Adrien Broner vs Jessie Vargas: Two Roads, One Destination

Pair of former world champions agree that Saturday night's showdown on Showtime is a must-win affair for each of them.

Adrien Broner vs Jessie Vargas Fight Promo. (Showtime Sports)

Two very distinct roads to redemption converge this Saturday night at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York when Adrien Broner meets Jessie Vargas in a 12-round must-win, 144-pound catchweight main event on a Showtime-televised tripleheader (9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT).

Each with two high-profile losses in their last five bouts, the two former world champions share the desperate need for a big win to get back to the upper tier of elite-level, big-earning welterweights.

Buried deep inside the whirling mass of drama that is Broner (33-3, 24 KOs), there is a fighter—a fighter who at just 22, was already a world champ and one of the most promising young talents in the game.

Nearly seven years later, Broner has managed to pick up three other world titles in three other weight classes and has made a nice living for himself, but he has yet to become the Aaron Pryor-meets-Floyd Mayweather fighter his raw talent suggested he might become.

However, those who have given up on the now 28-year-old Broner often overlook the reality of the here and present Broner. Through the obstacle course of distractions he has built for himself, his gifts are still present, highlighted by flashes of brilliance. And for those questioning his professional pride and will to win, one need look no further than his tenacious losing effort against Marcos Maidana back in 2013 as proof positive that Broner’s got a warrior heart buried underneath all the bluster and bad guy acting.

Still the truth is that Broner hasn’t fully lived up to his potential. There are flaws and imperfections in his game that have kept him from being a consistent elite-level presence in the sport.

Broner’s habit of fighting in occasional round-stealing bursts—whether by design or necessity—creates lulls in the action where a game opponent can step forward. It’s the reason bold and aggressive fighters like Maidana, Shawn Porter, and Daniel Ponce de Leon (whose points loss to Broner in 2011 is still widely disputed) have had success against him. The book on Broner is that one has to make him fight when he doesn’t want to fight. With his reflexes, athleticism, and hand speed, it’s not easy to take the fight to Broner, but consistent pressure has always been the kryptonite to his superman.

New head trainer Kevin Cunningham, who has worked with Cory Spinks and Devon Alexander, specializes in fluid angle-based boxing technique and that may reveal Broner’s intended strategy this fight. Original opponent, Omar Figueroa Jr., would’ve been utterly neutralized by a sharp, angle-oriented Broner and while Vargas is not as single-minded as Figueroa, he may also find extreme difficulty in a Broner who won’t “stand and fight.”

“Being with Kevin Cunningham in camp changed a lot. It took a while to get used to it. This is the first camp I’ve done since I was kid with a new coach,” Broner said. “There were no distractions down at camp. It was all work, no play.

“I’m still one of the best fighters of this era. When I'm done with my career, I will be one of the best to ever lace up a pair of boxing gloves. I just can't wait to give everyone something to remember on Saturday.”

I’m still one of the best fighters of this era. When I'm done with my career, I will be one of the best to ever lace up a pair of boxing gloves. I just can't wait to give everyone something to remember on Saturday. Four-division World Champion Adrien Broner

Vargas (28-2, 10 KOs), like Broner, is also a 28-year-old with high-end raw potential yet to “put it all together”

A basic one-two puncher with the potential to be so much more, Vargas has confounded a laundry list of top-notch boxing names that sought to unleash the warrior inside the young man. Vargas has worked with Roger Mayweather, Roy Jones Jr., Erik Morales, Dewey Cooper, and his late, great godfather Rafael Garcia in pursuing “Mexican Style” predation.

The former WBO champ has become defined as a predictable pattern fighter who just doesn’t seem to be able to let his fists go. But, at the same time, he’s also a skilled and technically solid boxer with a potent right hand that destroyed Sadam Ali and nearly stopped Timothy Bradley.

If Vargas can become the type of fighter who acts rather than reacts, he has the potential to be Juan Manuel Marquez-good. Current trainer Mike “The Body Snatcher” McCallum is working on turning the thoughtful, studious young man into more of an instinctive presence in the ring and against tough, but limited Aaron Herrera last December, Vargas did seem more free-wheeling and aggressive.

Against Broner, though, Vargas will be presented with the kind of gifted, improvisation-minded opponent that completely vexes conservative, ultra-conventional fighters. Faced with the puzzle that is Manny Pacquiao in 2016, Vargas managed to hold his own, but never came close to beating the Filipino icon. Vargas may have a similarly tough time with a high-performing Broner.

But, of course, we won’t be sure how high-performing Broner will be until the opening bell.

If a jaded, unfocused Broner shows up—as right hand-susceptible as ever against a fighter like Vargas, who has a big right hand in his arsenal—big things could happen. But that’s a lot of “ifs.”

“We both bring experience and we’re both talented guys. We are definitely going to give the fans entertainment on Saturday night,” Vargas said.

“I’m versatile and I’ll do what I have to do. We’re both former world champions but at the end of the day there will only be one winner, and It's going to be me.”

Whatever the case, both fighters need this win to once again gain entry to the elite level of boxing’s toughest division. With strengths and weakness, gifts and burdens in tow, Broner and Vargas set off towards redemption on April 21—one moves forward, the other falls behind.

For a complete look at Broner vs Vargas, check out our fight page.

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