Step Inside Adrien Broner’s Camp During His Last Fight

by Kieran Mulvaney

Adrien Broner - Photo Credit: Hogan Photos

As the rain outside pours from the sky above Cincinnati, a small entourage files into the hotel lobby.

First to emerge from the elevator is Levi Smith, hand-wrapper, cut man and corner sage, experienced and unflappable. He is followed by J.P., a large specimen of humanity whose job is to eye approaching strangers warily and who fulfills his duties instantly as he fixes me with an uncertain glare. Then Mike Stafford – “Coach Mike” – in his defining pose: bag over one shoulder, cellphone in his other hand, pressed to his ear. He looks up, smiles, offers a hand, returns to his conversation.

Quietly, unannounced, the fighter himself appears. He looks the part: face half-hidden behind huge shades, ear buds connected to an iPhone, muscles straining against his shirt. But there is no crowd, nobody seeking an autograph, and the thought that immediately occurs is that this is surely one of the last occasions on which that will be the case. Two days before an HBO fight against Vicente Escobedo, in his hometown, and Adrien ‘The Problem’ Broner is able to walk from elevator to valet stand unmolested and undisturbed. It is a relative anonymity. But if, over the next couple of years, Broner’s career tracks along the path that so many have predicted for it, such anonymity will soon be a thing of the past.

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Chad Dawson Seeks Redemption at the Scene of His Fall

by Kieran Mulvaney

Photo: Ed Mulholland

It was once so different for Chad Dawson.

Two and a half years ago, he was poised to fight Antonio Tarver for the IBF light heavyweight championship; as he sat in his locker room that evening, his phone rang. It was Floyd Mayweather, Jr.

Mayweather, who knows about such things, said that night that Dawson was the best fighter, pound-for-pound, on the planet , and after Dawson dominated and outpointed Tarver, there was no shortage of observers who felt that, if Dawson wasn't quite there yet, he was certainly on his way.

After all, Dawson had already won, and made several defenses of, the WBC belt, a series of victories that included wins over Tomasz Adamek and Glen Johnson, and he had done so with a slick effortlessness that suggested there were still higher levels yet to be reached.

But over his next couple of bouts, doubts began to creep in, suggestions that maybe what had appeared consummate ease in fact owed more to a lack of passion. It was a suspicion that appeared to be borne out last August, when Dawson meekly surrendered his crown to Jean Pascal at Montreal's Bell Center.

On Saturday, he returns to the scene of that loss; but whereas his conqueror earns a second shot at future Hall-of-Famer Bernard Hopkins, Dawson must content himself with a spot on the undercard, against another hometown fighter, Adrian Diaconu. In his corner this time, for the first time, will be Emanuel Steward, who has been extolling his fighter's attributes while encouraging him to make subtle changes in his style that will enable him to be more effective.

Diaconu - who, like Dawson, has lost only to Pascal - has in many ways been preparing for this bout for four years, after being forced to pull out when they were scheduled to meet in 2007. He has every intention, says his trainer Pierre Bouchard, of stealing the show on Saturday night - from Pascal, from Hopkins, and most of all from Dawson.

But Dawson is equally determined to use Diaconu as a springboard back to the top: "It's a very important night for me," Dawson said. "The fact that I'm back in Montreal and Pascal and Hopkins are fighting on the same card. I want to win. I want to win impressively. And I want to strike some fear into the hearts of those two guys. "When the night's over, it'll be clear I'm the best fighter at 175 pounds. "I didn't perform well [in August]. I had one bad night and suddenly everyone turned on me. But by the time I get out of the ring Saturday, they'll all be back on the bandwagon."

Jean Pascal vs. Bernard Hopkins: Weigh-In

by  Kieran Mulvaney

Photo: Ed Mulholland

Maybe it all started with the belt.

At the end of the final pre-fight press conference before the first in-ring encounter between Bernard Hopkins and Jean Pascal, the plan was for the two men to pose with Pascal’s WBC light-heavyweight belt. Instead, Hopkins took it for himself, and when the champion made a move to snatch it, he moved it behind his back, like a teenager tormenting his kid brother with a game of keep-away. Pascal lost his cool, Hopkins goaded him with undoubtedly barbed comments, there was pushing and shoving and a net result in which Hopkins, not for the first time, appeared to have burrowed his way into an opponent’s head.

Since then, the tension has only increased. Their confrontation in the ring left neither man defeated, but each feeling deprived of victory. In the buildup to the rematch, Pascal unexpectedly and suddenly suggested Hopkins’ fistic longevity had to be the result of artificial enhancement, screaming at him repeatedly to “take the test.” At the weigh-in for Saturday’s rematch, in a crowded ballroom at the Sheraton hotel near the Bell Centre where the fight will take place, the apparent dislike escalated further, each man in the other’s face, exchanging insults, continuing to strain forward and hurl epithets even as handlers pulled them away.

The crowd, largely pro-Pascal, of course loved it.

Levity returned, along with Hopkins, about an hour later. The former champion, having surprisingly weighed in four ounces over the 175 lb limit, returned now and logged a couple of ounces under. Asked how he had shed the extra weight, he smiled his famous gap-toothed smile.

“I told you I was full of s**t,” he joked.

Bernard Hopkins: The Old Man, The New Daddy

by Eric Raskin

Bernard Hopkins is a two-division champion of the world who won his middleweight and light heavyweight titles 11 years apart. And those aren’t the only notable achievements on Hopkins’ dossier that are separated by 11 years. His daughter Latrice was born 11 years ago; in June, she’ll finally become a big sister.

That’s right, at 46 years of age and more than a decade after he first experienced fatherhood, Hopkins is about to do it all again. He and his wife Jeanette are just a few weeks away from re-entering a world of middle-of-the-night feedings, witching hours, burp cloths, and dirty diapers.

