Don’t Blame Broner For His Bad Behavior, He’s Just Following A Successful Template

Washington, D.C. — Boxers engaging in morally questionable behavior is an occurrence as old as the sport itself. But while a tendency to challenge social norms hasn’t changed much, the marketability and recognition of such actions certainly has.

Ten years ago one fighter made a bet that would have a profound impact on the boxing business. The most talented fighter at the time was far from a mainstream name and felt a lack of stardom was due to poor marketing by his promoter. The fighter paid to be released from his contract, effectively gambling $750,000 that he could make superior revenue by promoting his bouts himself.

Read “Broner-Theophane: April Fools Day in Washington DC” also at The Sweet Science by Thomas Hauser.

The fighter, Floyd Mayweather Jr, felt that Bob Arum’s Top Rank was applying an outdated formula to their marketing, with the promoter trying to turn him into a matinee idol of the Ray Leonard and Oscar De La Hoya variety. Instead, Mayweather was convinced that embracing 21st century hip-hop culture would be necessary to attract notoriety, and with it more money.

“The [hip-hop and rap fan base] was an untapped market, a billion-dollar industry,” Mayweather’s business partner Leonard Ellerbe told the Las Vegas Review-Journal of the decision to start Mayweather Promotions. “We wanted to capture the urban market. But we also wanted to connect with the mainstream world.”

With a moniker change from “Pretty Boy” to “Money”, Mayweather’s image transition involved an embracement of the villainous role whereby he would extol his superior abilities and denigrate opponents, in stark contrast to the portrayed innocence and bright smile during his early Top Rank days. The flaunting of wealth and habitual presence in nightclubs became other pillars of his new persona, while numerous encounters with the law added to the infamy.

Mayweather’s embrace of hip-hop and ascension to the position of world’s highest paid athlete has seen rappers such as Jay Z and 50 Cent enter the world of boxing promotion, and of course, fighters have tried to get in on the act. None are more notable than Adrien Broner. The 26-year-old has adhered to the Mayweather template, and in many ways surpassed the outrageous behavior of his acknowledged idol.

While Broner has won versions of world titles in four weight divisions, he is far from being the best fighter in the world, and is most synonymous with a litany of incidents that range from bizarre to heinous. What’s more, Broner has been responsible for the release of the scandalous material through social media.

In 2013, Broner released a video in which he flushed $20 bills down the toilet. He later released another video in which he seemingly defecated into a toilet and subsequently flushed away more wads of money. Continuing with his social media activity, Broner posted a sex video showing him having intercourse with two women, and last month added a video in which he threw his change at a Walmart cashier.

And that’s not mentioning his brushes with the law. As a teenager he spent more than a year in prison for aggravated robbery and battery. In 2013 he was charged with battery after allegedly biting a security guard, and in 2015 he was convicted of a DUI offence in which he bragged to arresting officers that he was rich, famous, and had made more than $100 million in his boxing career [a considerable overestimate].

Most recently, Broner was charged with felony assault and aggravated robbery following a January incident in which he is accused of assaulting a man and robbing him of $12,000 at gunpoint outside of a Cincinnati bowling alley. What’s unusual with this incident for Broner, is that the arrest warrant is outstanding and he was licensed to fight in a title bout Friday night in Washington D.C. with an understanding that he will turn himself in on Monday.

To add another dollop of bad taste to the bout against Ashley Theophane, Broner failed to make the agreed 140 pound weight limit, thus forfeiting his WBA world title. Moreover, he refused to even try and shake off his extra 0.4 of a pound despite being given two hours to do so [shaving his bushy beard would have gone some way to making the limit].

Despite the distraction, Broner made relatively easy work of the limited Theophane, as expected, with the referee halting the main event contest in the ninth round to save the British fighter from further punishment. In the days leading up to the bout Broner understandably received copious criticism from boxing media commentators, with many expressing disgust at his behavior. Yet, if the wider general public felt disgust, it wasn’t reflected in the interest generated for Friday’s event. A sold out crowd of 8,172 packed the D.C. Armory arena for the Premier Boxing Champions fight card that was screened on Spike.

The attendance was almost double that of a HBO-televised event in the same arena last month that featured top heavyweight contender Luis Ortiz and a welterweight title fight between Jessie Vargas and Sadam Ali. Conversely, Friday’s undercard lacked major names, with emerging prospect Robert Easter the standout. In another page from the Mayweather template, Broner has formed his own promotional outfit, AB Promotions, and has signed Easter to its stable.

As was the case with Mayweather, no matter how much Broner’s outside-the-ring actions are reviled by media commentators, the fighter will continue to receive high-profile opportunities from event organizers and TV networks as long as the consumer keeps showing an interest. Unlike with most other sports, in boxing there is no universally recognized governing entity that can act as the moral police. And unless a marketable fighter is behind bars, his visibility will remain unaffected by his extracurricular conduct.

