I don’t know Adrien Broner personally but I’ve seen and heard enough to know that I don’t particularly like him. But chances are, despite any ill feelings that myself or other fight fans have against the outspoken fighter, Broner wouldn’t have it any other way.
You see, boxing has become a freak show of sorts these days. As it’s descended from mainstream adulation into a niche sport, fighters have taken to outrageous self-promotion to lure the masses into watching. You only have to take a quick look at the recent over-the-top, profanity-ridden press conferences featuring Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor to confirm that theatrics and silly antics are the order of the day.
“Buy the ticket, take the ride,” wrote Hunter S. Thompson and today’s fight game often resembles a scene from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Many who follow the sport do so thanks to personalities like that of Adrien Broner, rather than a longing to see textbook examples of a perfectly timed left hook or right uppercut. The ‘ride’ comes in the form of constant posturing and trash talk. Boxing has long reflected societal values and it seems that these days image trumps substance.
After Broner’s defeat on Saturday to Mikey Garcia, a boxer who was fighting well above his ideal weight at 140 pounds, Showtime’s Jim Gray, the ever-effervescent man that he is, spoke to the self-proclaimed ‘Can Man.’
“You said it was a do-or-die fight,” Gray asserted, before an irate Broner cut him off. “They said it was a do-or-die fight,” Broner replied. “If I fight tomorrow, everybody in this motherfucker (Brooklyn’s Barclays Centre) gonna still come see me, man. At the end of the day, listen, I’m still A.B. I’m still about business. I’m still the Can Man. I’m still a fighting motherfucker and anybody still can get it.”
Broner is right, to some extent at least. He may not be that good of a ‘fighting motherfucker’ these days but he knows how to play the role of villain and he knows that people will still keep watching. Broner is a car wreck you can’t help but slow down to observe. He’s not the first to do it and he won’t be the last.
There was a time when Adrien Broner was considered the next big thing, a genuine future superstar, but after his most recent performances, the narrative has soured. The prevailing sentiment now is that he’s a lazy bum who’s day is done, but the truth likely lies somewhere in the middle. Mediocre or not, Broner still knows how to capture an audience.
During his time as a champion at super featherweight and lightweight, Broner displayed sizzling form and those the belts he collected along the way presumably validated his braggadocious ways, but since then he has been purely ‘about business,’ as he so often says. In the ring however, his business has bordered on bankruptcy. He has failed to impress since taking on challenges in higher weight divisions.
In the end, his career, like many other fighters of today’s generation, will be remembered not for his skill or talent or heart but by business acumen. In a time of social media obsession and 140 character epithets, Broner’s dialogue may very well resonate with the public’s need for quick entertainment and Broner may very well be an elite self-promoter, but he’s far from an elite fighter. But that doesn’t mean people won’t continue to watch the wreck crash and burn. Expect to see Broner headlining again before too long. — Daniel Attias