The Questions That Arose from the Last Minute Wrangling to Preserve Adrien Broner vs. Vicente Escobedo
This past Saturday, the now former WBO Super Featherweight champion Adrien (The Problem) continued his recent string of impressive performances with a fifth round TKO of Vicente Escobedo. Not as impressive, however, was what happened both before and after Broner weighed in for the bout. Broner weighed in at 133 ½ pounds for his anticipated WBO title defense and subsequently forfeited both his title and $60,000 of his purse (half of which went to Escobedo, the other half to the Ohio commission). The failed weigh-in took place after Broner posted several pictures of recent desserts to his Twitter feed and publicly stated that the Escobedo fight would be his last at 130 pounds. Over the following day, it appeared that Broner’s HBO main event was in jeopardy altogether, as Escobedo threatened to pull out after a second failed weigh-in before reportedly receiving over $50,000 in additional pay out of Broner’s purse. While there has been much outrage in recent years, notably as to Joan Guzman and Jose Luis Castillo’s repeated failures to make weight, the controversy surrounding the Broner-Escobedo seemed to quickly dissipate as the focus turned more to Broner’s obvious pound-for-pound level gifts after his hammering of Escobedo. Nonetheless, what questions were raised (and what lessons can be learned) by the near-dismantling of an entire HBO show over a weight dispute? A quick look follows.
When Should a Boxer Pull Out of a Bout Because of His Opponent’s Weight?
Within 24 hours of the bout, Escobedo threatened to pull out and go home while the last-minute jockeying dragged on between the teams. Ultimately, the $50,000+ in additional money provided to Escobedo preserved the bout. But was it the right move? One would expect that Escobedo, who came down in weight for the opportunity, would want to make sure the playing ground was as favorable as possible for his latest world title opportunity. He had taken pains to make the lower weight and while he probably would have had a slight size advantage over most super featherweights, Broner weighed in within the lightweight range. Advantage gone. Nonetheless, Escobedo is a world-level operator with an extensive amateur background (not to mention a new father), so perhaps he did not believe the loss of the size advantage would be a detriment. Perhaps it wasn’t, as Broner’s fast and heavy hands seemed to make the difference, but when should a boxer with a world title opportunity walk away from it over a weigh-in problem or other contractual dispute? It is up to the individual boxer and how much risk he is willing to take, in consultation with his team, for glory and money. Some historic examples of fights that should have never happened, such as Arturo Gatti vs. Joey Gamache, are great examples of where discretion would have been the better half of valor, but most situations are not so black and white, even in retrospect.
When Should a Boxer Give Up On Trying to Make Weight?
Broner made it no secret that he would not fight at super featherweight again after Escobedo, but should he have nonetheless given up trying to make weight, as some may think he did? As discussed more below, Broner left himself open for a potential breach of contract claim after his flagrant failure to make weight for the Escobedo fight. However, initial reports on his efforts to make weight indicated that he spent a number of hours working out on a treadmill and sitting in a sauna only to end up weighing three-and-a-half pounds over the limit. One can wonder if that was the result of a self-discipline problem or simply, as he later claimed, it was the result of his young body filling out no matter what he did. If Broner’s claim about filling out is true, perhaps he should have thrown in the towel on making weight well before the weigh-in, requested an opponent for a lightweight debut well before he weighed in for the Escobedo fight, and let Escobedo move on to other business. The timing of such a decision can be rather case specific, but being upfront about it sooner rather than later can help ward off potential legal problems and last minute drama.
Should Broner Have Received an Extra Incentive to Make Weight?
The answer is a resounding no. As originally discussed in “Body by Arreola,” available at https://paulhabermanlaw.com/2011/06/02/body-by-arreola/, boxing requires that its athletes keep their weights under control in advance of their matches. Thus, to incentivize weight loss in any division below heavyweight would essentially require rewarding boxers for doing exactly what they are expected to do in the first instance. In this instance, Broner was making the second defense of the world championship he won at super featherweight and it is part and parcel of every title defense that the champion makes weight or otherwise loses the title. If Broner had any real desire to defend the title any longer, that is exactly what he would have done. The title itself should have been all of the incentive that he needed.
Broner’s Tweets Could Have Caused a Serious “Problem”
As indicated above, Broner reportedly tweeted several pictures of desserts that he indulged in during the past few weeks while purportedly trying to make weight for the Escobedo fight. Had his team not reached an accommodation with the Team Escobedo, Broner’s posts could have been used by both HBO and Team Escobedo as exhibit “A” to demonstrate bad faith in a breach of contract claim had things gone different. The lesson here, as has been taught by many other athletes and entertainers in recent times; be very careful as to what you post on your social networking sites. For more on this topic, please read “#LosersbyTweetKO” at https://paulhabermanlaw.com/2011/10/09/losersbytweetko/.
Having survived the near implosion of his HBO headliner, Broner can now look forward to continuing his career in the lightweight division. Hopefully, we will no longer have to worry whether or not he makes weight going forward. If we do, one would have to believe that “The Problem” is not his nickname, but rather his self-discipline as a professional boxer.
Please do not hesitate to contact the Law Offices of Paul S. Haberman LLC with questions on any legal, regulatory, or contractual issues that you may encounter in the combat sports world.
Originally published on 8 Count News.com in July 2012.