by David P. Greisman, photo by Hoganphotos.
Even before he stepped foot in the ring, there were the signs of his obvious influences.
There was the one-handed choke he’d used on his opponent at the weigh-in, just like Floyd Mayweather Jr. had done to Victor Ortiz.
There was the performance as he made his way into the arena, rapping his own entrance music, just as Roy Jones Jr. had done before facing Clinton Woods.
For a young, impressionable fighter, these were obvious influences, two of the biggest stars of the past two decades, two flashy, famous boxers who could go from being untouchable on defense to unstoppable on offense.
Jones has been fighting as a pro for as long as Adrien Broner has been alive. Mayweather’s pro career began at just about the same time that Broner first laced on a pair of gloves. They were obvious choices for fighters who could influence Broner, who at 22 remains young and impressionable.
Broner is impressive, too.
There is still much to be proven with Broner. Though he has a world title, he is still, 23 fights into his career, a work in progress, a beltholder who has shown he belongs toward the top in a shallow junior lightweight division but has not yet staked a true claim among the top in the sport.
There is time. Broner’s nickname, “The Problem,” is appropriate — his speed and power will pose precisely that for those less skilled, less gifted or less experienced. He blasted past Eloy Perez in four rounds this past Saturday, landing a pair of punches that subsequently sent his opponent down three times from that single combination.
Broner danced in the ring as Perez stumbled and fell. He’d done the same in the middle of the fight, moving out of a clinch, stepping around Perez and stepping across the ring, showing off for himself and for the crowd, showing his foe that it was he who was in control — and who was still having fun.
Mayweather once gave HBO’s ringside commentators his NFL playoff picks in the middle of a round. Jones once dropped his hands and held them behind his back before landing a knockout blow.
Adrien Broner will continue to be the type of fighter who talks trash about his opponents before a fight and then needs his hair brushed before doing interviews after the bout is over. But he will also continue to be the type of fighter people will tune in to see.
Some boxing fans love characters. And some boxing fans love to hate characters. This is what we have learned in a sport that has brought us Naseem Hamed, Mayweather and Ricardo Mayorga. This is what we have learned in a sporting world that has brought us Terrell Owens, Manny Ramirez and Dennis Rodman.
Sometimes it is not enough for a fighter to be good. He is more likely to get media attention and mainstream mentions if he is also a good sound bite or a good video clip. Muhammad Ali learned from the wrestler Gorgeous George. Mayweather likes to believe he is following in the footsteps of Ali. Broner’s rehearsed lines are reminiscent of those from Mayweather.
“Listen, man,” he said to his witting foil, HBO’s Max Kellerman, after knocking out Perez, a grin taking over his face. “They call me ‘The Problem,’ but you can call me ‘The Can Man,’ because anybody can get it — AfriCANS, AmeriCANS, DominiCANS, MexiCANS. Anybody CAN get it.”
The interview brought approving cheers from those in the crowd in St. Louis, and it likely brought the same from many watching from the comforts at home. It also probably brought disapproval from others.
Broner, like Mayweather, will be both loved and hated.
Mayweather, however, has infused his character with what seems to be bitterness that has built up over the years, discontent at not getting the paydays or attention he long felt he deserved until nearly a decade into his career. He now thrives as much on being hated as he does on being loved, needing something to rail against, a cause to motivate him, to force him out of the million-dollar mansion and through those grueling training camps.
Broner, meanwhile, is merely having fun with it. He is a kid on the playground, acting out the roles of his childhood heroes, a talented titleholder who is getting the HBO spotlight and paychecks and doing so at an age when he can still enjoy the sport of boxing rather than approach it as primarily a business.
He still has a ways to go to show that he isn’t just a shtick and move fighter, that he is more than just the latest boxer to get hype and acclaim before he’s truly staked his claim.
He’ll continue to get that chance to show it, though, under the bright spotlights of HBO. Love him or hate him, Adrien Broner is here.
The 10 Count will return next week.
David P. Greisman is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. His weekly column, “Fighting Words,” appears every Monday on BoxingScene.com.
Follow David on Twitter at twitter.com/fightingwords2 or on Facebook at facebook.com/fightingwordsboxing, or send questions and comments to [email protected]