FALKENTALK: Boxing Must Stop Enabling Adrien Broner



FALKENTALK: Boxing Must Stop Enabling Adrien Broner
Photo Credit: Showtime

With apologies to Broadway composers Rodgers and Hammerstein, let me borrow a query from “The Sound of Music.” How do you solve a problem like Adrien Broner?

Former four-division champion Adrien “The Problem” Broner of Cincinnati is boxing’s poster boy for squandering your God-given talents. There’s nothing more frustrating to a boxing fan than to watch an athlete with natural skills blow it due to bad choices.

The latest in a long string came earlier this week when Broner abruptly pulled out of his fight against Omar Figueroa scheduled this Saturday, August 20, in Hollywood, Florida. Posting to social media, Broner blamed mental health problems for the last-minute cancellation in a profane stream of consciousness rant, apologizing to his fans and asking for prayers. “I've watched a lot of people die playing with they (sic) boxing career and that is something I won't do.”

Adrien Broner's antics were overlooked for years due to his athletic talent. Those days are long behind him.

When I hear “mental health issues” from Broner, I hear “can’t make weight” in my mind.

Figueroa, who has battled mental health issues of his own, responded with an angry, profane callout. “If it really is mental health, please show us the proof you went and sought professional help,” Figueroa continued. “You love to post all your shit on social media, why not let us in on your mental health recovery? You don’t get to undermine mine and countless other journeys and struggles with mental health because of your undisciplined and childish dumb ass! Fuck you Broner!”

Sergey Lipinets, a Kazakhstan fighter living and training in Los Angeles, will step in for Adrien Broner against Omar Figueroa. Photo: Premier Boxing Champions

Sergey Lipinets, a Kazakhstan fighter living and training in Los Angeles, will step in for Adrien Broner against Omar Figueroa. Photo: Premier Boxing Champions

Former world champion Sergey Lipinets replaces Broner to face Figueroa. Seeing Lipinets’ name buried initially deep on the non-televised portion of the card in an eight-round fight against TBD perplexed me. Lipinets is worthy of much better placement. Duh. Premier Boxing Champions knew what it might be dealing with and put its backup plan in place. This isn’t uncommon. Ask Gabe Rosado about playing understudy to the equally undisciplined Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. It happens more than many fans realize.

Weighty Issues for Adrien Broner

Adrien Broner lost his last bout at 140 pounds to Mikey Garcia. Photo: Amanda Wescott, Showtime Boxing enabling Adrien Broner

Adrien Broner lost his last bout at 140 pounds to Mikey Garcia. Photo: Amanda Wescott, Showtime Boxing

I spit out my good coffee when the fight was announced as a WBC world super lightweight title eliminator at 140 pounds. Broner, notorious for missing weight, last fought at super lightweight five years ago and got smoked by Mikey Garcia. He’s fought exactly ONCE in three and a half years, a Rorschach test decision he didn’t deserve against Jovanie Santiago in February 2021. In my recent Twitter poll, two-thirds of the people who responded agreed with my prediction Broner wouldn’t make the weight limit.

Broner telegraphed his shaky situation during his scheduled online news conference. As with many other changes in how America does business, it’s common for boxing media to jump on a Zoom call to interview fighters, trainers, and promoters leading to a fight.

The Final Straw?

Adrien Broner's brief appearance during his abbreviated online news conference on July 21. Photo: Gayle Lynn Falkenthal screenshot

Adrien Broner's brief appearance during his abbreviated online news conference on July 21. Photo: Gayle Lynn Falkenthal screenshot

Moderator Brian Custer of Showtime displayed the patience of a saint as Broner lounged in bed with a grumpy cat look on his face next to trainer Mike Stafford. Broner lasted less than two minutes on the initial virtual press conference where he was expected to discuss preparations for his bout with Figueroa.

Instead, Broner expressed his outrage at participating in an online news conference, declaring his comeback was worthy of much more. He cursed out his loyal adviser Al Haymon and Showtime Sports executive Stephen Espinoza before telling Custer he’d join him on his podcast a few days later. AB announced to the rest of us he was going back to bed. He left Stafford to answer questions on his behalf alongside Figueroa.

“When you got guys like – they don’t do Floyd’s (Mayweather) shit on no fuckin’ computer, when he fight a YouTuber. They don’t do nobody else shit on the computer, but they wanna do my shit on a computer. So, that’s tellin’ me they don’t give a fuck about me. So, when you say it’s fuck me, it’s fuck y’all. And at the end of the day, that’s what I really just came here to let y’all know.” PBC rescheduled another session with Broner later in the week, delaying the start three times. Someone informed ‘The Problem' he was contractually obligated to participate and marched him back up front like a first grader who’d acted up in class.

