WBO super featherweight titleholder Adrien Broner will return to the ring on May 19 in the HBO co-feature to the Lamont Peterson vs Amir Khan rematch, but anyone hoping the 22-year-old, heavily-hyped Cincinnati youngster would be taking a tough test on that date should probably lower their expectations.
Two names have been mentioned thus far: Gary Sykes of England and Mexico's Miguel Beltran Jr, neither of whom are considered true contenders at 130, and neither of whom would be considered a threat to Broner.
Sykes (20-2, 5 KO) has reportedly accepted the offer, but Rick Reeno reports that it's only about 50-50 that the fight will happen according to someone close to the negotiations. There are issues such as whether or not Sykes can get a work visa to come to Las Vegas for a fight that's happening in a month. (Which alone should tell you how seriously Golden Boy, Al Haymon, and HBO are taking this date for Broner.)
For those unfamiliar with Sykes, the 28-year-old is a fine domestic-level fighter in the UK, and a former British champion at 130 pounds. He took his first pro loss in November 2010, when he entered a Prizefighter tournament as the reigning British champ, figuring it to be easy money. Instead, he was stopped in 45 seconds by Gary Buckland in the semifinals. Later, he would rematch Buckland, and lose a very good fight over 12 hard rounds last September. Since the loss to Buckland, he's fought once, beating a no-hoper in March via six-round decision.
Sykes would have no chance at beating Broner. It's every bit as bad a fight as HBO was ripped for accepting a few years back, when Kelly Pavlik had to face Gary Lockett and the network picked it up even though it was a pure mismatch made due to sanctioning body nonsense. Both Sykes and Lockett are/were competent, decent fighters, but far from world class. Broner vs Sykes would show true favoritism from HBO, which isn't unexpected, but to be honest, if this is what Broner's going to do, maybe he'd fit better at Haymontime where Al's boys all get the silver spoon treatment these days.
Then there's 22-year-old Miguel Beltran Jr (26-1, 17 KO), who is probably a slightly better opponent than Sykes, but still not a top contender at the weight or anything. There is this idea that because some people had Eloy Perez ranked about No. 10 in the division, that Broner took a challenge last fight. This could not be further from the truth. First of all, it was incredibly easy to not rank Eloy Perez in the top ten going into that fight. I didn't, and I never strongly considered him, either. He got a few glances a few times, but there are much better fighters at the weight. Broner is currently avoiding all of them while allegedly building the foundation for his superstardom.
Beltran was scheduled to face Diego Magdaleno earlier this year, but didn't. He's just recently gotten his license back in Nevada, and Osman Rodriguez reports that Beltran is itching to land the fight, and feels that Broner is being babied:
"Broner only fought one real opponent in his career and lost - but he was given a gift over Daniel Ponce De Leon. Broner's nickname is 'The Problem.' That's a good nickname for him because the only problem he has is when he fights real Mexican nationals."
Personally, I find that trash talk clunky and kind of dumb, but hey, it's a call-out, it's there, and it's a slightly better fight than Sykes, in my view.
Currently, the plan appears to be for Broner to take this soft touch, have Max Kellerman slobber over him (if Max is there on 5/19), probably get a few hype pieces on that new Lampley boxing show, and then face Vicente Escobedo on a Boxing After Dark show in August. Escobedo is likely going to face Edner Cherry on May 12 to stay fresh and line up the dates. I think Broner vs Escobedo is a fine fight. I also don't think there's any good reason other than HBO is willing to bend over backwards for this kid that it's not the May 19 co-feature, instead of a future main event.
More and more, the Broner push is reminding me of the incredible sweetheart handling that Andre Berto received from HBO. In both cases, I really believe the fighters can fight. In both cases, I don't think this is the way to prove it. Andre Berto never really gained a lot of true respect until he fought and lost to Victor Ortiz. Broner has his fans because of his style, because of his personality, and he has his detractors for those same reasons. He's an interesting guy. But if they take Gary Sykes, it's very clear that they're not interested in giving the interesting guy interesting fights, nor will the network force them to do so.