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Adrien Broner Is What He Was, For Bad and For Good

Michael Woods

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This time, it’s different, he tells us, fight after fight, year after year, and while by now we are weary of hearing it from Adrien Broner, and our shell of cynicism is set up to deflect his optimistic talk, a minute portion of us wants to believe.

The part of us that feels like tomorrow will be the day that the willpower kicks in, and those jogging shoes will be laced on for the first time in too long, listens to Broner, and thinks, OK, maybe this time will be different.

And then it isn’t, really, because, hello, human nature.

It’s not that we don’t intend to go on that jog to carve off 1 pound of the COVID 20, but we’ve gotten into a rut, and we find an excuse. And it’s not that “The Problem” doesn’t want to switch it up, stop being a jackpot jackass, and lose winnable fights, and get arrested and go on to social media to lament his depression. But the transition from “wanting” to “doing,” well, that’s a steep hill for most of us, and better beings than Broner do much worse at attacking the mountain of wants. Weight Watchers has existed for six decades as testament to that…

We got our hopes up, that 1% of us, when we heard Adrien Broner talk coming in to his Saturday night fight against Jovanie Santiago at Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, CT, in a main event screening on Showtime. Yes, we invested very lightly in AB this time around, because we’ve been let down too many times. And when he threw a sad number of punches, round after round, we didn’t get huffy, and blast him for lying to us…because it’s not really lying when we talk in our heads a good game, and then repeat the same game we played yesterday. Today, once again, my running shoes sit on the shoe rack, in need of literal dusting. Today, Broner when he looks at his social media accounts sees no shortage of people calling him a shitbum and telling him they thought the Puerto Rican Santiago deserved the get the nod after 12 rounds of their welterweight clash.

Adrien Broner gets ripped hard on social media.

“The Problem” said that he ditched the party boy life-style, and he gave up drinking, and he wanted to make a hard run at a fifth title in the last month. He’d show us how dialed in he was on Saturday night against Santiago, after a two year layoff, he stated, and so we tuned in, to see for ourselves.

He’d not won a fight since 2017, and we’ve seen him in the news for missteps which draw attention of law enforcement, but we still pay attention, we still tune in to see how he performs…or doesn’t.

At Mohegan Sun on Saturday night, the 31 year old Adrien Broner didn’t live up to the pre-fight hype he offered up. Foe Santiago didn’t look at all out of place and there was no clear talent differential on display overall. The fight went the distance and yes, drama was in the air. How would the arbiters see it? For Broner, it turns out, by scores of 115-112 (Glenn Feldman), 116-111 (Tom Carusone), 117-110 (Peter Hary).

No, he didn’t deserve those wide scores, Santiago deserved better marks than that. The A side, the drawing card, got all the benefits of the doubt. That Hary card, in particular, stands out as being ripe for inspection.

According to CompuBox, Adrien Broner went 98-338, to 207-697 for Santiago.

The punch per round count for Adrien Broner was paltry, according to CompuBox.

AB spoke to Brian Custer after, and he reminded us why Showtime still keeps going to the well, even when the talent persistently shits the bed with his performances. The guy is an entertainer, you can’t help yourself as you tune in to see if he finally acts like a mature and dedicated athlete. You may kick yourself as you turn to Showtime, but you do tune in.

Adrien Broner said after to Custer he thought he won, and that the jab did it for him. He didn’t warm up much before, so it took him awhile to get loose, he explained. He knew Santiago would be tough, because he was unbeaten. “They gonna fight like a bum fighting’ for a sandwich,” he said, of such a creature. And Broner then offered up some of his ATG lines from that stage where he does some of his best work: the post-fight interrogation when he speaks to a Jim Gray, or a Brian Custer, and is asked to explain why. Why was that fight harder than it should have been? Why did you not throw more than 30 punches in seven of the 12 rounds against Santiago?

Brian Custer speaks to Adrien Broner after Broner got the UD win over Jovanie Santiago on Feb. 20, 2021.

AB told Custer that he heard Steve Farhood had him losing, and complained that’s why he doesn’t like Farhood. He prefers Custer, he told viewers. But, Custer said, Twitter said that Santiago won, in a poll. “If you look at my Twitter, 98 percent of them don’t like me. So fuck Twitter and fuck Steve Farhood,” Broner said.

So, what might he change, will he look to throw more? “I’m a change my drawers and throw on some more boxers, because my boxers is sweaty,” he said in response.

Adrien Broner kept going. He asked Al Haymon and Stephen Espinoza to keep him busy.

“Keep me in the ring,” he said. It sucked having $13 to his name coming in, but if they keep him busy, then maybe he will stop getting in trouble with the law, he shared.

And what about that ‘new AB?’

“I ain’t gonna lie,” Adrien Broner said, “for the rest of the weekend, we gonna pop bottles, cash checks and have sex, but, on Monday it’s back to kicking’ ass and hittin’ bags, though. Real talk.

And therein lies the appeal, or the reason for his being an attraction. You watch him and listen to him and it makes you ponder, what’s up with that dude? You might kind of feel sorry for him, you might look up to him for saying what’s on his mind, as he did about Farhood, you might detest him and wish him to get Maidana’d every time he gloves up, but you pay attention to him. And that is what entertainers are paid for. He delivers for Showtime, there’s bang for the bucks they put out, and from that perspective, Broner is good business.

