- Joe Tessitore, Boxing
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Troy Browning faces established veteran and fringe contender Delvin Rodriguez in this week's edition of "Friday Night Fights."
Browning is an undefeated fighter make that an undefeated fighter who isn't expected to win.
Yep, he hasn't been beaten, nor has he been respected. According to his manager, you can group me in with the folks who have disrespected Browning.
It all stems from his most recent win. Let me repeat -- recent win.
I fully acknowledge the fact that Browning, the New Jersey-based welterweight, defeated well-hyped prospect Julio Garcia in June. The problem is what my broadcast partner Teddy Atlas, myself and every boxing media person I know saw that night.
Garcia was lethargic to the point where ESPN colleague Dan Rafael commented, "It was almost as if he had been drugged. He showed that little energy in the fight."
He wasn't drugged (from what I know), but perhaps other elements played a major role in that outcome. Browning did more and earned the win. However, while broadcasting the fight, Teddy and I were wondering if Garcia was carrying Browning for many rounds. We were pondering if this was a bad plan that went too far. Or were some other odd circumstances playing out?
Recently, I was the guest on a nationally-syndicated boxing radio show. An e-mail question came in for me from Team Browning asking if I was ready to admit that Garcia wasn't carrying Browning that night. I paused and revealed what had been said among industry insiders after the fight.
The words we heard were disturbing on two fronts. First, it was disclosed that Garcia had to lose 50-plus pounds to make weight for the fight. Worse than that was another theory. A lot of talk focused on Garcia's poor performance as a way for the young man to break from the pressure he was feeling from those around him, including his family.
I don't know that Garcia conscientiously made a decision to tank. The young Garcia may have just put himself in a place where his mind-set and half-hearted preparation hurt his future as a boxer regardless of the intent to do so.
To perform poorly and/or lose would give Garcia relief and give Browning a win. Afterward, I was told Garcia felt that he was being taken advantage of; that he was fighting too much with expectations he didn't desire or want to fulfill.
Note that by the age of 20 and after 43 pro fights, Garcia stopped fighting.
The bottom line is that Browning won that fight. But I can't sit here and tell you Browning impressed me. I saw Garcia ease up when every opportunity was there to attack. I saw Garcia mope around the ring, counting down to the end of the fight and to the start of his freedom.
Browning is a very likable professional and a pretty amazing story in his own right. He is the kind of guy you want to root for. And he's 41 years old! At a time when most 41-year-old underdogs are past their prime journeyman with plenty of losses, Browning is 20-0-1 with a youthful attitude.
"For me to be 41 years old and to be in there with these young guys, it's unheard of," Browning told ESPN.com. "Just go back and see what Garcia's doing when he's 41, you know what I mean? Let's see if they can get in there and do what I'm trying to do."
What he has already done is impressive. He fought on the all-Army team while serving our country. He then turned pro in 1991. Browning started to gain some career momentum before a knee injury stopped it all. He wanted to help children through boxing. So the injury was a convenient excuse to dedicate his time to that cause. He did it well while stepping away from the ring for eight years.
Now he has been back as a pro for 15 months and three fights. He's won all of his fights so far: a six-rounder, a four-rounder and the much talked about 10-round upset of Garcia. Many doubt the good times will keep rolling against the very capable Delvin Rodriguez (21-2-1, 13 KOs). But regardless of the outcome, understand this: I think Troy Browning is a winner.
Joe Tessitore is the blow-by-blow announcer for ESPN2's "Friday Night Fights."
21hEthan Sherwood Strauss