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Adrien Broner Best Be “About Boxing”

Adrien Broner
Adrien Broner

By Jonathan Shrager


Whilst all professional sports are unforgiving at the elite level, it’s acutely true what they say: You “play” basketball; you “play” baseball; heck, you even “play” rugby. You don’t play at boxing. Add Señor Adrien Broner to the sizeable catalogue of fighters who recently discovered this fact in the least forgiving arena of all: the squared circle.
 
There’s an old proverb which states, “Be there or be square.” Well, where beautiful brutality is concerned, you’d better “be there or be squared.” Because if you ain’t all there in that ring, both mentally and emotionally, better believe the truth will come out. A boxer’s will is the great equalizer, after all, so hard work will eventually override talent if talent doesn’t work hard.
 
We are now weeks removed from Broner being unceremoniously handed his maiden loss by Argentinean Marcos Maidana. Former WBA welterweight titleholder and Showtime network commentator Paulie Malignaggi (from whom Broner wrested his title one fight previous) was quick to point out Broner’s persistent brashness in the immediate aftermath of the fight but procuring a fighter’s instantaneous hormone-laden reactions often appears a futile exercise. We mere mortals cannot fully grasp the emotional rollercoaster a fighter must experience on fight night as the adrenaline progressively peaks, plateaus and plummets prior to promptly exiting the body.

Broner’s post-fight bravado and proclamations of affluence were most likely a kneejerk manifestation of his raw emotion, having just involuntarily relinquished his blemishless record. For Broner, there’ll have been perennial, protracted periods of introspection in the days and weeks following the fight. The true nature of these inner, soul-searching sessions will only become apparent in his forthcoming fights.
 
I’m by no means inferring that Broner will suddenly transition from boxing’s biggest braggart to adopting a more bashful demeanour following his chastening experience. Far from it; in fact, if you were going to bet your bottom dollar (or your penultimate pound) on how Broner will publicly conduct himself hereafter, you’d of course back him to continue in the same vein, with the same vanity. In fact, his vanity might well redouble following the loss, a veneer constructed to veil his disappointment and further antagonize the perceived detractors. But such behavior will be in vain. Any half-discerning observer will see right through it.
 
However you perceive Broner from a voyeuristic vantage point, you’re more than likely watching. Some deem him “car crash TV,” the ever-willing protagonist in his own inevitable demise. Others categorize him in the “bubble gum TV” genre: vacuous, superficial, essentially an embodiment of all that is wrong with modern-day society’s desperate yearning for the trappings of fame. But irrespective of all this, there’s one thing we can almost unanimously agree upon; the man is simply “must-watch TV.” As boxing observers (and in some cases, fanatics), we’re relentlessly drawn to characters, as superficial as they are conflicted. If you’re bored of Broner, you’re bored of life.
 
He’s one of those riveting personalities who sporadically floats onto the boxing scene, oozing that innate, intangible X-factor. But for him to subsequently go on to become Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s successor or even fulfill his potential potential (this isn’t a typo; I’ve doubled up here to underscore the point that we don’t quite yet know how good he really is inside the ring) will necessitate him to take heed of his pugilistic predecessors who shared his propensity for piling on the pounds in between bouts, a phenomenon perpetuated by a penchant for partying. Most notably, he’d do well to acknowledge my fellow Mancunian Ricky Hatton and the manner in which his unsustainable lifestyle served to curtail his longevity excelling amid the upper echelons of the sport.
 
To be the best at anything in life requires one to live that life. It’s a maxim oft-repeated and it particularly pertains to pugilism. Now, I’ve heard Broner rap. He’s no Nas. In fact, he’s not even a Pitbull but that’s the level he’ll be aspiring to. Music and sport, specifically rap and boxing, have repeatedly crossed paths over the decades, an understandable collaboration since they share an underlying testosterone-filled machismo. But it’s always best when each remains in its own domain.
 
There were murmurings that 50 Cent might try his hand at lacing up the gloves, though he thankfully opted instead to enter the world of boxing promotion - bad for his bank balance but not his brain.
 
