While the eyes of the sports world are fixated on game 1 of the NBA Finals between LeBron James’ Cleveland Cavaliers and Stephen Curry’s Golden State Warriors tonight, two other great Ohio athletes will look to bring the glory of victory home with them when Adrien “The Problem” Broner and “Showtime” Shawn Porter meet in the ring on Premier Boxing Champions on NBC on Saturday, June 20 (8:30 p.m. ET/5:30 p.m. PT).
Both of these fighters have joined the list of Ohio-born world champions that include boxing greats such as Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini, Aaron Pryor, Buster Douglas and Kelly Pavlik.
The all-Ohio battle comes in the midst of an exciting time for Ohio sports. In addition to the Ohio State University football team’s national championship winning performance in January, Akron’s own LeBron James and his Cleveland Cavaliers are attempting bring the city of Cleveland its first professional sports championship since 1964.
Here is what Broner and Porter had to say about Ohio sports, LeBron and more:
Did you root for Ohio-sports teams growing up? Which ones were your favorite and who were your favorite players? What’s your favorite memory of watching Ohio sports teams?
Adrien Broner: “I grew up watching the Cincinnati Bengals and the Cleveland Cavaliers. I didn’t start watching basketball until I was playing more of it in elementary and high school. That’s when LeBron first came into the league. I remember LeBron’s very first game in Cleveland. It was huge. Most players freeze under that kind of hype, but not him.”
Shawn Porter: “I’ve always been a huge Browns fan. I’ve tried to watch every draft and every preseason and regular season game. I got into the Cavaliers a little more when I was in high school. I’m an all around Ohio sports fan though.”
How would you describe Ohio-sports fans? How badly do you want to win for them?
AB: “Ohio fans are very supportive. Some other states don’t like us because we come out strong. I would love to win for the fans in Ohio because bringing a championship back there means a lot to me. I’ve done it three times already and I’m looking for a fourth. You always want that rush again.”
SP: “We’re crazy! Cleveland fans root for their teams with a love and respect that’s admirable. Whether it’s good days or bad days we’re faithful and trying to stay positive. It would be huge for me to win for the fans here and represent Ohio. I’m doing this for everyone in Northeast Ohio. This is a statement about a great kid from Ohio representing the people there and winning another big fight.”
How important was LeBron James returning to Cleveland for the psyche of Ohio sports?
AB: “LeBron coming home was very important because he’s made the Cavs so much better. With him in Cleveland we’re back in the championship series.”
SP: “LeBron coming home was huge. If he didn’t return I don’t know what we’d have done. There probably would have been more riots. But him coming back brought joy to all of us in Ohio. That’s part of our job as professional athletes to bring joy and positivity to family, friends and the fans. That’s exactly what he did by returning to Cleveland.”
Will you be watching the Cavaliers in the NBA Finals? Do you have a prediction for the series?
AB: “I’ll definitely be watching the games. No training until after the game tonight. I think Cleveland wins it all in six games.”
SP: “I don’t make predictions. I’m praying for the Cavs to do this for the city and for themselves. Hopefully they can pull it together and get what they deserve. It would be a great to get a win for the team and for NE Ohio. I’ll be watching every game on my projection screen.”
Describe what it’s like to fight in front of a hometown crowd in Ohio?
AB: “It’s always fun fighting at home in front of a lot of people who know you. Even when your back is against the wall they cheer and help push me on.”
SP: “Honestly, all the crowds are the same when I’m in the ring. I’m actually looking forward to fighting in the big arena at MGM Grand though. I kind of like having a mix of people in the crowd with some for and some against me.”
Is there more pressure and emphasis on performing well on June 20 to walk away with bragging rights in Ohio?
AB: “I think I already have the bragging rights in Ohio.”
SP: “There’s no added pressure, it honestly doesn’t matter to me like that. This is first and foremost about my team. We’re successful as a team and as a family.”
If you could meet one athlete from or who played in the state of Ohio who would it be?
AB: “I’d have to say myself.”
SP: “I met my all-time favorite Cris Carter already. Cris is from Ohio and went to Ohio State. I haven’t met Charles Woodson or LeBron though. Charles is from here, but he went to Michigan for college. But I’d really love to meet LeBron because he’s still doing his thing and he has that burning desire to win. I need to have that same desire and I’m learning that from watching him play.”