By Keith Idec
Kevin Cunningham was as skeptical as anyone.
The veteran trainer had heard many times from Adrien Broner that the inconsistent Cincinnati native was ready to rededicate himself to preparing properly for his fights. That’s why when Broner called Cunningham about training him following his decision defeat to Mikey Garcia, Cunningham told Broner he’d have to do everything Cunningham asked or their partnership wouldn’t work.
Admittedly, Broner became complacent while working with longtime trainer Mike Stafford. According to Broner, he had started treating Stafford as more of a friend than a trainer.
Cunningham, a former St. Louis police officer, is known as a no-nonsense disciplinarian. He had assisted Stafford in Broner’s corner, but this would have to be a different deal altogether.
Broner has proved what he promised Cunningham during the training camp they’ve just wrapped up at Cunningham’s gym in West Palm Beach, Florida. That’ll be proven, Cunningham says, when Broner boxes Jessie Vargas in a 12-round, 144-pound main event Saturday night at Barclays Center in Brooklyn (Showtime; 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT).
“I told him upfront what I expected and what we needed to do, and how things had to go,” said Cunningham, who estimates he has known Broner since Broner was an 8-year-old, 60-pound amateur. “I told him that if he wasn’t ready to adhere to what I’m expecting, he shouldn't waste his time or mine. He has done everything I’ve asked of him. Everything and more. He’s going to show that he’s ready to get himself together. He’s going to show the world on April 21 that he’s rededicated himself, he’s ready to reclaim the throne.”
The 28-year-old Broner (33-3, 24 KOs, 1 NC) must beat Las Vegas’ Vargas (28-2, 10 KOs) to at least regain some momentum after a largely one-sided, 12-round loss to Garcia (38-0, 30 KOs) on July 29 at Barclays Center.
Low punch output typically has been one of Broner’s problems. Cunningham has emphasized throwing more punches during training camp, as well as remaining focused for all three minutes of each round.
“I think sometimes he could be a little more focused,” Cunningham said, “and have a little more discipline in a lot of the different things he’s doing. I think he’s trying to turn the corner and get things moving in the right direction.”
Broner has trained alongside Gervonta Davis during this camp at Cunningham’s gym. Baltimore’s Davis (19-0, 18 KOs) will square off against Argentina’s Jesus Cuellar (28-2, 21 KOs) on the Broner-Vargas undercard for a version of the WBA’s super featherweight title.
“I think coming over here with me, he’s finding a lot more structure in the training aspect,” said Cunningham, who’s most known for his work with St. Louis natives and former champions Devon Alexander and Cory Spinks. “It’s a totally different training program that I have him doing. I think that he’s ready for some new leadership. He’s ready to be a little more disciplined in his profession and I think it’s going to show on the 21st.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.