In an era when the human attention span appears to be dwindling by the second, Broner has managed to continually generate outrageous headlines and connect with a younger audience through a masterful use of social media. However, beyond the headlines there is a man with a compelling backstory. As his trainer Mike Stafford notes, “When Adrien was eight years old I’d drive the van out to his neighborhood and there’d be 20, 30 kids trying to get to the gym. Out of all those kids, there’s only about four or five left. The rest are dead or in jail or running the streets. Adrien’s one of the only ones left.”

When in a rare reflective mood back in 2013, Broner recalled: “I know what it’s like, to wake up in the middle of the night and say, ‘I’m hungry,’ and see what’s to eat and say, ‘F—, I got to eat syrup and bread again … and water. I know what that feels like.” But playing the role of a likeable guy who overcame the odds didn’t help Mayweather at the box office, and would not be much benefit to Broner, who lacks Mayweather’s extraordinary natural talent.

Fittingly, with Broner’s notoriety at its peak, Mayweather was at ringside on Friday. Broner has habitually called Mayweather his “big bro” after the two struck up a friendship several years ago. Yet on this night Mayweather was ostensibly supporting Theophane, who is part of the Mayweather Promotions stable.

Notably, in recent weeks the relationship between Mayweather and Broner has seemingly gone sour with the pair engaging in a war of words through the media. In an interview, Mayweather criticized the images of Broner throwing change in Walmart, while Broner later countered with a video in which he implied Mayweather was a hypocrite for doing similar actions in nightclubs.

The newfound acrimony between the pair was heightened in the immediate aftermath of Friday’s bout when Broner attempted to jump over the ropes to seemingly confront Mayweather at ringside. Several minutes later during an in-ring interview, Broner challenged Mayweather to a physical confrontation. “I will never let a man disrespect me like [Mayweather did in the interview],” said Broner. “So he gotta see me. I don’t care if we spar or we fight, let’s get it on.” The D.C. Armory crowd, which had earlier booed Broner’s performance at stages in the bout, loudly cheered the braggadocio statement.

Of course, trash talk in boxing can never be taken at face value, and the friction between Mayweather and Broner only served to engender more hype about Friday’s event, which was in the interest of both parties. Indications that the “heat” was manufactured came hours after the event had finished. Standing outside his dressing room, away from the bright lights and cheering crowd, Broner admitted that the dispute between the pair was a “misunderstanding” and that he had wanted to shake hands with Mayweather after the fight to “pay homage to a man I’ve learned so much from.”

Broner has undoubtedly been the best student of Mayweather’s self-promotion techniques and will surely find new ways to denigrate the sport and shock long-time observers before the year is over. He will probably also generate more articles, retweets, and shares than any fighter outside Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao.

As evidenced by the large, relatively youthful crowd that Broner attracted to the D.C. Armory, brashness sells. Broner is adhering to promotional techniques that work in the boxing business. Mayweather’s former promoter, Bob Arum, is regarded as one of the best ever, but even he admitted to a failure in recognizing the potential for a new style of marketing.

“What did I, an old Jewish white guy, know about marketing to hip-hop?” Arum said last year in reference to his promotion of Mayweather. “I knew how to promote to African-Americans, but it was older African-Americans, not the young people. Floyd knew how to connect with the young people, and that was our mistake.”

Ronan Keenan can be contacted at ronankeenan@yahoo.com or on Twitter @rokeenan

Check out The Boxing Channel’s review of the show featuring former WBC World Light Heavyweight champion Montell Griffin, who attended the fights live.

COMMENTS

-ZonaDeBoxeo.com :

