Once upon a time, Adrien Broner was supposed to be the heir to Floyd Mayweather Jr. Early in his career, there were reasons for optimism. Broner was gifted by genetics with athleticism, quick hands and power. Also, like his TMT mentor, Floyd himself, he had a mouth on him.
Broner blasted his way through his first 27 fights in largely dominant fashion. Then in June 2013, he stepped up against Paulie Malinaggi, a fight that looked tailor made for his talents. Malinaggi is an expert boxer, but his quick hands are soft. Broner’s hands are quick and hard.
While no one was surprised the first few rounds were tricky for Broner, the fact that he was never able to assert himself and came out with a highly disputed split decision was the first sign he might not be as great as he thinks. Which is to say, pretty damn great.
Broner followed that slender victory with a loss to Marcos Maidana. It was a fight that sent him to the canvas twice, and never really became competitive as he lost a wide unanimous decision. What was interesting about his struggles against Maidana was how they differed from the challenges he faced against Malinaggi. Whereas Malinaggi gave Broner a boxing lesson, Maidana stormed through him, disregarding his power, and bullying him around the ring.
Losing to Maidana was no shame, but the manner in which he lost was genuinely surprising. He didn’t just get beat, he got beat up. Now Broner had back-to-back disappointing performances against very good, but less gifted fighters.
Which leads to the question:2 It’s not talent or ability. He has both in spades. However, in just two fights, he went from a dominant A-lister to a genuine short faller.
Broner went on to win his next three fights with relatively uninspiring unanimous decisions over Molina twins Carlos and John, with Emmanuel Taylor sandwiched between. After that run, Broner lined up a fight against the talented Sean Porter.
This was to be an opportunity for Broner to regain some of the lost luster after the Malinaggi and Maidana bouts. Yet again, his performance was found wanting. Other than a brief unseating of Porter in the 12th, Broner was never in the fight. Porter cleanly dominated and was not hurt by the knockdown or the desperate flurries that followed. The decision was unanimous and clear. With a chance to show he belonged on the top shelf, Broner slipped once again.
He followed that loss with a bounce-back fight against Khabib Allakhverdiev, who had been on the shelf for a year and a half after being knocked out by Jessie Vargas. He then took another “keep busy” scrap with Ashley Theophane and scored a TKO win.
Then some foolishness crept in. Never anyone’s definition of a choir boy, Broner allegedly assaulted and robbed a man at gunpoint over a gambling beef outside a bowling alley in his hometown of Cincinnati. He was also forced to serve 30 days in jail for showing up three hours late to his hearing. To make matters worse, according to some – including the judge – Broner was hungover.
After a 10-month layoff, Broner got back in the ring Saturday night with the solid Chicago fighter Adrian Granados. Granados was flying high coming into the bout after a surprise TKO victory over highly regarded prospect Amir Imam. Granados’ pre-fight record was a somewhat pedestrian, but deceiving, 18-4-2, with all four losses by split decision. Granados is a fine fighter, no easy piece of work. But he’s still a guy Broner should have beat and looked good doing it.
The first thing happened. The second did not. That’s not to say this was a bad fight. The two men went toe-to-toe and the outcome was in doubt heading into the final rounds.
Which seems to me to be the problem for Broner. He has trouble every time he steps up against someone who is not overwhelmed by his gifts. As Broner’s split decision victory was announced in Cincinnati, the result did not seem unfair. It was a close fight. Broner probably landed the flashier blows and Granados was bleeding throughout most of the back half. But if boxing fans are waiting for Broner to become truly great, I suggest they take their vitamins, lay off the sauce, and find a god to pray to, because they will need good health and divine intervention to see the day.
No one should argue Broner is not a good fighter. He is. He’s won championships in four weight classes. Granted, belts become less relevant by the day, but it says something that he’s achieved them. However, it appears the clock has run out on a guy once deemed destined for greatness.
He was supposed to be the next Floyd. He’s not even close. Hell, he’s not even as charming. No small feat, that. There is simply no reason to believe Broner will ever match his potential based on results. Is it because he lacks skill? Maturity? Toughness? Like most answers to complex questions, it is probably a number of things.
In the end analysis though, Adrien Broner is a fighter with a great resume at a glance. But if you put that page under scrutiny, you will find a guy who is good, not great. And at this suddenly late date, he doesn’t appear capable of changing.