By Sean Crose
Make no mistake about it, Adrien Broner is obnoxious. Really obnoxious. Some would say sickeningly obnoxious. He’s also extremely talented, which makes him all the more distasteful a figure to many fight fans. Still, he’s not the first bad apple in boxing and, chances are, he won’t be the last. When it comes to men like Broner, it’s good to put them in perspective.
John L. Sullivan, for instance, was the first sport’s celebrity. He was the last bare knuckle boxing champion and the first boxing champion to lose under the Queensbury Rules. What’s more, the man was reportedly boisterous, pompous, unnecessarily violent in the ring (who today would actually get atop a prone opponent and choke him?) and, of course, an alcoholic. Sure, he seemingly cleaned up his act later in life, but, while he was on top of the world, “The Boston Strongboy” was quite a pill to swallow.
Yet Sullivan is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to boxing’s famous rogues. Jack Dempsey, the man who was arguably THE defining athlete of the 1920s (sorry Babe Ruth) was not only accused of winning the heavyweight championship with loaded gloves, he was also rumored to have acted as a pimp at one point in his life. Of course, those are just rumors. Still, they put an unsettling cloud over the reputation of the great “Manassas Mauler.”
Want some more dirt? Middleweight champion Jake LaMotta threw a fight for the Mafia and was abusive towards women. Heavyweight king Sonny Liston had an extensive criminal history, did time, was accused of taking a dive against Muhammad Ali and died under mysterious circumstances. Heck, no one’s even sure when the man was born. Seriously. Liston’s story is that shadowy.
Back to Broner. Off-putting as he may be, the man has never been accused of throwing a fight. Nor has he been charged with having his gloves loaded before battling in the ring. He may be unseemly, but Mr. Broner is nothing new. Boxers have been pompous since they fought without gloves. They’ve also been involved with crime since before boxing itself was made legal (yup, Broner’s been arrested). Yet in the face of Broner’s tasteless onslaught, it’s good to keep in mind that boxing’s had its share of good eggs, too.
George Foreman may have been surly in his youth, but is there anyone on earth who doesn’t find the man likable today? What about Vitali Klitschko? He may not be popular here in the states, but after stepping in to quell a potential riot in his native Ukraine, it’s hard not to admire the guy. Let’s not forget Andre Ward, either. It seems his problem is the opposite of Broner’s in that people feel he’s too wholesome to be genuine. Talk about cynicism.
Lastly, let’s look at Broner’s fellow Cincinnati native, Aaron Pryor. The man may have been known for talking trash and for being wild, but who can say “The Hawk” wasn’t sincerely saddened by the death of his old foe, Alexis Arguello? Sometimes you have to go through some cold layers to get to the real warmth of an individual.
Not that it’s our job as fight fans to find the inner warmth of famous – or infamous – boxers. Our job is simply to enjoy and cheer on our sport. Let Broner act like a complete and utter joke if he wants to. All we need to concern ourselves with is his performance in the ring. Or perhaps the performance of his opponent.
You never know. Broner’s not invincible, after all.