<img src="http://www.zonadeboxeo.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/Zou-Shiming-vs-Jozsef-Ajtai.jpg"> Shiming debuta victorioso en un ring de Estados Unidos -El mejor púgil chino de todos los tiempos, [url=https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zou_Shiming]Zou Shiming, cumplió el pasado sábado con su estreno exitoso en Estados Unidos, en un combate incluido en el cartel del neoyorquino Madison Square Garden Theater, en el que la pelea estelar corrió a cargo del ucraniano Vasyl Lomachenko y el puertorriqueño Román Martínez, con victoria por nocaut en el quinto asalto para el de Europa del Este. El principal exponente del deporte de los puños en la nación más poblada del planeta superó por amplio margen al húngaro Jozsef Ajtai, en una trifulca en la que, a ratos, la única buena noticia para el público presente era el hecho de saber que había sido pactada a 10 rounds. En favor de Zou, cabe destacar que el europeo fue el máximo responsable de que el pleito transcurriera entre monótono y deslucido. Si Ajtai, de solo 19 años, viajó a Nueva York desde su residencia en Budapest con una estrategia que incluía abrazarse continuamente a su contrario y correr todo un maratón por el encordado evitando intercambiar golpes, no habrá nada que reprocharle ni a él ni a su equipo: el plan fue implementado a la perfección casi de campana a campana, entre las rechiflas de más de un aficionado impaciente y la algarabía de los chinos que se dieron cita para respaldar a su astro (a quienes bastaba un simple amago de Shiming para aplaudirlo y ovacionarlo). El referí estadounidense Ron Lipton tuvo una de esas veladas en las que se justifica más que nunca la presencia del tercer hombre en el ring para intentar espolear el espíritu de gladiador de los encargados de brindar espectáculo. Lipton debe haberse quedado prácticamente afónico lanzando advertencias a Jozsef, quien asentía a sus amonestaciones y volvía a cometer nuevas infracciones (agarres principalmente) sin que mediase un segundo entre una y otra acción. Shiming, bicampeón olímpico de Beijing 2008 y Londres 2012, aterrizó los mejores impactos en cada una de las 10 fracciones e intentó imponer sin éxito su voluntad frente a un boxeador muy escurridizo que se contentó con llegar en pie al décimo asalto y, de hecho, así lo celebró cuando sonó el gong que decretó el final del juego del gato y el ratón en que se tornó la supuesta bronca, alzando los brazos en son de victoria. De cualquier manera, los tres jueces no compraron el teatro de Ajtai (15-3, 10 KOs) y lo premiaron con una holgada votación unánime, pero en su contra, un idéntico 100-89 favorable al de Asia en el trío de papeletas. Fue el segundo éxito consecutivo para Zou (8-1, 2 KOs), ambos este año frente a rivales de poca envergadura (el anterior, el pasado enero en Shanghái, por TKO-8, frente al también desconocido brasileño Natan Santana Coutinho, de solo 21 años por aquella fecha), desde que sufriera su primera derrota como profesional el pasado calendario. En marzo de 2015, el oriundo de la ciudad de Zunyi quedó en deuda con sus millones de hinchas en la región china de Macao, al caer por inobjetable veredicto arbitral frente al tailandés Amnat Ruenroeng, en una reyerta en la que este último defendía su cinturón mosca (112 libras) avalado por la Federación Internacional (FIB). Era la séptima presentación de Shiming en el ensogado del casino resort macaense The Venetian y se suponía que fuese la de su consagración en el pugilismo asalariado, pero el de Tailandia le amargó la fiesta a todos los presentes, incluido el influyente promotor del anfitrión, el estadounidense Bob Arum. El más reciente éxito del doble medallista de oro en citas estivales, atendiendo a la calidad y el palmarés de su contrincante, no le hace mucho favor en sus aspiraciones de escalar posiciones en los ránkings de las cuatro entidades boxísticas para aspirar a convertirse en retador obligatorio de alguno de los vigentes monarcas. Pero si alguien en el gremio sabe y cuenta con el poder para sacar provecho de resultados irrelevantes y convertirlos en oportunidades inmerecidas, ese es –quién lo duda– míster Arum. El chino, con 35 años recién cumplidos en mayo, no tiene tiempo de seguir inflando su récord con rivales inexpertos, si es que realmente pretende convertirse en campeón mundial en el profesionalismo y completar un currículum que ya como amateur le ha merecido el estatus de celebridad en su país (además de bicampeón olímpico, se proclamó tricampeón mundial aficionado). Si su objetivo antes de retirarse no va más allá de un nada despreciable cheque de seis dígitos par de veces al año, la meta estará garantizada mientras siga ganando contra seminovatos, pues el mercado chino, con despertarle un mínimo de interés mediático, supone bolsas muy lucrativas para sus atletas. Su gran problema camino a ese ansiado cetro del orbe entre los rentados, además de la falta de pegada y algunas deficiencias técnicas que no acaba de corregir del todo, es hacer campaña en una categoría de las 112 libras en la que si algo sobra, es talento. Cualquiera de los cinco soberanos de la división, en teoría, podría impartir a Shiming un repaso tal dentro del ensogado que lo dejaría casi listo para colgar los guantes o para continuar boxeando sin la etiqueta de superestrella deportiva que le otorgan sus compatriotas. El quinteto de campeones lo comanda nada menos que el actual número uno del escalafón libra por libra, el nicaragüense Román González, quien gobierna como mosca por el Consejo Mundial (CMB), y lo completan el mexicano Juan Francisco Estrada, para muchos el mejor boxeador azteca del momento, que dicta su ley en la Organización y Asociación Mundiales (OMB y AMB), el japonés Kazuto Ioka, que atesora el cinturón de menor valía (regular) de esta última entidad y, por la referida FIB, el filipino Johnriel Casimero, quien destronó a finales del mes pasado a Ruenroeng con un fulminante nocaut en 4 rounds. Si alguna remota opción de victoria pudiera tener contra alguien de los cinco mencionados, sería frente Ioka y Casimero, pero sería casi imprescindible que se alineasen los astros y se conjugasen una pésima jornada del campeón con una demostración soberbia del chino. La vía menos empedrada hacia un cinturón parece esperarle en la categoría inmediata superior, la supermosca (115 libras), aunque, vistas sus presentaciones hasta la fecha, los japoneses Naoya Inoue (OMB) y Kohei Kono (AMB), el mexicano Carlos Cuadras (CMB) y el puertorriqueño McJoe Arroyo (FIB) están muy lejos de parecer unos manjares para Zou.