At age 22, Adrien Broner is one of boxing's youngest champions but also one of its budding stars. As of late "The Problem" has softened his Mayweather-esque edges and forged his own identity as a slickster who also can explode on a moment's notice.
On Saturday, Broner will risk his belt against 2004 U.S. Olympian Vicente Escobedo, who has won his last four since dropping a lopsided decision to Robert Guerrero in November 2010. Can Escobedo derail the Broner Express or will the hometown hero give the partisan crowd at the U.S. Bank Arena in Cincinnati another reason to cheer? Their CompuBox profiles offer the following factors:
Broner's Power Surge: After struggling to a disputed decision win over Daniel Ponce de Leon in March 2011, Broner realized he needed to make major changes in style in order to bolster his professional profile and achieve his marketing goals. The results have been wondrous to watch -- three fights and three spectacular knockouts.
The transformation began in the later stages of his one-round knockout of Jason Litzau in June 2011 when he logged most of his 14 connects in a fiery burst that polished off "The American" Boy at the 2:58 mark. Litzau, normally an action fighter, could only get off 19 punches and land three of them.
Against Argentine Vicente Martin Rodriguez five months later, Broner went after the vacant WBO title with a fervor. Averaging 59.2 punches per round -- far above the 34.8 he averaged against Litzau and De Leon and more than the 46 he logged in six previous CompuBox-tracked fights -- Broner landed 41% of his power shots and posted connect advantages of 49-30 (total), 20-10 (jabs) and 29-20 (power) while holding Rodriguez to 19% (total), 16% (jabs) and 22% (power). In short, what was supposed to be up was up and what was supposed to be down was down. That included Rodriguez, who was stopped in round three.
His most recent effort against previously unbeaten Eloy Perez continued this trend. He out-landed Perez 58-26 (total), 22-16 (jabs) and 36-10 (power) while dominating in connect percentage (31%-16% total, 20%-16% jabs, 47%-17% power). He averaged 51.1 punches per round -- still below the 57.4 junior lightweight norm -- but he limited Perez to 40.
Will Broner's tactics inhibit Escobedo, who is known for his high output? Saturday's fight will provide the answer.
Hit -- and Be Hit: Escobedo presents problems of his own. At 5-8 and owning a 74-inch reach, he has a one-inch height and three-inch reach advantage. Plus, his engine runs fast. Since losing a lopsided decision to Robert Guerrero in November 2010, Escobedo has won his last four and in his three most recent efforts against Rocky Juarez, Lonnie Smith and Juan Ruiz he averaged 70.8 punches per round, landing 39% overall and 46.6% of his power shots. He also has been aggressive, for 62% of his total punches have either been hooks, crosses, uppercuts or body shots. Despite Broner's increased aggressiveness of late, 53.3% of his total punches have been jabs. So if anyone is going to "make the fight," it will be Escobedo.
But as much hitting as he does, he also gets hit -- a lot. Though he won 299 of a possible 300 points against Juan Ruiz and out-landed him 299-168 (total) and 248-155 (power), Ruiz still struck with 40% of his power punches. Despite blowing Smith away in 140 seconds, he managed to land 41% of his power shots. Finally, Rocky Juarez -- who had gone 0-4-1 before meeting Escobedo -- landed more power punches (172-167) and won the percentage battle (36%-31% total, 24%-22% jabs, 43%-40% power). Against a sharp puncher like Broner -- who landed a combined 44.2% of his power punches in his last three fights -- this trend could be disastrous.
Prediction: Like Rafael Ruelas and Diego Corrales before him, the long and lean Escobedo prefers trench warfare to fighting at distance -- and that will be his downfall. His aggression combined with his sub-par defensive skills will provide Broner the perfect canvas to score another eye-catching knockout, probably before the midway point.