Boxing and rap can coexist harmoniously, e.g. when a rapper befriends a boxer and subsequently accompanies his sporting chum into the ring, á la 50 Cent/Lil’ Wayne and Floyd. Or when a boxer is the subject of adulation through an artist’s lyrics such as Lil’ Wayne’s (a man who regularly references fighters) ode to Mike Tyson with the “Mike Tyson Flow.” Tyson stuck to voiceover sound bites on Canibus’ “Second Round K.O.” but Mike mercifully had the self-awareness never to take to the mic.
 
But when a boxer attempts to grace the mic himself, his work seldom features on the Grammy nominees list. I doubt many of you recall Prince Naseem Hamed’s “Walk Like a Champion.” And Roy Jones Jr.’s “Can’t Be Touched,” however catchy, will unlikely be etched into the pantheon of rap. They are what they are, novelties, one-offs, but Broner seems intent on becoming a full-fledged recording artist.
 
And this isn’t even the issue per se. Whilst his time would be better spent in the gym or studying footage of the “Sweet Science,” every man needs an outlet. If Broner resorts to music for a little recreational downtime, then cool. But it’s his insistence on living his lyrics that is fraught with complications.
 
“The Problem” was born with a gift to box and it’s high time he pays it the respect it deserves. I ain’t no preacher man nor am I a man who dissuades people from pursuing their ambitions but it’s abundantly clear that Broner needs to focus solely on the boxing and completely dismiss the rapping and its attached lifestyle. A boxing career is a fleeting vocation, with time (no less father time) waiting for no man. If he wants to produce music with his amigos, do it once the body/mind no longer permit him to perform inside a ring, especially if he can’t separate the art form from the life.
 
The two lifestyles intrinsically do not align; they are mutually exclusive by their very nature. Mainstream rap tends to glorify excessiveness whilst, conversely, world championship boxing espouses an ascetic existence. If Broner continues to pursue the rap life he so desperately covets, I fear there’s more chance he ends up “About Bankruptcy” than “About Billions.” He has kids to sustain, a myriad entourage to fund and his proclivity for squandering cash is all too apparent from his mini-documentaries. Unless he sorts himself out swiftly, there’s an air of inevitability that he’ll end up as one of sport’s skint stragglers, all too familiar a tale. It certainly wouldn’t shock me.
 
And shock is what Broner does best. All his behavior thus far has been in keeping with his self-appointed PR mandate: to shock. Whilst no less scandalous, sex tapes are ten a penny in the celeb realm. Equally polemical is the fact he’s become synonymous with strip club dwelling though this is merely another facet of the image he wishes to project. But the ripping up of money was frankly inexcusable, an abhorrently grotesque act evidencing a scant regard for societal destitution. This suggests that Broner has, at least publicly, forgotten perhaps - even jettisoned - his own modest roots.
 
Boxing has historically been a sport replete with braggadocious showmen from trailblazer Muhammad Ali to a couple of my compatriots, Chris Eubank and Prince Naz and currently, Floyd and Adrien. There are plenty of extroverted exhibitionists plying their trades in the world of boxing but as within any character trait, there exist vastly different types and broadly diverging levels of brashness. To me, Broner’s actions have been crasser than the jovial Naz and the philosophical Eubank.
 
Another thing I hope Broner does is drop the Floyd act. It’s cool to be influenced by a great of the previous generation but with his incessant employment of “Helluva” as a replacement adjective and his pronounced mastication, Broner is increasingly endeavouring to emulate Mayweather. It’d possibly be a more tolerable act if he likewise subscribed to the mantra of “Hard work! Dedication!”
 
Adrien needs to carve out his own identity or he’s in jeopardy of bequeathing a legacy for being a “poor man’s Floyd.” Surely that’s not how he wants to be remembered in the canon of boxing. If Mayweather is the sport’s Madonna, Broner is currently the Lady Gaga. Not the original nor half as good.
 
