NEW YORK >> Adrien Broner danced as music pumped through headphones, a large smile and sunglasses affixed to his face during introductions.
Then Jessie Vargas spoke, his opponent in the welterweight fight at the Barclays Center on Saturday night. And Broner’s outlook changed.
“This is a very important fight for my career,” Broner said Thursday ahead of the bout on Showtime. “I know that Jessie trained hard to beat me. This is a win that could take either of us to the next level.”
A champion in four divisions, Broner (33-3-0, 24 knockouts) is coming off a loss to Mikey Garcia in July. Broner is at a crossroads in his career, according to Stephen Espinoza, the president of sports and event programming for Showtime.
“He’s been one of the most well-known fighters in the sport,” Espinoza said. “But he’s got to keep winning to be at that top level. And so he is at a critical juncture. He can’t really afford another loss and stay in that top tier of elite fighters. So this is a very important fight for him at this stage of his career.”
The public critiques of his standing in the sport cause Broner to bristle.
“I’m still one of the best fighters of this era,” Broner said. “When I’m done with my career, I will be one of the best to every lace up a pair of boxing gloves. I just can’t wait to give everyone something to remember on Saturday.
“When (Vargas) stepped up (in weight class) and fought Tim Bradley and Manny Pacquiao, he lost. I’m a four-time world champion, so I don’t want to hear anything about my losses. Jessie Vargas is not as good as those guys I lost to.”
Vargas (28-2-0, 10 KOs) is a two-division champion, coming off a 10-round unanimous decision over Aaron Herrera on Dec. 15.
“He tries to be flamboyant, flashy (copy) of Floyd (Mayweather Jr.),” Vargas said of Broner. “But he doesn’t have the same faculties. He likes to be out there in the limelight.
“I’m here to take care of business and here to entertain my fans. I’m a fighter. I’m not a hip-hop artist. I’m not someone that tries to stay out there for other reasons.”
Despite his self-assurance, Broner left trainer Mike Stafford for Kevin Cunningham following the loss to Garcia. Broner was joined in camp by Gervonta Davis (19-0-0, 18 KOs) who will fight Jesus Cuellar (28-2-0, 14 KOs) for the WBA super featherweight championship on Saturday night.
“Being with Kevin Cunningham in camp changed a lot,” Broner said. “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. There were no distractions down at camp. It was all work, no play.”