By Rajeev Lewis
Broner has won World Championships in four weight-classes by the young age of 27; so why is viewed as an underachiever?
Just a few years ago Adrien Broner’s name was mentioned excitedly by boxing fans as they discussed the ever recurring question: “who will be next?” Around the time AB earned his third world title in as many weight classes, Mayweather, Pacquiao, Marquez and Klitschko all started approaching age 40. As an era was coming to an end, Broner looked like a promising candidate to become the new king of boxing.
Come 2017, Broner finds himself a prohibitive underdog for his upcoming fight against 135lb champion Mikey Garcia, with many pundits picking him to lose by KO. How times have changed. One can hardly blame the public for turning on Broner to this degree. His antics outside the ring have been nothing short of disgraceful, particularly his legal follies, one of which embarrassingly related to a night of high stakes bowling. His opponent, on the other hand, has a sterling reputation matched only by his skills in the ring.
It’s easy to get behind Mikey Garcia, who soon after his two year layoff obliterated the then-undefeated WBC champion Dejan Zlaticanin in 3 rounds. Garcia left the man out cold for several minutes, took his belt, and returned to the pound for pound discussions he was just entering before his lengthy time away from the ring. Garcia performed excellently, demonstrating perfect fundamentals combined with ring craft indicative of experience well beyond his years. The exclamation point on the performance however was undoubtedly the sudden and brutal nature of the KO, which brought Garcia even further accolade for his power.
Contrast this with Broner, who endured all he could handle against Adrian Granados in his most recent fight. Granados displayed incredible heart and energy, doing his best to rough up Broner and grind away. While Broner did enough to win the majority of rounds and landed the cleaner punches, more is expected of a four weight world champion. Granados is not considered a world beater, and his rough performance is the kind that is typically broken apart by the best. Even his discipline comes into question, as Broner essentially gave up on making weight for the 140lb original limit for that fight, which was settled for 147lb. All in all, Broner deserves to be the underdog here, and his case isn’t helped by the two losses he suffered as he upped his competition
However, a Broner loss is not a foregone conclusion. Broner’s defeats have come against two men who won championships at welterweight; Marcos Maidana and Shawn Porter. The former occurred soon after Broner moved up two weight classes, and in the latter Broner almost turned things around with a 12th round knockdown (the only KD of the rugged Porter’s career). Broner was the clear loser in both these fights, but he demonstrated surprising toughness and resilience, getting up after suffering his punishment and finishing strong in each bout. He has been largely unable to be as successful recently as he was years ago, but a lot of that can be attributed to the much larger men he now fights. Maidana, in an interview with Ring Magazine, appraised Broner as the physically strongest man he faced. Broner’s low output, pot-shotting style seems to depend on large right hands for taking out opponents and using his strength, often through stiff-arming, to keep their approach at bay. Against the rough and tough, bigger welterweight champs he fought, it’s easy to see why Broner couldn’t win.
But things are different now, as Garcia is not like those men. Pound for pound he appears better than they were, possessing so much more craft and accuracy. But he started his career at 126lb, and will be the first top opponent in a while Broner would likely be larger than in the ring. Couple this with his slow starting, cautious style and the fight could be fought at a pace which favors Broner. Garcia certainly will not be looking for a brawl, as he himself is not impervious to damage; he was knocked down and noticeably buckled in his last two fights respectively before his layoff. Notably, these were at 130lb. Broner may have lost his two biggest fights, but he was able to survive heavy welterweight punches. And if he can knock down Porter, he definitely has the power to do the same to Garcia. Perhaps somewhat humbled by his past performances, Broner indicated in the opening press conference just how big of an opportunity this was, and promised to bring his best preparation (particularly in making the 140lb limit for the bout).
The fight will be tough for him; Broner will have to earn respect early and not allow himself to be read and countered. He will need to play to his advantages in size and be at the top of his game in terms of conditioning. Though it’s difficult to side with him here, perhaps it suits “The Problem” to be an underdog against one of boxing’s top hopes; Broner does seem to enjoy spoiling the party.