by David P. Greisman
This is the article that is written about Adrien Broner seemingly every year and by every boxing columnist.
This is another article about a fighter who has won world titles and earned millions of dollars while also dealing with legal trouble and other self-inflicted controversies, who is talented and accomplished yet has failed to live up to his potential, who has taken losses that should have been humbling and been in situations that should’ve been eye-opening, only for him to make even more mistakes.
This is another article in another year, but perhaps it is the last one, for either this will be the year that Broner finally gets it, or it will be the year that shows he will never get it until it is too late.
Neither of those was the case last year, or the year before, despite his previous proclamations. That is why Broner has begun to sound like a broken record. His issue is one of discipline. Although he fights in much lighter divisions, he is akin to some of the more infamous, chronically out-of-shape heavyweights who insist that next time will be different, that they have understood the problem and are dedicated to making things better.
This is a hopeful article, however — hopeful despite however many times we’ve heard it before.
We must recap before we return to that hope.
For there he was in 2014, speaking about his loss the previous winter to Marcos Maidana:
“I learned I need to stay in shape,” Broner said. “Before the Maidana fight it felt like I was unstoppable. I could do anything. I could just go back in the ring and everything would be normal. But after the fight I realized I have to slow down. I can still be me and have fun, but I can't be beating up my body. I have no more flaws. I put down everything. Now I just have fun, I stay in shape and I keep positive people around.”
But then he was accused of assault later that year. The charge was ultimately dismissed. He was also arrested for allegedly driving under the influence of alcohol in early 2015. He pleaded no contest to reckless driving and had his license suspended.
There he was, toward the end of 2015, speaking just after a victory, rebounding from suffering his second pro loss months before.
“I always work hard. Always. It’s just I’m at a point in my career where it’s like you got to do more than just work hard,” Broner said “It’s not just about working hard. It’s about outside the ring also. … It’s really up to me. As long as I’m focused and I’m all about boxing and business, nobody’s going to beat Adrien Broner. I’m the same Adrien Broner, I’m just more mature, more serious about my craft. It’s not a game.”
His longtime trainer had noticed major changes.
“He’s not gambling. He’s not hanging out. He’s not going partying. He’s not making the personal appearances like he would before,” Mike Stafford told FightHype.com in 2015. “That kinda took away from his training. If you stay up late, it’s hard to get up. He’s up every day at 8 o’clock, hitting the hills at 9 o’clock, coming back home and resting, [and] in the gym at 4:30.”
But then Broner was accused of beating and robbing a man at gunpoint in early 2016 after losing a bet at a bowling alley. He soon spent a brief stint in jail for a separate probation violation. He then was handed a three-week sentence for contempt of court at a hearing where the charges from the bowling alley incident were likely to be dismissed. Those charges and a lawsuit ultimately would be dropped when the alleged victim declined to testify.
That wasn’t the only dark time for Broner last year. Last October, Broner posted messages on social media that had friends and fans worried he would harm himself.
“You got days where some days you just feeling good, then you got some days where you just feel like the worst ever,” Broner told Showtime’s Mark Kriegel in a recent interview.
And so there he was, at the beginning of 2017, chatting with media members ahead of his upcoming fight this weekend against Adrian Granados, telling them of how he has adjusted.
“I've been living the fast life and I've calmed down a lot,” he said at one point. “Just coming back home and just seeing everything, it just brings me back down, right, so I'm in a great mind state right now and I'm just ready to put on a great show.
“It's not about me anymore,” he said later. “It's about my children, and that's what I've based my career off of now. I'm doing everything for them.”
This was a person who had previously filmed himself flushing money down the toilet in one video, and throwing his change from a store into the air in another, but who had also donated tickets for his fights to local boxing gyms and bought gifts for kids who are less fortunate. He had built his image as a brash antihero to some, villain to others, insisting he would never be humble, and yet he would complain of being stereotyped as a bad guy given how he would help others who needed it.
This is a person who says now that he has changed — because he has to.
“When you try to do it your way and it don't work, then you got to make the right choices and start following all the right steps,” Broner said. He soon added: “I'm learning from my situations, and now it's just time to grow up.”
He will still have his skeptics. He will still have those hoping for him to fail, rooting for him to lose fights, celebrating as they did the gutty but otherwise embarrassing defeat he suffered to Maidana in 2013, and mocking the lackluster performance he put forth against Shawn Porter in 2015. He has rubbed enough people wrong and for too long.
After all, Broner is a fighter who has won world titles in four weight classes without that being as much of an accomplishment as it otherwise could be. He was essentially handed world titles at junior lightweight and junior welterweight. He beat decent opposition to win his belt in a shallow lightweight division, and he beat the easiest option for his title at welterweight in what was a deep division.
He fell short when he stepped up against better opponents, even if he was brave in stepping up against fighters who also were bigger. His best wins to this day are against those latter two foes, Antonio DeMarco and Paulie Malignaggi. Despite being a four-division titleholder, he has only made two successful title defenses.
He is far from the next coming of Floyd Mayweather Jr., an unrealistic expectation foisted upon him when he was young but gladly accepted by him nonetheless.
That failure pleases some. They want to see him complete his fall.
It is one thing to want to see a person lose in the ring. It is another to hope for them to lose in life. While we tend not to want bad behavior to be rewarded, we often prefer for a villain to be redeemed.
It is too early to know whether he will be. The bowling alley incident was barely a year ago.
As for his boxing career, Broner rankled some with the news last week that his team requested a change in the contractual weight for the Granados fight from 142 to 147, giving Broner more leeway on the scales. Granados is a good opponent who will put forth a determined effort. He still isn’t on a level that would show whether Broner is finally living up to his potential.
The question is what that potential is — whether the potential has changed, or rather our perspective.
This is the fighter who said not too long ago that he wanted to be seen “as one of the best boxers to ever lace up a boxing glove, one of the most entertaining boxers to ever enter the ring,”
This is a fighter who now says he doesn’t want to measure himself against anyone else.
“Just try to be the best Adrien Broner,” he told Kriegel. “Point blank, period. I ain’t trying to outdo this person. I ain’t trying to outdo that person. If I do, then so be it. But at the end of the day, if I can go to sleep and retire from boxer knowing that I was the best Adrien Broner that I can be, then I’ve met my goal.”
Broner said this reflected a more mature version of himself, someone who better understands who he is or should be.
Being the best Adrien Broner he can be cannot just describe the fighter, though. He is a boxer who made his name in the ring, but he is a person who tarnished that name outside of the ring.
Broner has repeatedly acknowledged that he wasn’t playing a character or assuming a persona, but rather was merely being himself. It might be a struggle, then, to grow into someone somewhat different. But it need not be so much a transformation as an evolution into a lifestyle that is more constructive than self-destructive.
That growth can only be proven day by day. It only takes one day to set him back to where he was before.
Yet that is a pessimistic way of framing things, and one that looks backward instead of forward. There is no need to worry as much about the worst so long as you continue to hope for — and work toward — the best.
“Fighting Words” appears every Monday on BoxingScene.com. Pick up a copy of David’s book, “Fighting Words: The Heart and Heartbreak of Boxing,” at http://bit.ly/fightingwordsamazon or internationally at http://bit.ly/fightingwordsworldwide. Send questions/comments via email at [email protected]