Broner a knockout in front of Cincy fans
CINCINNATI -- In a town adorned with famed and storied boxing figures, Cincinnati may have given birth to another fighting son on Saturday.
Junior lightweight Adrien Broner (22-0 18 KO) repaid the thousands-strong legion that turned out at U.S. Bank Arena to watch their hometown fighter with an intoxicating third-round knockout of Vicente Rodriguez to claim a vacant WBO junior lightweight belt.
Broner, in just his first title fight, showed against Rodriguez why he already is considered by many to be the best fighter in his division.
From the opening bell Broner's arsenal proved to be every bit as powerful as his personality. Entering the ring with all the panache and braggadocio of a reigning king, Broner, 22, nicknamed "The Problem," showed Rodriguez there were few solutions to his speed and supreme ability to fight in the pocket.
In the first round, a series of uppercuts and lighting-fast jabs swelled the lower right eye of the game but obviously slower Rodriguez (34-3-1, 18 KO). By the start of the second round, Rodriguez realized his only chance was to roll the dice and swing with abandon.
But it was in those moments that Broner showed a maturity that echoed the patience he displayed in his previous fight, a June victory over Jason Litzau. Against Rodriguez, Broner rested on the ropes and calmly absorbed the desperate Argentine's flurries, in a manner reminiscent of another unassuming fighter by the name of Floyd Mayweather Jr., who was watching with interest from ringside. Broner then advanced with aggression and accuracy.
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With Rodriguez on the ropes, Broner unleashed an uppercut that weakened his opponent, while a final flurry sealed the coup d'etat -- Rodriguez was decamped among the ring ropes, blood streaming from his nose.
"He was wide, he was open," Broner said of Rodriguez after the fight. "So I figured I would take advantage of that and let him in."
In total, Broner threw 71 power punches in just three rounds, landing on 41 percent, compared to Rodriguez's 22 percent connect rate.
For Broner, a standout amateur who came from the same gym as 2000 Olympian Ricardo Williams Jr., a Cincinnati fight and the delivery of a title served as a tidy seal for a career that had thus far been built on promise.
The fact that it was achieved in front of his hometown fans, in such a storied fight town (which lays claim to Ezzard Charles and Aaron Pryor, among others), meant even more to the usually brash Broner.
"You saw I was crying," he said. "I dreamed of this my whole life. At six years old, I told my dad that I would be world champion, and on Nov. 26, 2011, I am."
Russell drills Ruiz
The precursor to Broner's blowout was a stunning first-round knockout from the rapidly rising and prodigiously talented featherweight Gary Russell Jr.
Russell, 23, a standout amateur and 2008 U.S. team Olympian, extended his unbeaten record to 19-0 (and 11 KOs) with a thundering right hook to the jaw of Heriberto Ruiz (48-12-2). The crowd erupted as Ruiz fell, seemingly unconscious before he made contact with the canvas. It was clear that Ruiz, eyes glazed and motionless, would not get up to beat the count.
In the process, Russell took a step toward dispelling the whispers that his peerless boxing ability isn't complemented by powerful hands.
"I want to be exciting, but I think there are ways to be exciting without being reckless," Russell said.
Immediately after his highlight-reel stoppage, Russell said his work for this year isn't done, claiming he wants to remain active through a busy calender year in which he has now fought six times.
"It's back to the drawing board now," he said. "I'll be back in the gym on Monday and hope that my family has saved me a plate of Thanksgiving food."
Igor Guryashkin is a researcher for ESPN The Magazine and a boxing contributor for ESPN.com.
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