher challenge for himself—especially if you listen to his post-fight interviews.
The next few months will be ones the young gun will want to remember fondly.
He's on his way to boxing stardom.