ADRIEN BRONER — His nickname is “The Problem,” which might be the most apt moniker in all of boxing. But, too often, four-division former world champion Adrien Broner has been a problem to himself and not to his opponents. His decision-making out of the ring has been baffling, his conduct outrageous, his irresponsibility legendary.
Somewhere along the line, on his way to adding his name to the short list of great Cincinnati fighters comprised of deceased Hall of Famers Ezzard Charles and Aaron Pryor, Adrien Broner lost his way as surely as might a city slicker deposited blindfolded and alone into the Alaska wilderness. Figurative grizzly bears were everywhere, presumably ready to devour whatever remained of the once-limitless potential Broner occasionally has appeared so intent on squandering.
But a mystifying and possibly redemptive change has occurred, at least to hear Broner tell it. At 27, in what should still be the early middle portion of his prime, he professes to have embraced lifestyle changes that could transform “The Problem” into “The Solution.” Words, however, are cheap unless they translate into actions, and a legion of skeptics disposed to dismiss Broner as just another talented head case will need to see proof that his mea culpas for past indiscretions are truly heartfelt or just so much empty rhetoric.
“I don’t want to do anything but bring out the best Adrien Broner,” said Broner (32-2, 24 KOs), who takes on former sparring partner Adrian Granados (18-4-2, 12 KOs) in the 12-round main event to be televised via Showtime Championship Boxing Saturday night from the Cintas Center on the Xavier University campus in Cincinnati. “My main focus right now is on Adrien Broner and bringing more positivity in my life.”
Speaking in the third person is a mark of egotism so frequently demonstrated by Broner’s onetime hero and role model, Floyd Mayweather Jr., but apart from that Broner’s demeanor now hints at an unaccustomed humility. The fact remains, however, that he requested, and received, a hike to the welterweight limit of 147 pounds from the contracted weight limit of 142, which suggests that at least one longstanding bugaboo – the scale – remains as much a part of his present as his past. It also opens to conjecture any and all of his professions that the wild child with whom fight fans are so familiar has finally learned to control his inner demons.
“It’s not about me anymore,” he said during the lead-up to the Granados fight, upon which further talk of a career revival is contingent. “It’s about my children and that’s what I’ve based my career on as of now. I’m doing everything for them.
“I just want to do better and be in better situations. That’s all. When you try to do it your way and it don’t work, then you got to make the right choices and start following the right steps.”
And to what does he attribute all the highly publicized missteps, including several brushes with the law?
“I was young,” he said. “I’m pretty sure a lot of people who have been as successful as me, or even more successful than I am today, have been through a lot of the same things. Floyd Mayweather tells me all the time, `You’re going to be OK.’ He says, `I’ve done some of the things you’ve done, but it’s all about learning from your situations.’ And that’s what I’m doing. Now it’s time to grow up.”
Broner’s “situations” can be sub-divided into some really nice things he did inside the ropes, and self-indulgent behavior that not only sullied his reputation, but might have contributed to a couple of nights when his boxing gifts appeared to be missing in action. Not so very long ago, veteran trainer and boxing analyst Teddy Atlas was effusive in his praise of Broner, claiming that “from a physical standpoint he is extremely skilled. Whoever he gets in with, he just looks faster, smarter and better than all of them.”
“The Problem” basically agreed with Atlas’ assessment, except he went a step further. Not only did he consider himself too much for flesh-and-blood human beings to deal with in the ring, but also the ultimate higher power. In bragging on himself, which Broner did with monotonous regularity, he claimed he would “knock out God” if The Almighty were to don padded gloves and make the mistake of taking him on.
But the lofty pedestal upon which Broner had placed himself was tipped over when he yielded his WBA welterweight championship to Marcus Maidana, who floored him in the second and eighth rounds in winning a lopsided unanimous decision on Dec. 14, 2013, and it was again when he lost another clear-cut UD against Shawn Porter on June 20, 2015. He rebounded to win the vacant WBA super lightweight title on a 12th-round stoppage of Khabib Allakhverdiev on Oct. 3, 2015, but was obliged to relinquish it on April 1, 2016 – ironically, April Fool’s Day – when he failed to make the 140-pound division limit by 0.4 pounds for his scheduled bout with Ashley Theopane. The fight went on anyway, and Broner took out Theopane in nine rounds.
Although, as Broner notes, neither Allakhverdiev nor Theopane had lost inside the distance until they faced him, both are presently unrated by any world sanctioning body, which lessens the significance of his victories over those fringe contenders. Broner himself is largely absent from the rankings, not showing up at all at welterweight and meriting just a No. 4 slot from the WBC at super lightweight. But that might owe to questions stemming as to where to place him, given his fluctuating poundage. Certainly, Granados claims to have no fear of the man he got to see up close and personal in those sparring sessions, saying, “I know that I can compete with him and beat him. I just believe I’m a better fighter.”
Perhaps the biggest issue, maybe even the only issue, that will be settled Saturday night in Cincinnati is whether Broner is actually more dangerous a fighter if he has removed, or at least reduced, all the chaos from his life. There are a select few boxers who thrive on constant turmoil instead of being diminished by it, and it might be argued that Broner is a charter member of that mystifying club of contrarians.
Those children to whom Broner now says he is dedicating his career? He has seven of them, by six different women, making for child-support payments that have eaten deeply into the ring earnings that his father, Thomas, predicted would never run out. Broner named his fledgling promotional company “About Billions,” which utilizes his own initials, but multimillionaire Mayweather, who has a heap more cash, has jokingly said a more fitting designation would be “About Broke.”
Broner has used sex for more than procreation, adding layers to his notoriety. He once posted a photo on Instagram of two women performing fellatio on him, and in October of last year he was charged with misdemeanor battery for choking a waitress at a Cincinnati nightclub, ostensibly for her rejection of his alcohol-fueled advances. But all that pales when measured against his June 22, 2013, bout with Paulie Malignaggi, when Broner publicly boasted about having sex with Malignaggi’s girlfriend, which prompted the two fighters to make homophobic rants against each other. When Broner won a split decision and wrested the WBA welterweight title from Malignaggi, he told Showtime interviewer Jim Gray, “I beat Paulie, I left with his belt and his girl.”
Worse, Broner spent more than a year in jail in 2007 on a robbery and assault conviction, likely costing him a berth on the 2008 U.S. Olympic boxing team that competed in Beijing, China, and he generated more negative publicity when, on January 21, 2016, he lost $14,000 in side bets with one Christopher Carson at a Cincinnati bowling alley. An enraged Broner demanded his money back in the parking lot (who carries that kind of money to a bowling alley?) and, when Carson refused to hand it over, Broner allegedly punched him in the face and neck. According to court documents, Broner then “retrieved a handgun from his vehicle, demanded the money (again), then struck the victim in the face with a closed fist the second time, this time causing him to be rendered unconscious. Broner was then observed taking the money out of the victim’s pocket while he was unconscious and fleeing the scene.”
That incident was settled out of court, but history has a way of repeating itself. If Broner has erupted like a volcano at other times, can it happen again? And if so, will he forever surrender his chance to become the transcendental star that once appeared to be his destiny?
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