Adrien Broner is all set to fight on February 16 at Atlantic City's Boardwalk Hall, in an HBO main event with his WBC lightweight title at stake. And Golden Boy Promotions is doing their damnedest to make WBO titleholder Ricky Burns the opponent.
Though Burns' team wants to fight in late January and save a Broner unification clash for the spring months, there are few viable options for Broner (25-0, 21 KO) to face on his set date. Richard Abril has been ruled out, as Golden Boy is lining him up to face Sharif Bogere for the vacant WBA belt on March 2, in a fight that would be rescheduled from its original November 24 date, which fell through when Bogere suffered an injury.
Burns (35-2, 10 KO) was due to fight on December 15, but lost opponent Liam Walsh due to a car accident, and then replacement opponent Jose Ocampo pulled out understandably after the sudden passing of his trainer just days before the fight.
Burns' team has said that they don't like the idea of fighting Broner without something else coming first. Burns last fought on September 22, dominating Kevin Mitchell and stopping his friendly rival in the fourth round, and the supposed plan was for a soft fight in December, followed by a Broner bout, or something of similar significance.
Golden Boy's Richard Schaefer says he's still speaking with promoter Frank Warren about making the February 16 fight a reality:
"We are working on that and I hopeful that this fight is going to happen. Sometimes, some of these fighters have unrealistic expectations. I read some stories where Ricky Burns wanted to get paid tax free. Well, don't we all? ... At the end of the day, everybody has to pay their taxes. I'm sure in England he doesn't get paid tax free either. Last I checked the Brits have to pay their taxes too. These are some of the discussions that Frank Warren is having with Ricky Burns and I'm hopeful that the fight gets done."
Burns' co-promoter Alex Morrison said something sort of along these lines, but actually specifically stated, "after tax":
"Ricky will fight in America if the money is right. That’s £400,000 net, after fees, after tax."
So, no, they're not looking to fight tax free. What they want is their real total purse, the net for Burns -- after fees, after tax, as is clearly stated -- to be £400,000, or about $650,000. To take this sort of career risk, not just in terms of world titles but going to the States and fighting Broner on unfriendly soil, Burns' team wants the fighter to be paid as though he's valuable for the matchup, instead of just some Eloy Perez-like B-side. It's not really unfair, but even if Schaefer saw something misquoted, or misunderstood something Morrison said, or just plain is trying to spin this in a favorable light for his side, the bottom line is that Schaefer might be right about it being "unrealistic." Then again, negotiations have to start somewhere.
Hopefully, it does happen. Burns is a 29-year-old fighter who has clawed his way into being taken seriously at both 130 and 135 pounds, against pretty much all expectations. But the truth is, as a titlist in both weight classes, his recent run of success has been littered with a lot of "gimme" fights -- opponents like Joseph Laryea, Andreas Evensen, and a physically suspect Nicky Cook provided no challenge, nor was that expected of either of the fighters he intended to face on December 15, and victories over Michael Katsidis and Paulus Moses were clear and definitive, but hardly wins over true top contenders when he fought them. His wins over Rocky Martinez and Mitchell deserve full credit, and he deserves something like a Broner fight -- if he and his team really want it.