“I wish camp could be for the next six years,” Hopkins says with a toothy grin.

The intimidating “Executioner” side of Hopkins vanishes when the conversation turns to his family. He becomes just an ordinary guy preparing for a new baby and everything that comes with it. “I had an 11-year gap. I’m like, ‘Am I ready for this?’” he admits. A smile washes over him. “It’s cool, man.” He pauses, shakes his head. “It’s strange.”

It’s a rare moment: Hopkins at a loss for words. The HBO.com blogger fills the silence by noting that a lot of fighters his age are becoming grandfathers, not fathers.

“You’re making me feel old, man!” he exclaims.

There’s your exclusive: Hopkins admits to feeling old. (And we suspect he’ll admit to it a few more times over the coming years as he experiences fatherhood all over again.)



Victor Ortiz Outshines Andre Berto in Upset

by Peter Owen Nelson
 Photo: Will Hart

In the locker room after defeating Andre Berto for the WBC title, Victor Ortiz's manager Rolando Arellano informed his fighter, draped in his new green belt, "Victor, this belt goes back to Andre. It is symbolic. Yours will get made and will arrive in a few weeks."

Ortiz (29-2-2) stopped smiling for the second time since he put on the belt in the ring of the MGM Theater in Mashantucket, CT.

"That's bullshit. I was going to sleep with this belt tonight," said Ortiz after a thrilling unanimous decision win (115-110, 114-112, and 114-111) that included four knockdowns split between the boxer-punchers.

After some haggling with a WBC representative, it was agreed Ortiz could hold onto the belt for the night.

The first time Ortiz stopped smiling in the locker room it was to cry, as he embraced his foster mother and father, who had arrived from Garden City, Kansas, to see their son fight as a professional for the first time. Ortiz, who spent parts of his childhood homeless and eventually adopted his own brother to get him out of foster homes, announced to the room of friends and coaches through his tears, "These two are my mother and father. They raised me." Ortiz's mother, Sharon Ford, then said, "We always told Victor that when he fought for a world title we would be there. Here we are."

Ortiz had been a 4-1 underdog, and ever polite he told the collected media at his press conference, "I want to apologize if I ruined anyone's plans." (Berto was taken to the hospital and could not attend the conference.)

Continue reading Berto-Ortiz recap on HBO.com

Predictions: Andre Berto On Amir Khan, Victor Ortiz

by Peter Owen Nelson

At 9:06 p.m., a little over 48 hours from Andre Berto’s showdown with Victor Ortiz Saturday night at the Foxwoods MGM, the two narrowly missed each other in the hotel elevators. The welterweight champion had just left the spa from his final workout, while the 3-1 underdog Ortiz returned to the casino from his own at a gym outside the hotel.  

For the 27-year-old Berto, the light late night workout consisted of 1.8 miles on the treadmill, three rounds of mitt work with trainer Tony Morgan, and extensive banter from a half-dozen onlooking members of his family. (A few dozen more are expected to arrive by fight night.) After the mitt work, Morgan, who has trained Berto since he was 10 years old, said, “Andre sees everything, and he’s going to see Ortiz’s one-two [jab-straight left hand] coming from a mile away. 

Just as Berto’s work concluded and the group headed to the elevators, Ortiz headed up to his room with his coaches to check his weight before Friday’s weigh-in. Getting off a phone call, the Kansas native looked down at his phone, which for the past two months has had one image on the wallpaper: Berto’s green WBC welterweight belt.

Across the Atlantic in Manchester, England, earlier in the day, trainer Freddie Roach predicted the outcome at the M.E.N. Arena Saturday of his charge Amir Khan (24-1) against unheralded European champion Paul McCloskey (22-0): “Amir will knock him out in one round — unless he decides to carry him for a round and then knock him out.” The oddsmakers have it not much different, with Khan a near 10-1 favorite.

Berto predicted himself Khan by knockout and Ortiz echoed the sentiment, saying, “I like Amir and I hope he wins.” (Ortiz and Khan had faced each other years ago in the amateurs, with Khan stopping the southpaw.) Roach added that he likes the underdog’s chances in the fight at Foxwoods, saying, “I’ve seen Victor spar at my gym several times, including against Manny Pacquiao. When he was trying to make 140, he never was as strong. I like the move up to welterweight for him.”

If Ortiz’s camp has been any indication, carrying his punch up to welterweight will be no problem for the 24 year old: in heavily padded 16 ounce Winning training gloves (twice the size of the 8 ounce gloves worn fight night), Ortiz went through six sparring partners, dropping two of them. “I told them that I’d pay them extra if they dropped me, so dropping them was only fair,” Ortiz said of the work in his hotel room while snacking on some cashews and watching an episode of Family Guy. 

Despite Berto being the champion and Ortiz having fought at the smaller weight, it was Ortiz who headhunted Berto for this fight, after surveying the junior-welterweight landscape and not seeing a title fight happening anytime in the next year. After Ortiz let his promoters know that he wanted the undefeated slick welterweight champion, he said, “Everyone was like, ‘What the hell is wrong with this kid?’ But I want Andre Berto. I’m going to knock him out.”

Saturday night, we will see if Ortiz can be the first to dethrone the welterweight champion or if he has simply jumped into too much weight against too much class too soon. After Ortiz nearly knocked out Marcos Maidana only to be knocked out himself in 2009 for an interim title, another near-miss for the former prospect of the year at the championship level could push his next title shot a few more years away. For Ortiz, the stakes could not be higher.

Photo Of The Day: Jim Lampley, Preparing For Saturday

Photo: Will Hart