Adrien Broner and the Battle Back
By: Brandon Bernica
Rewind to 3 years ago. A brash young fighter named Adrien Broner had the world ahead of him. Systematically destroying one of his career’s toughest assignments in Mexican veteran Antonio DeMarco, Broner’s career arc aimed straight to a place with the stars. Sure, he was arrogant. Yea, he copied-and-pasted his idol Floyd Mayweather’s swagger, from the pot-shotting proclivities to the interview catchphrases. Regardless, most analysts you talked to believed there was a space for Broner’s persona in boxing’s wide world of eccentricities. People pay to watch the villain lose, and this villain was obliterating any challenger set in his path.
Of course, many of you know what came next. Moved up 2 weight classes and 12 pounds. Barely scraped together a win against Paulie Malignaggi for a paper belt. Then came his day of reckoning, face-to-face with Argentinian hitman Marcos Maidana, who battered and bruised Broner to his first loss. He managed to string together a series of average victories before being outclassed by former champion Shawn Porter, notching his second loss as a professional. Seasoned inside that timeline are controversial escapades unexpected of the sport’s torch-bearer, among these episodes: an online sex tape, a vulgarly sexist fight promotion involving Malignaggi’s ex-girlfriend, footage showing Broner flushing money down a toilet, borderline racist post-fight remarks, and most recently a short jail stint for his potential involvement in a robbery outside a bowling alley.
Broner’s record doesn’t lie. Waning focus leads to career stagnation. At 26 years old, Broner’s saving grace may be that he has an abundance of time to u-turn and figure it out. Is he capable of being the PPV messiah boxing was banking on in years past? Maybe. But change doesn’t happen overnight, and in this case, it is long overdue.
At the core of concerns over Broner is his falls to distractions. Most troubling is that Broner still believes he is boxing’s top dog and biggest attraction. He has stated that no one but himself can overcome his mentor-turned-foe Floyd Mayweather in the ring, even though consensus holds that Floyd operates on a much higher level. Maintaining supreme confidence is his right; when that confidence shields him from addressing pressing issues, then it becomes a problem. Whether it’s his side gig as part-time rapper, frequent appearances at clubs, or the slew of mistakes detailed above, the public feels Broner’s mind would rather be anywhere but the ring. Only he truly knows where his head’s at. If Broner is serious about taking over boxing, boxing must take over him. Not only does he have to train like a belt has never been strapped around his waist, he has to live with respect to his job and himself. Everyone has their limits and bounds, Broner needs to find his and discipline himself to not overstep them. Not to say that he has to shirk his persona and confidence, but holding himself to a champion’s standard could do him good.
Broner’s struggles follow him inside the ropes, too. One recurring issue the Cincinnati product battles in fights is the failure to throw enough punches. While he is content with counterpunching with single shots, his lack of combinations hurts him when winning rounds against hungry opponents. In lower weight classes, Broner’s physically outmatched other fighters, letting his hands go without fear of significant retribution. That’s a luxury he can’t afford now with bigger fighters at 140 and 147 pounds. The man nicknamed “The Problem” will have to solve this quandary, whether through bulking up or bettering his positioning to throw. In a similar context, Broner has been content at letting opponents bully him to the ropes. When he doesn’t control center-ring, he casually leans back, occasionally being minced by overhand shots to the head. When Broner’s foes flurry, they get credit for activity even when they don’t land. Simply put, he has to dictate the pace much more. By closing up his defensive holes and utilizing his athleticism properly, he can do some damage.
Through it all, there are still upsides to Broner’s stock. As mentioned before, he’s young. Though he’s taken some losses, he can learn more from them and fix his flaws, rather than remain complacent. Broner is gregarious, a trait that draws viewers. He consistently pulls in some of the highest ratings for the PBC. He still remains one of the more naturally gifted fighters in the sport, and his explosiveness and reflexes are still prime. In interviews, Broner harps on returning to focus, which gives you slight indication that he’s taking his career as serious as ever. PPV might not yet be on the horizon, but Rome wasn’t built in a day either. If Broner can simplify his journey and funnel a love and desire for the sport into his craft, he might just exceed our doubts. What remains, however, is the chaos outside the ring, and until that mellows out, we may never know how good Adrien Broner can really be.