If Adrien Broner sought to emulate the career path of his idol Floyd Mayweather Jr., the verdict as of Saturday is this: So far, so good.
Like "Money," Broner won the WBC super featherweight title, then, in his last fight, won the WBC lightweight belt, gaining them in the same order and from the same sanctioning body as his hero. On Saturday, "The Problem" will face arguably his most experienced opponent in terms of facing world-class opponents in Welshman Gavin Rees, who comes into the fight with a 37-1-1 (18 KO) record.
The 32-year-old Rees is looking to make his own bit of history. Should he upset Broner, he will become only the second onetime 140-pound titlist to drop down and win a belt at 135. The first: Carlos Ortiz, who beat Joe Brown in April 1962 after holding the 140-pound crown previously.
The identity of Saturday's winner may be found in their previous CompuBox-tracked fights, which offer these factors:
Finding His Identity: From time to time Broner went overboard in his attempts to pay tribute to Mayweather but inside the ring he's creating his own identity by sprinkling the best aspects of "Money's" in-ring style within the context of his own game. The results, at least so far, have been breathtaking.
Last time out against DeMarco Broner landed 53% of his total punches, 32% of his jabs and 58% of his power shots, far above the lightweight averages of 30.3%, 21.3% and 36.1% respectively. He out-landed DeMarco 241-93 (total) and 216-80 (power) and of his 59.3 punches per round (his second highest average in 10 CompuBox tracked fights), a mind blowing 82.7% were power shots. But while he assumed more risks than usual style-wise, his defensive numbers remained impressive. DeMarco landed 26% of his total punches, 13% of his jabs and 32% of his power punches.
Since struggling to a 10-round decision over Daniel Ponce de Leon, a bout that saw Broner throw just 35.1 punches per round and out-landed 127-126 (total) and 119-101 (power), Broner has been more assertive. In the five fights since then (Jason Litzau, Martin Rodriguez, Eloy Perez, Vicente Escobedo and DeMarco) Broner has averaged 51.6 punches per round, of which 32.3 (or 62.6%) were power shots, and connected on 44% of his total punches, 31% of his jabs and 52% of his power punches.
In short, Broner is blending the best of both worlds -- his and Money May's -- and many can't wait to see what he does next.
A Surprising Weapon: Few would expect a 5-4 fighter to successfully apply his jab but that's what Rees has done in three of his recent fights under the tutelage of onetime middleweight title challenger Gary Lockett, now a fine trainer.
In his two 140-pound title fights against Souleymane M'baye (W 12) and Andreas Kotelnik (KO by 12), the jab was almost an afterthought. Of his 82 punches per round, 35% of them were jabs and they landed at an anemic 11.3% rate. But in his four fights under Lockett the stick has been used more effectively. In his most recent fight -- a rematch against Derry Mathews -- Rees landed 20.2% of his jabs while he managed to out-jab the taller Anthony Mezaache 17-12 in stopping him in seven.
But Rees' jab was a revelation during the first seven rounds of his 12 round victory over Andy Murray in June 2011. Despite being six inches shorter, Rees fired 40.3 jabs per round, landed 32% of them (91 of 282) and built connect leads of 178-107 (total), 91-51 (jabs) and 87-56 (power). Following his strong start, one perpetual weakness returned.
Stamina Issues Resolved?: In past fights, Rees proved to be a dangerously fast starter only to hit "the wall" down the stretch. Consider:
* In winning the 140-pound title from M'baye in July 2007, Rees averaged 90.2 punches per round over the first five only to drop to 50.4 over the final seven.
* In losing the belt to Kotelnik eight months later Rees averaged a mind-boggling 117.2 punches per round over the first six to build connect leads of 148-131 (total) and 112-81 (power). From rounds seven through 12 Kotelnik raised his output (67.2 first six, 82.7 last six) while Rees dropped his from 117.2 to a still respectable 76.7 but was out-landed 254-155 (total) and 203-135 (power) en route to a 12th round TKO defeat.
Under Gary Lockett, the stamina issues in later rounds have improved markedly. In the first seven rounds against Murray, Rees averaged 72.1 punches per round and out-landed his opponent 178-107 overall. In rounds eight through 12, Rees' average output slowed minimally (to 68.4) and he out-landed Murray 82-81 (total) and 66-57 (power) to win the 12-round decision.
In his most recent effort against Mathews, Rees maintained a steady pace (63.4 per round in the first four, 61.2 in the next four) and actually increased the connect gaps (Rees led 69-62 in the first four rounds and 92-57 in rounds five through eight) before scoring the ninth round TKO. By marshaling his energy better, Rees enhances his chances of victory over the long haul.
Prediction: Rees is a fine fighter and under Lockett he has become more versatile. It will take a terrific fighter to beat him. Unfortunately for Rees, Broner is a terrific fighter. The American's speed, snap, power and accuracy will break down Rees' considerable will and result in a TKO, probably in the middle rounds -- if not sooner.