by Hamilton Nolan
Pity the 135-pound weight class. It is the current home of Adrien "The Problem" Broner (25-0), the most complete young fighter in all of boxing. It is not home to very many other world-class fighters at all. It is a division in which the champion is a prohibitive favorite against any possible challenger. All that is left is for Adrien Broner to knock off all of the ostensible contenders, one by one. Next up: Gavin Rees.
It's not that Adrien Broner is unbeatable, exactly; it's that, as you scan the list of fighters he's likely to face in the near future, not a single one of them is in his same universe of talent. Antonio Demarco is arguably the second-most talented fighter in the division, and, in his last fight, Broner bullied and smacked Demarco around like an angry tiger toying with a gazelle, before TKOing him in the eighth round. To behold the ease with which Broner obliterated his most legitimate challenger was to grasp the fact that prospects for everyone else in the division are dim indeed.
Gavin Rees (37-1) has lost only once, a 2008 TKO at the hands of Andriy Kotelnik, who is also probably the best fighter he has faced. The vast majority of Rees' fights have taken place in his UK homeland. Boxers from abroad who spend their entire careers fighting and winning in a small circle of regional peers often find their first trip overseas to the big stage of America to be akin to that of a tiny, unknown football team invited to open their season on the road against last year's national champion. Congratulations: here's some money, a moment of fame, and crushing defeat at the hands of your superior. Rees has a sharp jab, and hands that are fast enough, but not nearly as fast as Broner's; he has fair enough power, but not nearly as dangerous as Broner's. Like all of Broner's opponents, he will find that The Problem is that there is no area in which for him to press his advantage, because he has no advantage. Broner is faster, stronger, a bigger puncher, more skilled, with better defense.
For now, Broner is biding his time at 135 pounds -- his true challenges lie elsewhere. Boxing fans' dreamiest opponent for him would be Yuriorkis Gamboa, a featherweight whose jaw-dropping talent matches Broner's, and who could easily come up in weight to face him. But recent allegations that Gamboa used PEDs and the generally scattered nature of his management make that bout doubtful for now. At 140 pounds, though, Broner could find a wealth of world-class opponents that might actually present a challenge: Amir Khan, Danny Garcia, Brandon Rios, and more. The question is not whether he will end up there. The question is how many knockouts he wants to record at lightweight first.