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Friday, February 15, 2013
Nine fantasy fights for Adrien Broner

By Brian Campbell
ESPN.com

Given Adrien Broner's captivating skills and brash personality, it's understandable why fans and critics alike have clamored to find out just how good the unbeaten lightweight champ truly is.

The only way to do that, of course, is for him move up in weight and challenge the top names in the sport.

But in the aftermath of his breakthrough destruction of respected 135-pound titlist Antonio DeMarco in December, Broner (25-0, 21 KOs) and his team -- promoter Golden Boy and manager Al Haymon -- appear more suited to delaying such a leap in favor of his continuing to campaign at lightweight. It's understandable considering Broner is only 23 and the fact that many legitimate hurdles stand between him and those dream fights.

Still, it's hard not to imagine Broner's intoxicating talent matched against boxing's elite. With that in mind, here's a rundown of the fantasy fights we'd all love to see Broner in, along with what might stand in the way of each:

Gamboa

Yuriorkis Gamboa: With the talented junior lightweight in search of a big fight, an explosive showdown with Broner would seem to make sense, especially considering Gamboa has signed on with ambitious rapper-turned-promoter 50 Cent. But it's the direction that Gamboa's career is headed that remains a mystery, making the odds of a fight with Broner hard to predict. The 2004 Cuban Olympic gold medalist has fought only once in 16 months, doesn't have a fight scheduled and looked vulnerable late in his December victory over Michael Farenas when he suffered a knockdown. Then he toyed with the idea of moving up three weight classes to challenge Timothy Bradley Jr. for his welterweight title. Gamboa also was recently linked to a Miami-based anti-aging clinic alleged to have distributed performance-enhancing drugs.

Garcia

Danny Garcia: Like Broner, the unbeaten junior welterweight champion competes under the Golden Boy banner, making a fight between the two an eventual no-brainer, right? Well, maybe not. It depends in part on whether the promoter will try to protect Garcia's unblemished mark, potentially matching him in a high-profile -- and much more winnable -- rematch against Amir Khan instead of showdowns within its own stable against Broner or Lucas Matthysee. Either way, Garcia has to get through Zab Judah in April first. But if he can make it through 2013 with a perfect mark, a fight with Broner wouldn't be out of the question.

Matthysse

Lucas Matthysse: We know the hard-hitting Argentine and resident demolition man at 140 pounds wants nothing more than a shot at Garcia's junior welterweight crown. But considering how frightening an opponent he became in 2012, Matthysse probably will continue to be avoided by big-name opponents as Golden Boy seems intent instead on persuading him to battle fellow countryman and action star Marcos Maidana. Although Broner has no incentive to go anywhere near a meeting with Matthysse just yet, it's a matchup that down the road could be extremely marketable and memorable, as Matthysse represents the single most dangerous opponent realistically available to him.

Khan

Amir Khan: A fight between Broner and the former junior welterweight champion is easy to make, and one that could provide a good test for "The Problem" considering Khan's length, hand speed and ability to box. Khan also has the perfect mix of vulnerability and name recognition should Broner want to turn a potential 140-pound debut in 2013 into a big event. As long as Khan continues to win, it's a card that could be played at any point.

Brandon Rios: The prospect of Broner facing the unrelenting gunslinger Rios is a dream for just about every fan of the sport. Unfortunately, here's the nightmare: We'll never see it as long as the cold war between Golden Boy and Top Rank continues to set boxing back. Erase the thought from your mind.

Marquez

Juan Manuel Marquez: If there's a somewhat realistic fight that would give Broner his biggest potential boost toward becoming a headlining pay-per-view force, it's this one against the Mexican legend, who lacks any promotional entanglements that would get in the way. But even though Broner has been publicly open to this fight in recent months, the timing is way off. Marquez, 39, probably is headed for a potentially brutal -- and financially friendly -- fifth fight with Manny Pacquiao this fall.

Timothy Bradley Jr.: Any hopes of seeing this matchup between highly skilled and unbeaten American fighters gets shot down by Bradley's affiliation with Top Rank, which has had enough trouble finding him a fight with anyone of name value.

Manny Pacquiao: Don't even think about it. No chance.

Mayweather

Floyd Mayweather Jr.: Broner and Mayweather are good friends who share the same manager, and Broner even has gone so far as to say the fight will never happen because Mayweather is like a brother to him. At this point, the fight is pure fantasy and at least two years off from becoming viable should the stars ever properly align. Still, it's hard to imagine a more appealing crossroads fight to an American audience than this one, which would have record-breaking potential at the gate. It's even harder to imagine both fighters being unwilling to even consider it if either the money was right or their close relationship became strained.

For now, Broner's immediate future appears to be stuck in the 135-pound division, where a possible bout with Scottish titlist Ricky Burns could be in the cards should Burns get past Miguel Vazquez in a March unification bout. In any case, Broner is carving his path toward pound-for-pound elite status at a measured pace, on his own time, as the boxing public awaits his next big move.