Broner's Rocky Road

Adrien Broner's last solid performance was nine years ago in 2013 against Paulie Malignaggi at Barclays Center in New York. Broner won by split decision.

Adrien Broner should be professing his undying gratitude to Haymon and Espinoza and everyone who works for them for sticking by him when he’s done nothing to deserve their loyalty. Broner admits they’ve both given him money, as well as his friend Gervonta Davis. He’s been fortunate to have loyal fans who still cheer him on. They haven't been rewarded for it, and they won't be watching him on the busiest boxing weekend of Summer 2022.

Nine long years ago, Broner defeated Paulie Malignaggi for the WBA welterweight title and his third division title at age 23. It was a rough, ugly split decision, but Broner’s potential seemed unlimited. His brash persona and misbehavior outside the ring captured as much fan attention as his performances in the ring. Every hero needs a heel, and Broner was willing and able to play the role.

Marcos Maidana gave Adrien Broner a thorough thrashing in 2013, handing The Problem his first loss. Photo: Showtime Boxing

Then came Broner’s career-interruption against Marcos Maidana of Argentina. Broner admitted he hadn’t taken training seriously for the Malignaggi fight, and he’d bear down to make a statement against Maidana. Maidana did all the talking, knocking down Broner for the first time in his career on the way to a definitive unanimous decision. Never before or since has boxing Twitter thrown a party like the night Broner got a beatdown from ‘El Chino'. My colleague Ernie Green insists it’s one of the four greatest moments in American History.

Since then, Broner has attempted and failed to recover. He suffered defeats to Garcia, Shawn Porter, and Manny Pacquiao, winning eyebrow-raising decisions and a handful of wins against other unimpressive opponents. He lost his last title on the scale in 2016 against Ashley Theophane and hasn’t owned a belt since.

In fall 2020, Adrien Broner found himself again in front of a judge.

Consider Broner’s distractions: a criminal conviction for assault in 2018 and a civil lawsuit out of the same incident, ending in an $855,000 settlement by Broner to the victim. He was arrested in October 2021 on an outstanding warrant and has tangled with the law multiple times for incidents of assault, robbery, DUI, and sex crimes charges. Broner also owes a good bit of child support. No one is sure how many children he has – is it five with four women, or seven with six women?

Broner said he’d cleaned up his act, quit drinking, and eaten healthy for his 2021 fight with Santiago. He arrived at camp in Florida with 35 pounds to lose. Showtime officials announced the fight would be contested at the welterweight limit of 147 pounds by the mutual agreement of both fighters.

Mental Health Struggles Are Real

Adrien Broner should not come near a boxing ring until he's addressed his real-life problems. Photo: Showtime Boxing

Let’s be clear: mental health struggles are real. Athletes who earn their living by something as demanding and dangerous as boxing can’t risk their lives when they cannot think clearly or control their emotions. It’s no different than a boxer stepping into the ring with uncontrolled blood pressure or reoccurring seizures.

But Broner has been teetering on the raw edge of the sport for a decade. Broner lost his first world title on the scale ten years ago against Vicente Escobedo. Broner’s social media posts showing off his junk food jones for Twinkies and KitKats before the fight enraged me. Forcing the B-side Escobedo to take a payout for what became a three-round beatdown was another in a long line of criminal acts. Escobedo fought twice more, was stopped both times, and quit boxing after an eight-year career. There are weight divisions for a reason. Broner should have been put on a short leash there and then.

Broner's Enablers Must Stop

No one should take pleasure in Adrien Broner's downfall, but no one can save him except himself. Photo: Showtime Boxing

Broner’s talent and unrealized potential have kept him in boxing. He’s won the sympathies of Haymon and Espinoza, who can’t turn their back on him. So they find ways to keep Broner in the gym and the ring.

This is what well-meaning people do when someone they love is an addict. An enabler thinks they are protecting the addict by stage managing their life or making excuses for their behavior. Enabling an addict goes deeper than simply providing money or a place to stay. The enabler is delaying when the addict is forced to confront the full gravity of their situation, often called hitting rock bottom. They’re doing more harm by protecting the addict from the raw realities of their addiction.

If you've been locked in this nightmare with a family member or friend, you know how hard it can be for both the addict and the enabler to break the cycle. We won't pretend to be experts if you need to learn more. We suggest starting here.

It’s time for Al Haymon, Stephen Espinoza, Gervonta Davis, Mike Stafford, and Broner’s entourage, friends and family to force Broner to face the music without them. Broner is right about one thing. Boxing is far too dangerous for anyone to pursue when their mind isn’t right. He needs to step away, perhaps for good, and focus on the most crucial fight: the battle for his life. Godspeed and good luck to you, Adrien.

Gayle Falkenthal is an award-winning boxing journalist and the only woman journalist who is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA). She is West Coast Bureau Chief based in San Diego, California.