By Mitch Abramson
The boxer Adrien Broner is not bashful about performing, in the ring or in front of reporters. So it came as no surprise that he put on a show of sorts at a luncheon at HBO offices in Manhattan to hype his upcoming title fight with Antonio DeMarco on Nov. 17 in Atlantic City.
Broner didn’t take much time to warm up on Wednesday in front of an audience that included HBO Sports head Ken Hershman, his trainer, Michael Stafford, and assorted media members and HBO brass, such as HBO PPV chief Mark Taffet.
In no particular order, Broner said he would flatten Floyd Mayweather Jr. if they ever met, stated he wants to be the first fighter to generate a billion dollars; he took time to clarify remarks he made recently concerning his stance that African-American fighters don’t get the credit they deserve from other African-American fans. He also admitted to spending a “year and a few months” in jail when he was 18 for a crime he didn’t wish to discuss, causing him to miss the chance to make the 2008 U.S. Olympic team.
Broner (24-0, 20 knockouts) was in town to promote his fight with DeMarco, the WBC lightweight world champion at Boardwalk Hall to be televised on HBO, but he spent more time discussing a topic much dearer to his heart: himself.
“When I’m done, I want to be the best boxer who ever put on a pair of boxing gloves,” he said with a straight face. “Whatever I have to do to be the best I will do it, and that means staying undefeated and fighting everybody. I can go up and down, to 135, 147, the right guy at 154. I can do a lot of things.”
He also injected a little humility to the discussion. Though he’s just 23, Broner made it clear he’s not interested in being a cautionary tale for those who come after him. He looked up to hometown hero Ricardo Williams, who squandered talent and a lot of money, Broner would say, on reckless behavior.
“I’m 23 but I have a mind like I’m 45,” he said. “I don’t spend money. I’m cheap. I’m not going to support like 20 people. I’ve seen it happen too many times, I’ve seen it happen, right in front of my face. Ricardo Williams had like 30 plus guys [he was helping], doing this and that, and it hurt me. He was somebody who I seen who had a chance- he was one of the biggest guys in the sport. It still hurt, me, and now he’s trying to get back to where he was. I just learn from other people’s mistakes.”
He also learns from Floyd Mayweather Jr. It’s clear from watching Broner in the ring he’s an admirer of Mayweather, from the shoulder roll, to the way he parries punches, to the showmanship he exhibits outside of the ring. His critics may say he’s a Mayweather clone. But the 23-year-old from Cincinnati doesn’t debunk the idea he may copy some of his tendencies. Hey, if he’s going to emulate a fighter, why not copy the best?
“I’m just 23 and I’m already being compared to the best of this era,” he said. “I must be doing something right. I saw a lot of things that I liked [with Mayweather] and it worked for me. If it’s not broke, I’m not going to fix it.”
But, just because he’s a fan doesn’t mean he wouldn’t fight Mayweather if the chance presented itself down the line. He’s not sure, however, if Mayweather would be willing to face him in a few years, given his own youth and Mayweather’s advancing age.
“Of course, if he’s around [I would face him],” said Broner, wearing a blue HBO jacket with the words “Retaarded” on the back with a blue San Diego Charges hat. “I really don’t see him staying around too much longer. I don’t’ know why he would do that. That would be dumb. Everyone knows that age catches up to everyone, that there’s always a young lion out there. That’s too dangerous. I don’t think he would do it.”
Although he counts Mayweather as one of the fighters he patterns his style off, he wouldn’t hold back if the two ever met.
“I love him, but if he’s on the other side of the ring, I have five kids, he has to get it,” Broner said. “I love him to death. I don’t care who it is on the other side of the ring. When I get in there, it’s straight tunnel vision.”
Broner went even further, saying he has a superior skill set to Mayweather at the same age.
“I have a lot to work on, but at 23, I would have kicked his ass,” Broner said. “I do what he does now. Floyd is a different style, but at 23, he wasn’t Floyd. He wasn’t the one that you guys were looking at.”
Earlier this month, Broner made comments that raised a few eyebrows, saying that African American boxers don’t get the respect and support from their African-American fans. On Wednesday, Broner raised some more eyebrows when he said those comments were taken slightly out of context. But he still stands behind what he said.
“The way [the writer] put it, as usual, the media twists my words around,” Broner said, without elaborating on what was twisted. “But I was telling the truth. African Americans- we don’t follow each other the same as Mexicans and Puerto Ricans follow their fighters. It’s so hard for us to support our own. Coming up where we come from, it’s like they don’t want to see the next man doing better than them. But I don’t let it get to me. And I don’t want it to seem like I’m a racist. We just have to do a better job of connecting with the fans. They want to be entertained, and I’m a professional boxer and I’m an entertainer and I love to entertain.”
Broner didn’t stop there. He wants to be the first boxer to make a billion dollars, mentioning that Mike Tyson made nearly half that in his career. While Broner had answers for nearly every question tossed his way, he hasn’t yet devised a blue print for how he would accomplish that feat.
“I think anything is possible,” he said of making that much money. “Of course, I’m going to need your help,” referring to assorted media members seated around him.
Broner also revealed that his career nearly ended before it started.He was locked up for over a year when he was 18 for a crime he declined to describe, nearly averting a larger jail sentence that would have been “football numbers” that caused him to miss the 2008 Olympics, he said.
“I got into some trouble,” he said. “Got into some big trouble. They tried to get me some football numbers, 85 years of lock-up. But I beat the charges like Rocky, got acquitted by the grace of God. I was going to make the Olympic team, too. I’ve been through a lot, but I’m back on track.”
And with that, Broner smiled, got up and thanked everyone for coming. Then, he turned around and conducted a few more interviews near the doorway with a wide smile in case those in attendance hadn’t gotten the point yet.
Mitch Abramson covers boxing for BoxingScene.com and the New York Daily News.