Upon hearing the news that Adrien Broner and Mikey Garcia are set to clash on July 29, the realization dawned on me: the reckoning of “The Problem” is at hand. The fight game has grown tired of Broner and his antics outside of the ring, including numerous arrests and countless acts of stupidity, which have overshadowed his accomplishments of recent memory. While this is a hot fight on paper, it is very much a cash-out match, meant to usher “The Can Man” out of the spotlight.
Sure, at one point Broner vs Garcia would have been a spectacle to behold, but that was back when both fighters were undefeated and in striking distance of each other. The truth is, if there was any belief Broner could turn his errant career around, this fight would not be happening. Clearly, he’s just become more of a headache than he’s worth. Garcia was heavily pursued by Premier Boxing Champions and their affiliates because, unlike Broner, he is the kind of pugilist they can put forth as a major star without worrying about his mugshot making regular appearances on TMZ.
Mikey Garcia has been waiting a long time for his shot to ascend to genuine stardom and he even put his career on hold to get his just due. After a dominant run at featherweight that saw him easily dispatch established champions Juan Manuel Lopez and Orlando Salido, Garcia moved to 130 where he eventually won a title from Roman Martinez, after which a big money showdown against Yuriorkis Gamboa looked to be on the horizon.
However, Garcia sought to end what he felt was an unfair deal with promoter Bob Arum and he put his career on ice for over two years while he took his former employer to court. After that was finally settled, and after being vigorously pursued by several promoters, Garcia found a new home with Premier Boxing Champions. This past January he looked nothing short of sensational in knocking out feared brawler Dejan Zlaticanin in exceedingly violent fashion.
So it seems that Garcia has picked up where his career left off, a boxer too good to ignore yet still on the lookout for the marquee fight to make him a serious draw. A unification match with fellow titlist Jorge Linares would have been a good fight, but not a big one, so a clash with someone like Broner under the bright lights is just what he needs to move forward. In short, Garcia has failed to look anything but spectacular since coming back and he’s still on track to become a big star in the game.
The same cannot be said for Adrien Broner. Not anymore. We are a long way from the days when Broner was an impressive champion at 130 and 135 and had everything going for him in terms of confidence and charisma. He appeared born to play the star and was starting to fill in the role to potentially carry the sport in the aftermath of Floyd Mayweather, a horrifying thought in hindsight.
While Mikey Garcia was struggling outside the ring for the right to handle his own business as professionally as he could, Broner was acting as foolishly as he possibly could. Recent encounters with the law suggest Broner is on the road to self-destruction, while his stock in the fight game has dropped considerably since his own prodigious beginnings.
Broner looked as good as he did three or four years ago because at that time he still trained like a boxer who had to earn his keep, draining himself down to the lower weights where he held a size advantage so great that it masked many of his flaws. Those days came to an end shortly after he won his lightweight title, when Broner decided to do what was easy and comfortable and move up to welterweight. As soon as Broner went to 147, the advantages that made him formidable were gone and the competition was tremendously better compared to the wastelands where he’d reigned.
He did defeat a past-prime Paulie Malignaggi to win a world title by the slimmest of margins, but once he started facing off against the true elite, he was bludgeoned in one-sided losses to Marcos Maidana and Shawn Porter. Most recently, Broner has narrowly avoided calamity in fights against Emmanuel Taylor and Adrian Granados. Once billed as the future, Broner is looking more and more like a fighter who will fail to live up to his own hype and perhaps his only purpose now is to serve as a high-profile stepping stone for a boxer who is, in numerous ways, his complete opposite.
Garcia has been entertaining and impressive throughout his career and has had no lulls in skill or discipline to spawn “what-if” scenarios and create uncertainty about his future. There is no “what if Mikey gets in shape for this fight” or “what if Mikey lets his hands go for this fight” with Garcia. He is a consummate professional who treats every match as serious as the one before it. Meanwhile Broner is at the point right now where he’s hopping from payday to payday, not motivated to do much more than show up and see where the chips fall.
This match is happening at 140, a surprise considering everyone knows getting down to that weight will be a serious challenge for Broner. He blew the weight for his fight with Ashley Theophane and needed an 11th hour contract stipulation to move his bout with Granados to 147, but now he has to make the sacrifices necessary to prepare for the most critical fight of his career. The pressure alone of making weight is reason enough to make one suspect that Broner is being set up for a fall. Is anyone picking him to defeat Garcia?
Once upon a time, this could have been a real barnburner between two young, undefeated and prodigious champions. While there will still be plenty of razzle-dazzle and debate up until the night of the fight, this will mark the true beginning of Garcia’s run as a major attraction and the final comeuppance of the overachieving Broner. — Danny Howard