By Chris Mannix
July 20, 2012

There are the staunch supporters of Adrien Broner, the fans and pundits who believe the 22-year-old super featherweight is the next big thing. They point to his unmistakable power, blurring speed and bubbling charisma to support the argument that Broner (23-0) is next in line for Floyd Mayweather's throne.

There are critics too, those who view him, for now, as another Al Haymon creation, a manufactured star who has used a Charmin-soft resume and HBO exposure to unjustly catapult himself into the top pound-for-pound discussion.

Both arguments have merit. Broner is overexposed. He has fought his last four fights on HBO against opponents that even Google has trouble digging up. But he has dispatched them quickly (19 knockouts) and his shtick -- the brushing of his hair in post fight interviews, the claims that Afri-can's, Ameri-can's, Domini-can's or Mexi-can's can get it -- has made Broner an Internet sensation.

"With the talent that I have and the entertainment that I bring, I don't think I should be on anything other than HBO and pay-per-view," Broner said. "I know a lot of people get upset because they are showing me so much love on HBO. But at the same time, there is really nobody on HBO doing what I'm doing, [who is] as exciting and entertaining as me. I'm just going to keep doing me and hopefully I stay on."

BLOG: Broner misses weight, stripped of title ahead of Escebedo fight

Broner's next test likely won't swing many doubters in his direction. On Saturday night he will defend his WBO super featherweight title against Vicente Escobedo (26-3) at the U.S. Bank Arena in Cincinnati (10 p.m. ET, HBO). (Or would have, anyway, had he not missed weight.) Escobedo is a fringe contender, who comes in on a four-fight winning streak. But in his two most significant fights -- against Michael Katsidis and Robert Guerrero -- he has come up short.

"I'm not here to rank fighters," Broner said. "I'm here to fight fighters. He's the No. 1 guy in my division right now, so that's why I'm fighting him."

Well, that's debatable. While Escobedo may crack the top 10 at 130 pounds, he's nowhere near the top of the list. Japan's Takashi Uchiyama is an undefeated titleholder while countryman Takahiro Ao and Mexico's Juan Carlos Salgado also hold belts. What Escobedo has is a decent name and a shared promoter, which makes the fight work.

Still, Broner sees Saturday night as a chance to send a message to the boxing world. "I know [Escobedo] says he has been in with bigger, stronger guys," Broner said. "But he still hasn't felt a punch from Adrien Broner yet. I'll make a statement with this fight. I will show why I'm the champion."

Part of Broner's problem is that while there is talent at 130 pounds, there are few names. That's why he says the Escobedo fight will be his last at super featherweight.

"I'm young, I'm 22 and I'm still growing," Broner said. "I just feel like it's time for me to go up. After this fight, there really wouldn't be a reason for me to stay. I'm just going to go up and give lightweights hell."

At 135 pounds, Broner would have options. Ricky Burns, who pulled out of a fight with Broner last November to move up, owns a title and has a high-profile matchup with Kevin Mitchell next month. Miguel Vazquez, Antonio DeMarco and Hank Lundy are also out there. Broner says he wants to stay busy -- "I would rather fight four to six times a year," he said -- and in a bigger weight class he will have opportunities to quickly quiet the doubters.

Broner says he is ready for anyone, but adds that opponents like Escobedo are necessary for his development.

"I always had the talent," Broner said. "You have to fight certain types of fighters to bring the talent out of you. But experience-wise, I have gotten more comfortable as I keep fighting. Every fight I grow."

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