By Cliff Rold
In light of 140 lb. titlist Adrien Broner’s latest outside the ring issues, which may or may not pan out to be a serious issue, this seems as good a time as any to point out some of the similarities between the sweet science and bowling.
The activities themselves aren’t really where the commonalities lie.
Sure, in bowling one might have a good right hand. That’s probably because it’s the hand they bowl with. In the classic “Kingpin,” it was even Woody Harrelson’s hook hand.
Who knew Woody was a southpaw?
The similarities between boxing and bowling aren’t physical. Comparison lies elsewhere. In bowling, the object is to navigate a narrow lane, treacherous gutters all along the path, in the hopes of nailing the pins just right for a strike. Short of a strike, a good bowler aims to knock down as many pins as he can en route to his next round. Get good enough at the game and the tournaments get more valuable.
The building of fighters can be a little bit like the roll down the lane. The pins are the titles and name brand wins waiting at the end. And if you nail the strike, the pins reset and ask you to do it again.
As titles have become devalued in boxing, and even before that, the bigger names in boxing are the pins everyone is bowling for. At the highest level, getting a fight with an Oscar De La Hoya or Floyd Mayweather was the product of a series of strikes. Getting a win over a fighter of that caliber could be the elusive 300 score.
There is a level or two down from there in terms of name brand value. Wins that could add value and still represent a hell of a game in the lanes.
This Friday, Ashley Theophane (39-6-1, 11 KO) will step into his game shoes and see if, at 35, he can avoid rolling a gutter ball. Broner will try to avoid having a third strike leveled against him and hold onto a WBA belt he won last October.
Theophane shouldn’t win this fight but he isn’t hopeless this Friday (Spike TV, 9 PM EST). He once gave a younger Danny Garcia all he could handle and seems to have the confidence of his promoter, Mayweather. It’s led to an amusing war of words between both sides but words don’t win fights.
Theophane will have to do that in the ring.
Beating Broner would snare a title for Theophane and the economic value of titles makes that a worthy goal. Theophane is fighting for more than that though. Not every fighter with a belt gets rich. Who one wins a belt against matters and that often comes down to public recognition.
Broner is certainly recognizable. That’s not the same as beloved. He’s the sort of brash fighter that many fans like to see get beat and beating him has had value beyond titles. Marcos Maidana did it, briefly flirted with folk hero status, and got two fights against Mayweather. Shawn Porter came down to a catchweight to jumpstart his career after a loss to Kell Brook and now has a big fight on tap with Keith Thurman.
Even if the best Theophane did was a rematch with Broner that worth more than their first fight, it’s a better place than he started.
Unlike a Mayweather, Broner has proven to be a case where the pins can be knocked down. It adds some extra drama to his fights. Coupled with outside the ring distractions that have trailed Broner long before recent events, there is a vulnerability there that is on par with a Zab Judah or Yuriorkis Gamboa.
Broner has good defensive moves but often gets hit a lot anyways. He’s got good power but it hasn’t put away the upper echelon of any class. He’s good enough to beat most of what’s around but one never knows when Broner might slip up.
There is an argument that, in Broner, the style outweighs the substance. Despite belts in four weight divisions, Broner has very few wins against serious top ten contenders in any weight class. His title collection is closer to Leo Gamez than Manny Pacquiao.
And yet fight fans remain intrigued. Ticket sales look good for Friday because Broner is a show unto himself. His marketing has been calculated carefully. He’s slipped, for this night, from the loftier heights of premium cable.
That won’t last long.
Even if fans have shown they’ll pay for the chance to see him quieted, that doesn’t last forever. In the same way that bowling pins have to be reset after a strike, Broner is being reset following the Porter loss.
That means more beatable foes for the time being in the hopes of growing his value and making a strike against him a bigger goal again. Ashley Theophane isn’t there to roll a strike.
He’s got nothing to lose in trying to do so anyways.
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Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]