by Michael Gluckstadt
The latest performance of the Adrien Broner show was held at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City Saturday night, an entertaining fifth-round knockout of the Welshman Gavin Rees. Before a supportive crowd, Broner danced around and outclassed his opponent in the latest of his string of impressive-looking victories.
It seems nobody told Rees that he was meant to be a supporting player in the evening's program, so Broner took it upon himself to deliver the news. Rees came out at the opening bell with a head of steam, testing Broner with shots to the body. In a telling exchange early in the fifth round, after Broner landed a shot to the side of Rees' head, Rees motioned to Broner that he hadn't been hurt--so Broner went ahead and punched him flush on the face.
Soon after, Broner brought Rees down to one knee with a thudding shot to the body. Rees got up from that and continued to press on bravely, until at the end of the round, his trainer Gary Lockett threw in the towel.
Rees had also been knocked down in the fourth round, when Broner landed a thundering left uppercut squarely on Rees' jaw. Broner had started the fight off slowly, taking the first round and a half to figure out what Rees was bringing to the table. Then, Broner came alive and began dancing for the crowd, feinting large windup haymakers before delivering crisp shots to Rees' body.
In the third, Broner really got going. He landed an extensive combination with Rees against the ropes. When he found himself tied up in an awkward hold, Broner threw--and landed!--a punch behind his head.
"No one's ever treated me like that in a boxing ring," Rees would say after the fight. "I knew he was going to be powerful, but his power really stung me. I got reckless in the third and fourth and that was pretty much the end of it." As for the prospects for his opponent, Rees said, "He's not a superstar in the making, he's already there."
Rees was referring to Broner's in-ring prowess, but Broner is a one-of-a-kind presence outside the ring as well. When asked by HBO's Max Kellerman what his best shot was that night--an uppercut? A body shot? Broner deadpanned, "My best shot's when I'm taking a picture." He continued to deliver Borsht Belt-style stand-up throughout the post-fight. On Rees: "He's tougher than a steak well-done." On a possible match-up with lightweight contender Ricky Burns: "Burns would get burned up."
With all the excitement surrounding Broner, there's talk about him moving up to face some of the big names at 140-pounds. But for now, he's been comfortable putting on a show at lightweight. "He's a throwback to all the great lightweights," said Harold Lederman, HBO's unofficial ringside judge. "Guys like Ike Williams from Trenton, Jimmy Carter, Bob Montgomery, Bo Jack, Joe Brown. You can have some great fights at lightweight. Like we did tonight."
In the undercard fight, Australia's Sakio Bika had his way with Nikola Sjekloca of Montenegro, winning a unanimous decision, 120-108, 119-109, 118-112. Bika controlled the fight from the opening round with his jab, and continued to pepper his formerly undefeated opponent with a mix of uppercuts to the body and strong combinations. All was not lost for the Montenegrin fighter making his stateside debut. "I feel good about this fight since it was my first performance in America," he said. As for Bika, his performance at the 168-pound title eliminator bout sets up a showdown with pound-for-pounder Andre Ward.