He may have proven himself to be a one-man morality tale: the guy who had it all, but then made one too many bad choices and slipped into a downward spiral. And yes, the story of Adrien Broner appears almost too much like a Hollywood movie to be true. Having gone from being hyped as the next Floyd Mayweather to a man some believe is no longer deserving of big fights, the Cincinnati native, in a span of little more than six years, has truly fallen from on high. But there’s more to the tale than that. There usually is, no matter how guilty the guilty party may in fact be.
No, this isn’t a bleeding heart screed aimed to convince you that Adrien Broner is some kind of victim. It’s simply an attempt to look at the fighter they call “The Problem” in a balanced light. And no portrayal of Broner is balanced without giving credit where credit is due. I’m not talking about his over-the-top personality, which has allowed him to collect some huge paydays. I’m talking about the fact that Broner has been, year after year, the farthest thing from an annoying, safety-first 21st century fighter. In other words, Adrien Broner isn’t afraid to face down major challenges in the ring. And he never has been. How many other big names in today’s version of pugilism can you say that for?
During the course of covering the sport of boxing for a number of years, I’ve been lied to, told what I wanted to hear, and generally misled time and time again. In other words, I’ve been treated like every other fight writer. Even though the good experiences of writing about the fight racket far outweigh the bad, it always stings when a boxer tells everyone he wants to “dare to be great,” only to let everyone down. Broner, say what you like about him, has in fact dared to be great. More or less regularly. He is an exception to a maddening rule. There may be others, but off the top of my head, only Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder strike me as contemporaries who also never play it cute. Everyone else is either suspect or – like Guillermo Rigondeaux, Terence Crawford, and Gennadiy Golovkin – one of the ones being avoided.
A look at some of Broner’s opponents speaks volumes: Manny Pacquiao, Shawn Porter, Marcos Maidana, Mikey Garcia. While Broner has lost most major battles, he keeps challenging himself. Much of this has to do with money, sure, but while Broner has been taking major risks, how many other fighters have been playing cute year in and year out? For example, he didn’t need to lock up with Marcos Maidana in 2013; he could have dragged his heels for another year or two first. Especially when, at the time, he was widely considered one the future kings of the sport. In an era when so many want to protect that perfect record at all costs, Broner got into the ring with a proven warrior, knowing full well the risk involved.
Perhaps that’s why Broner has remained a lucrative draw ever since the Maidana defeat. He took on fights that were, at worst, decent match ups, if not high-risk propositions. Sure, he also got big purses to match, but in almost every instance, Broner was the draw thanks in large part to his bad behaviour and ‘gangsta’ image. But bad behavior has always put butts in seats and generated pay-per-view buys, for the same reason mob movies are such a cultural staple. People take pleasure in watching the adventures of outlaws, those who don’t respect the limits the rest of us do. But that said, there’s a million loudmouth jerks and gangster wannabes out there. In order to sell tickets the way Broner has, there has to be something more. And there is. It’s the fact the guy’s a hell of a boxer and a willing competitor.
Just this past month Broner has made it known he’s willing to turn his back on boxing for good if he doesn’t get a minimum payday of ten million dollars for his next fight. Otherwise, he’s decided now is the time to try his hand at hip hop. And if that’s the case, here’s one fight writer who thinks that’s a damn shame. The guy’s got skills. Think about it: Broner has never been wiped out. All of his bouts have been competitive. Anyone who thinks losing to the likes of Pacquiao, Porter and Maidana is somehow shameful might want to invest time following a different sport. In the meantime, this sports needs guys who can compete and attract attention the way Broner does.
Look, there’s a lot not to like about Broner. But there’s a lot to respect, as well. Although it’s understandable for people to enjoy the man’s endless comeuppances, it’s time to follow the lead of some fight journalists out there who give credit where it’s due. Broner has been competitive at the upper reaches of the most competitive sport on earth for years now. And acknowledging the truth of that statement isn’t the same as condoning or ignoring terrible behavior. Far from it.
In the meantime, here’s one fight fan who hopes Adrien Broner reconsiders that career change to the music biz before it’s too late. After all, once this pandemic subsides, boxing is going to need as many compelling and competitive match-ups as it can get. And my guess is Adrien Broner still has the skills and moxy to give some young lions out there some tough battles. And boxing fans some fun fights. — Sean Crose