At just 22 years of age, Cincinnati's Adrien Broner has emerged as one of the most talked-about American fighters of the last year, a fact that makes clear how few truly interesting American fighters there really are, but also does reflect the pure talent level of the fighter.
Yet more importantly, to some, it reflects the way he promotes himself before, during, and after the fight as a character: Adrien "The Problem" Broner, brash young superstar who doesn't want to be compared to Floyd Mayweather Jr, but seems to forget that when he spends a lot of time imitating Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Broner (23-0, 19 KO) was sensational last night in his destruction of Eloy Perez, a credible fighter but not one who figured to give him any real trouble, and in the end did not.
There are questions to be answered, and whether or not it's part of his character, it seems like Adrien Broner isn't quite ready to answer those questions in a serious manner.
In his post-fight interview with HBO's Max Kellerman, Broner went to some rehearsed lines, with the fighter coming off as forced and hammy as he did at the pre-fight press conference and later the weigh-in, where he also took a page out of Mayweather's book and choked Perez, as Mayweather did to Victor Ortiz last September.
Broner spouted rehearsed rhymes – “call me the ‘CAN-man’ ‘cause anybody can get some, Mexi-CANs, Afri-CANS, Ameri-CANs, even republi-CANS" – in response to most of his questions from the media. It didn’t take long for the sports writers to stop asking questions.
Some will argue that Broner, who rapped his way to the ring last night with a loud outfit and his usual enthusiastic entourage, is "good for boxing," whatever that means, with his antics and the way he draws attention to himself. And I did find it funny, his rapping himself to the ring (it only would have been funnier if he'd then been knocked out, not because I dislike Broner, but just because that's a good story).
But the canned lines are weak, and they indicate that Broner is more concerned with being quoted than with saying anything of substance. It's not good when sportswriters simply find you boring (or an annoying guy who's trying too hard to grab their headlines) and stop asking you questions. Nobody wants to try milking a story out of lame rhymes that you wrote down and practiced in front of the mirror for the last week. The fact that he did the "CAN-man" bit twice last night is even worse. It sucked the first time, so he went to it again? (He's also begging for the response, "Yeah, because you only fight cans.")
Does this reflect something bigger, though? Broner doesn't want to field serious questions from the media with a legitimate answer. He's too hung up on sounding clever and witty and saying something faux memorable.
In the ring, does Broner want to field the serious questions, or is he more concerned with simply "looking good" against opponents who will allow him to do that without much fight? Because despite his talent level, which looks like the real deal, there are still a lot of questions. His last three wins have made him an HBO darling, but those came after he struggled badly with a guy he should have, on paper, routed. Daniel Ponce De Leon, who is smaller than Broner, far slower than Broner, and not exactly hard to hit, gave the Cincinnati kid fits last year in Broner's HBO debut. That fight has been largely swept under the rug by an adoring and growing fanbase that buys into the youngster 100% and sees him as the next great American fighter.
It even seems like someone at HBO Sports must be in love with Broner, as he's getting spots on premium TV with opponents like Jason Litzau, Martin Rodriguez, and Eloy Perez, none of whom were truly on the HBO radar. Litzau at least had a win over Celestino Caballero on the network before the one-round loss to Broner, but Rodriguez was a lousy opponent and Perez, while some argue he was top ten in the division, was overmatched and his top ten ranking was debatable at best to begin with, and also was a top ten ranking in one of boxing's weakest divisions.
There are questions Adrien Broner has to answer. If he doesn't want to answer them at the press conferences, then whatever. But sooner than later, with this kind of push, he's got to start answering them in the ring. His empty challenge to the Rios vs Gamboa winner for a catchweight fight between 130 and 135 means nothing, but does serve as a diversion for people to talk about. Given that Broner fights under the Golden Boy banner for Al Haymon, his chances of facing a Top Rank fighter are non-existent, and Rios and Gamboa are both Top Rank fighters.
The tools are real. I don't think anyone will argue that. But to pretend he's got no obstacles to hurdle would be putting a lot more on him than he's earned to date. Broner remains a prospect, title belt or not, and has a lot left to prove -- in and out of the ring. For now, he's dancing too much on both fronts to get any true read on where he's headed.