He continued, saying next time he fights he’s hoping COVID will be over. Fighting in the bubble, it cramps his style. “I felt like I was in jail again,” he told Custer.

Santiago spoke to Custer after the loss. He said he wasn’t surprised Adrien Broner got the nod. “The decision could have gone both ways,” he said. “No, the decision doesn’t surprise me. Broner did a nice job in there. He fought a great fight. We were in it to win this fight and he got the decision. I think boxing fans know who I am now, but in this fight I should have applied more pressure and the fight would have gone my way. I need to talk to my management team and see what’s next for me. But the performance today says a lot about me.”

Santiago (145 1/4 on Friday, from Bayamon, Puerto Rico), entered with a 14-0-1 mark and a status as an unknown to all but hardcore PR fight fans. He insisted during fight week that Team Broner had made the wrong call in choosing him to look good against. His career best win came against Chop Chop Corley, who was 48-27-1 in 2017, and almost 43 years old, when they met.

In the first, Adrien Broner (34-4-1), last seen in a ring on Jan. 19, 2019 losing to Manny Pacquiao in sadly decisive fashion, didn’t start out fast. People by now know that he’s not one to pull the trigger haphazardly, at all. Same deal in the first, Broner stared at his foe, kept his guard up, concentrated on defense. If you read this story on the RING website, you had an inkling that this would happen, because trainer Mike Stafford told us that AB would not be reverting to what we want him to be, a risk-taking perpetual motion machine.

In round two, Santiago feinted, worked a jab to the torso, and he showed better hand speed than I expected. He wanted to land a lead left hook. He didn’t but he didn’t look out of place, at least.

In the third, Broner got a little busier, but then he reverted to form, posing more than hurling. Santiago backed Broner into the ropes, looked to clang to the body, and he was getting warmed up and more confident.

“Keep busting him up with the jab,” said trainer Mike Stafford after the round to AB. Trainer Raul Torres told Santiago, “You won that one,” after the session. “Let’s keep working the body,” Torres told him as the fourth was about to begin.

Ref Arthur Mercante took a point from Santiago for throwing after the bell rang to end the fourth, and Artie started getting pissed, telling them he wouldn’t take any shit. Al Bernstein, the analyst, didn’t agree with the ref’s call. Check out Al’s take on the fight after sleeping on it below:

In the fifth, Santiago again looked to be in the same league with Adrien Broner. AB didn’t look to have the faster hands, or such fluidity in his combos that you’d marvel at him. Stafford asked for the hook after the round, and recommended that AB not get drawn into any chippiness.

In round six, Santiago fought with the degree of confidence that had been growing. Broner got busy in the last 30 seconds, but he probably didn’t steal the round. Once again, the Puerto Rican boxer was the busier. He hurled 82 shots, according to CompuBox, and you’d guess the judges would reward the volume.

Santiago has a skill set, this wasn’t a stumble-bum they brought in to make Adrien Broner look marvelous. Props I think should go to Premier Boxing Champions for not going that route.

In round seven, the right uppercut from AB was working. A clipping hook from AB landed clean, and he was just a bit busier. But his punches lacked sharpness.

In the eighth round, Adrien Broner was now opening up. A check left hook landed and did Santiago’s glove touch the canvas? A knockdown was not called, for the record. It got chippier, with holding, and yapping by Broner. Mercante would tell AB to stop talking. (And did you catch it? Some classic Artie…He pushed AB back, from a clinch, AB stiffened and Artie had to push harder. “Almost as strong you, bro,” he said, chuckling, to Broner.) A punch caused a slice on the left eye of Santiago, but it wasn’t huge. The corner asked the Puerto Rican to start throwing harder. They saw Broner coming on, and their guy losing steam.

To the tenth, we saw Broner clipping with a left hook, his lead right had some zest on it. He might have won the round, and maybe won three in a row. In the 11th, Broner looked to be having fun, he moved more.

“Stay sharp, champ,” Adrien Broner said at the 1:30 mark. I think he was talking to himself. Santiago had an energy surge, found a pocket of fuel, but did he do enough to sway the judges?

“We gotta knock him out,” the trainer told Santiago after the 11th. The older sage knows the game, and that a Santiago comes to the arena two points down. This is the boxing BUSINESS, and Broner is good for business, so he gains certain protections with that status. He didn’t get a stop, but Santiago worked harder than AB, and deserved to take the round.

We’d go to the cards, with an air of uncertainty hanging over us, but also some clarity. You didn’t know what the judges would deliver for a verdict, but you did know that Adrien Broner wasn’t able to hit the rewind button, and look like a pre 2012 version of his best self. The one percent of you that invested rolled with the punch, though, and guess what? That same one percent will probably be invested in the turnaround story going into the next Broner bout as well. We are not robots, after all, are we? But we are not sullen cynics, either….Tomorrow, we believe, there is a very good chance those running shoes will come off the shoe rack, and get some use.

Editor/publisher Michael Woods became addicted to boxing in 1990, when Buster Douglas shocked the world with his demolition of the fearsome Mike Tyson. The Brooklyn-based journalist Woods has covered the sport since then, for ESPN The Magazine, ESPN.com, ESPN New York, RING, and he was editor of TheSweetScience.com from 2007-2015. Woods is also an accomplished blow by blow and color man, having done work for Top Rank, DiBella Entertainment, EPIX, and numerous other organizations.

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