Boxing purists may disagree but inside a ring, Adrien’s actually an infinitely more exciting fighter than Floyd through his sheer willingness to stand in the pocket and trade. It’s precisely this style that renders him so enthralling. In a way, it would work to the detriment of the fans if he begins to diverge from fully engaging in favour of boxing more on the back foot, a skill he’ll most definitely have to add to his arsenal if he plans on continuing to pit his wits - and his mitts - against physically larger opponents.
 
Outside the ring, Broner intersperses the facade with genuine moments, fleetingly demonstrating certain character traits that, if he’s willing to expose them more frequently, could potentially lead him to be more well-liked than Floyd. I’ve watched and admittedly enjoyed some of Broner’s online series, “About Billions.” During the (albeit brief) moments in which he’s not being a vulgar ignoramus, he actually seems an amiable bloke. In that sense, their respective ringmanships somewhat reflects their personalities outside the ring. Adrien appears somehow less calculated than Floyd, a man who unfailingly seems to hold an ulterior motive. As in the ring, being on the defense is a virtual constant with Floyd and I rarely get the impression we are being granted access to the real man.
 
Broner now needs a cool head to guide him. Longtime trainer and mentor Mike Stafford doesn’t seem to have tempered his student though this may constitute the classic case of only being able to “lead a horse to water.” You need only follow Broner’s Twitter (@AdrienBroner) account to learn than we’re discussing a very combustible character, constantly on the cusp of implosion.
 
Ironically, Floyd and his family could prove instrumental in Broner’s resurgence. Floyd’s more disciplined approach to training and calculated style inside the ring are two elements of “Money May’s” repertoire that would benefit Broner. And I think Floyd is more likely to assist his lil’ bro’(ner) now that he’s lost his “0” with Adrien no longer representing a direct threat to his legacy. The collision course for these two sizable egos seemed inevitable beforehand.
 
In conclusion, the aura of invincibility may have vanished but fans are no longer interested in fighters competing against a “Who’s he?” rather than a “Who’s who.” In 2011, I wrote an article juxtaposing mixed martial arts vs. boxing, highlighting that MMA’s rapid ascendancy could largely be attributed to the sport’s matchmakers negotiating the best fights possible. Boxing’s recent revival, certainly on this side of the pond, may be directly ascribed to promoters finally taking heed of this underlying MMA principle, ensuring events are headlined by the best fights available, coupled with stacked undercards. Fans can’t and won’t be duped with substandard offerings. In a tough economy, we demand more “bang for our buck” nowadays or more “punch for our pound” over in the U.K.
 
Matching two undefeated prospects at an earlier juncture seems to be materializing with more regularity, inevitably resulting in a greater number of imperfect records. But that’s OK. Once a generation, a truly special talent dedicated to his craft and well-guided may accumulate a flawless record but he’s meant to be few-and-far between as opposed to a prerequisite for greatness and superstardom.
 
It proves an age-old tale in boxing; there was a groundswell of support for the humble competitor to ground his opponent, who suffers from a swollen ego. But whilst Broner displays gallons of gall outside the ring, we must credit him for remaining gallant to the very end of his brutal annihilation inside of it. Following the obliteration, it appeared as if 99% of the boxing fraternity partook in a spot of schAD(RI)ENfreude but I don’t personally revel in a man’s demise.
 
For me, one of Broner’s most distasteful episodes was feigning ignorance of his adversary, the height of disrespect. Lest we forget that the very same man, Gavin Rees, schooled Broner in their first round.
 
But I just hope the Maidana loss humbles Adrien and that he gives himself the greatest chance of fulfilling his potential.
 
The arguments about his optimal weight class are well-publicized but he also has glaring deficiencies in his game that he needs to tighten up, particularly his ability to box on the retreat, if he insists on fighting naturally-bigger adversaries forthwith.
 
He can bounce back. We’ll find out soon enough. By this time next year, we’ll know if Adrien is a Broner-fide boxing great or just bona fide great entertainment.
 
Questions and comments can be sent to Jonathan Shrager at jonathan.shrager@gmail.com. You can also follow Jonathan at www.twitter.com/JonathanShrager.
 
 

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