Adrien Broner has the talent. Now, he has to match it with in-ring accomplishments if he wants to be truly great. (Photo by Jeff Curry-US PRESSWIRE)
How desperate have we become to find the next breakthrough American star in boxing?
When describing their new "Berto", HBO commentators sound like the parents of a kid that just hit a home run in park league baseball, and, therefore, must exclaim to their unsuspecting neighbor how great their son must be.
"Little Johnny hit a home run! He must be so talented! Call up the scouts, this kid is going to be something great!"
"Was he playing against the best players?"
"Uh, well no. Well, sort of!"
"I heard the best players are in a different league."
"That doesn't matter! If he looks great, then he looks great. Competition is irrelevant! Johnny is going to be a big star because he is my boy, and that's all there is to it!"
Cripes. Take a step back, folks. Adrien Broner is a very legitimate talent. To deny that would be an attempt at contrarianism. In fact, he could be a special talent. Just ask him, he'll tell you.
Yet, despite being able to convince some of his ability to change from a business suit to tights and a cape in a phone booth, Broner has yet to show us that he is an elite fighter. Remember Daniel Ponce de Leon? The guy that was smoked in one round by Juan Manuel Lopez at super bantamweight? He went up to 130, and somewhat handily outpointed Broner. What's that you say? He didn't get the decision? Oh, well then maybe Fernando Quintero did when he outfought Broner over eight rounds in 2009. No? Huh, that's funny.
Regardless of those odd scorecards, and the fact that Broner was outboxed by the best man he has ever fought, some still insist that he is already one of the top practitioners of boxing in the world. And therein lies my biggest beef. This isn't so much Broner's issue as it is the people who worship him.
I'm a big believer in accomplishment over talent. One may be the most talented individual in the sport, but if he is content to sit on the pot then I don't care. I won't rank him highly. It's isn't about talent. It's about what you have done with it. Talent is not what makes one great, talent is the means by which one becomes great. As of now, Broner has defeated Vicente Escobedo, Eloy Perez, Jason Litzau, Martin Rodriguez, and Ponce de Leon at junior lightweight. When perspective is applied, his "reign" becomes decidedly average. Especially when we remember the Escobedo matchup was essentially contested at the Little Debbie catchweight of 133.
Many have compared him to Floyd Mayweather. There are several parallels. Each is an African-American fighter with a slick, shoulder-roll defense, tremendous speed, and an extremely cocky attitude. Each man also won their first major title at junior lightweight at a young age. However, there is one rather gargantuan difference.
Mayweather beat (sometimes toyed with) some excellent fighters at 130 pounds. His list of victims here includes Genaro Hernandez, Diego Corrales, Jesus Chavez, Carlos Hernandez, and Angel Manfredy. Corrales was undefeated at the time, and some even had him placed higher than Floyd. Mayweather torched him for a 10th round stoppage after dropping his opponent five times. Do you think HBO would have allowed him to fight someone like Eloy Perez?
Also, about this age thing. All I hear about is how young Broner is. Look, the guy is young. But, let's be real here. He is not abnormally young. In case you haven't noticed this is, indeed, a young man's game. Broner turned 23 on July 28, and is in his fifth year as a professional fighter. Mayweather defeated Hernandez (the best junior lightweight in the world and a top 10 guy pound-for-pound) at the age of 21, and had been a professional for about two full years.
Having said all of this, despite Mayweather's amazing gifts, much of Broner's diva attitude can be traced to "Pretty Boy". In 2000 he infamously labeled a $12 million, six-fight contract offer from HBO as "slave wages". It's no secret in front of the camera Floyd can turn his personality into overdrive in order to stir up more interest for his upcoming pay-per-view bouts. Broner, tragically, seems to enjoy doing this as well. Whether it be on Titter, press conferences, or a post-fight interview, he seems to enjoy talking trash and brushing his hair with gusto. As Dwayne Johnson claimed, The Rock was simply his real personality dialed up to an 11. Broner may not be the People's Champ, but he is quickly learning how to work a crowd, a must for a "bad guy".
Now he is beefing with Robert Guerrero on Twitter. I don't know exactly how it all got started, but I do know how it will end. Gradually, like most things in boxing, this will dissipate and it will be as if none of it ever happened. Then, sometime this fall, Golden Boy will announce Broner is fighting a top-15ish type lightweight. We know the result, but we will watch.
Because, after all, we have to watch a guy that films himself talking to a hair brush. Don't we?