A Troubled Past, An Uncertain Future: Marcus Browne Faces Badou Jack

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 16: Marcus Browne heads back to his corner in between rounds against Radivoje Kalajdzic during their light heavyweight bout at Barclays Center on April 16, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Marcus Browne heads back to his corner in between rounds against Radivoje Kalajdzic during their light heavyweight bout at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn on April 16, 2016. (Elsa/Getty Images)

Interview with Marcus Browne, by Sean Nam. See more Hannibal Boxing interviews >>

***

It seems appropriate that Marcus Browne, with little desire to dwell on the past or peer too deeply into the future these days, decided to hole himself up in the secluded environs of Colorado Springs for his latest training camp. It is here, at altitudes of seven thousand feet above sea level, that the light heavyweight contender, residing in a bare-bones cabin surrounded only by his coach and a few sparring partners, has been able to insulate himself from the kind of lures that might otherwise tempt him back home in the tri-state area.

“It’s better than being home,” Browne, born in Staten Island but now residing in nearby Carteret, New Jersey, told Hannibal Boxing in a recent phone interview. “No distractions, nothing but work. I’ve been working nonstop since I’ve been up here. I’m in that mode.” Browne, though, cautioned that he is not in a particularly agreeable mood. “Maybe you didn’t catch me at the right time, I don’t know. I’m in that mode, kill or be killed right now.”

There is only the present to worry about, only this: “We are just focused on destroying Badou Jack,” said Browne, who gets his chance next week at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on the undercard of the PPV showdown between Manny Pacquiao-Adrien Broner. “He is the best fighter I’ve fought in my life, so I gotta respect him. He’s a two-time champion. I know exactly what he’s coming with. He’s a workman type of fighter. That’s what we’re prepared for, for going into deeper waters. So once I beat him it’s all next from there.”

The seriousness, the tunnel vision, the self-imposed isolation—all befit the occasion. For Browne, a 2012 Olympian who turned twenty-eight in November, a victory over Jack, a proven fighter, would give him a shot at relevancy after years of quietly amassing an undefeated record of 22-0 (16) composed of journeymen and gatekeepers. His last several fights have been, to say the least, unmemorable: A first-round KO of fringe contender Francy Ntetu in January 2018 was followed by a ten-round snoozer against Lenin Castillo in August, when Browne had to overcome a knockdown in the fifth round en route to a unanimous decision win.

One cannot help but also view Browne’s retreat to the mountaintops of Colorado as a deft move to stay out of view of a scrutinizing public, given that his name made headlines last year for incidents unrelated to the ring. Indeed, in a span of ten months, Browne was arrested three times on domestic violence allegations involving the same woman, his ex-girlfriend and the mother of his child—this in an era of heightened awareness concerning abuse in all forms. The latest run-in occurred in October 2018, when Browne was charged with choking his ex-girlfriend and violating a restraining order. Browne posted a $2,500 bail and pleaded not guilty to all charges stemming from the incident. He is scheduled to appear in court on January 30, ten days after the Jack fight. Browne refused to comment on his legal status but had some words of advice for those trying to pry into it.

“I don’t think that should worry any of you guys [the media] because it’s my personal life,” said Browne. “I don’t worry about what goes on in your life? I mean, I might know some things in your life that you don’t want anybody to know. I don’t know why you guys focus on that and worry about it so much. But you know, at the end of the day, I am who I am. It’s life and it happens, and I’m taking it with a grain of salt and I’m just looking at next Saturday. 2019, not 2018.”

Still, it is hard not to wonder if Browne could have forged a different fate for himself. After all, the second arrest, back in March 2018, had far-reaching consequences not only for Browne but the light-heavyweight division as a whole: it effectively led to the cancellation of an agreed-upon fight with beltholder Sergey Kovalev at Madison Square Garden. Kovalev’s promoter, Kathy Duva, uninterested in taking on the risk of Browne’s legal situation, decided instead to pair Kovalev with Colombian contender Eleider Alvarez, who would go on to knock out Kovalev in spectacular fashion on August 4 in Atlantic City. Asked if he regretted that he lost out on a chance to have been in Alvarez’s position, Browne refused to speculate.

“If you wanna talk about a specific fight I had in 2018, I’ll talk about that,” Browne responded. “But 2018 as a year, on the whole, I’m not talking about that. If we’re talking about fights then we’re good. Otherwise, I’m not talking about none of that.”

That includes entertaining any thoughts of fighting the other top light-heavyweights, including Dmitry Bivol, the WBA champion. A win over Jack would earn Browne an interim belt and perhaps put him in position to vie for Bivol’s title, though in today’s splintered boxing landscape that is far from a guarantee. “I’m not worried about him,” Browne remarked. “When we get to that bridge we’ll cross it.”

Nor did Browne have much interest—understandably—in revisiting the one fight that for many observers should have resulted in his first career loss back in 2016, against the then-undefeated Radivoje “Hot Rod” Kalajdzic. Browne eked by with a split decision, much to the chagrin of the hometown crowd at the Barclays Center, which heavily booed the verdict. Knocked down in the sixth round, Browne never seemed to find his groove against the awkward pressure of Kalajdzic. Not a few media members thought Browne, the blue-chipper with the decorated amateur background, had been exposed. “I don’t care about that fight,” said Browne. “Of course, you learn something every fight. If not, you’re not growing as a fighter, but I don’t think about it. I don’t think about him. Who is he? Where is he now? Who did he fight after me? Travis Peterkin? And who else? I’m not worried about that dude, bruh.”

“That fight was in 2016. It’s 2019! I’m not worried about “Hot Rod” or a potential Sergey Kovalev fight. I’m worried about Badou Jack. What’s done is already done. I can’t even remember what I ate last week.”

Asked if he believes a Jack fight could turn back the negativity of the past year, Browne answered “not necessarily,” pointing out that victories in the ring do not necessarily correlate to real life. “Cuz life is life,” said Browne. “Things happen. I’m moving forward with my life—with my personal life, you feel me? Nah, even Badou Jack won’t do anything. It’ll just be another win on my record.”

A troubled past, an uncertain future, Browne will leave the speculation to his critics, to those who doubt him and continue to, as he puts it, “sleep” on him. “Let them sleep!” Browne barked. “Let ‘em keep on sleeping. I’m not worried about that. I’m just worried about making my mark.”

 

About Sean Nam 23 Articles
Sean Nam has written for The Cruelest Sport, Undisputed Champion Network, and The Sweet Science. His non-boxing writing has appeared in New Rambler Review, Slant Magazine, Atlas Obscura, Rain Taxi, Mubi Notebook, The Brooklyn Rail, and Cineaste. In 2017, he curated the Boxing on Film series for the Anthology Film Archives in New York City. He is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America.