This Saturday, in the co-main event of Thurman vs. Guerrero, three time world champion Adrien Broner (29-1, 22KO's) takes on former lightweight contender John Molina Jr. (27-5, 22KO's) in a bout for relevance in the light welterweight division.
Adrien "The Problem" Broner, love him or hate him, there's no denying that he has talent. Sporting an impressive amateur record of 300 wins 19 losses, Broner became a three division world champion at the tender age of 23. Despite having held the WBO Super Featherweight, WBC Lightweight, and WBA welterweight titles, Broner is still perhaps best known for his flamboyant antics and lifestyle outside the ring. Often referred to as Floyd Mayweather's "little brother", Broner looked to become the next big thing in boxing after Mayweather's inevitable retirement. All of that came to a screeching halt when the Problem ran into the sturdy Argentinian destroyer Marcos Maidana in December of 2013. Overpowered, outhustled, and overwhelmed, Maidana humbled Broner in a violent beating. Since then, Broner has beaten fringe contenders Carlos Molina and Emmanuel Taylor on his path back to a title.
John Molina Jr. at his peak, challenged for the WBC Lightweight strap against Antonio DeMarco, losing by stoppage back in 2012. He is best known for his absolute war with top contender Lucas Matthysse that was named Fight of the Year by many media outlets in 2014. The two light welterweights slugged it out in a bloody brawl, each dropping the other twice before Molina finally crumpled in the 11th round. Heavy-handed and durable, Molina is often overlooked as a fighter, but with an 81% knockout rate, he has the ability to change to outcome of a fight with one punch no matter the circumstances. Just ask Mickey Bey.
Adrien Broner often draws comparisons to Floyd Mayweather, and on the surface that can seem like an accurate statement. Both fighters employ the Philly shell guard, quick counterpunching, and tend to start slowly and pick up ground later in the match. However, the two are vastly different fighters. Broner, for one, has nowhere near the defensive capabilities of Mayweather, but we'll touch on that later.
Offensively, Broner can (and I stress "can") be extremely exciting to watch. When the kid lets his hands go, he looks absolutely fantastic.
When Broner gets comfortable and starts to unload, he's a whirling dervish of crisp jabs, digging body straights, wide, slappy hooks, overhand rights, and ferocious uppercuts, all mixed with tapping feints at varying speeds and combinations. It's fast, creative, and Broner, in these moments, looks every bit like the future boxing messiah he was hyped to be. However, as much as he is praised, Broner is prone to both bouts of showboating and idleness. As seen in his bout with the feather-fisted Paulie Malinaggi, Broner lost a number of early rounds due to inactivity, absorbing a number of shots before countering as if to prove that Malinaggi had nothing to hurt him with.
Broner is very capable of initiating an exchange, but he prefers to stand tall to his opponent and counterpunch, leading to the bouts of general inactivity if his opponent is hesitant to lead. One of his favorite go-to punches is the counter uppercut.
Broner, starting in a high guard, will paw jabs at his opponent and leave his glove out longer than usual, baiting them into attempting to counter as he recovers the arm. Broner will immediately withdraw and twist into a shell guard to roll the counter off of his shoulder or back, and then will fire an uppercut directly into his overcommitted opponent's chin, often following up with an overhand right.
Adrien Broner does his best work when his opponent is covering up and he doesn't need to worry about taking incoming fire as he strings together combinations. A major factor of why Broner is so dangerous to a turtled opponent is both his creativity in punch variety, and his control over punch speed and placement.
Broner makes use of tapping, half-powered punches to control where his opponent's hands are in order land his damaging shots. In this lovely knockdown of Emmanuel Taylor, Broner begins with a light 1-2 that causes Taylor to cover up, and as he does so, Broner notices that Taylor's hands slip to either side of his head. Adrien then throws two tapping hooks to either side of Taylor's head to cause him to widen his guard in anticipation of more hooks, only to leave his chin completely open for a long left hook up through the middle that floors Taylor. I've mentioned in previous articles that straight punches cause the opponent to narrow their guard to protect their face, and hooks cause the guard to open to guard the sides of the head. Broner uses these fundamental boxing mechanics to open up paths of offense mid-combination, allowing him to throw punches like the long uppercut, a typically short punch, with a high chance of landing.
Here, Broner (red gloves) first gets his opponent, to cover up by throwing a staple Mayweather 2-3 combination. The straight right, which Mayweather calls the "blinder shot", is a standard hook setup punch that occupies the opponent's vision while the slower left hook wings around the guard to the body. From there, Broner touches with the left jab to keep Taylor covered up, taps with a right uppercut to cause Tayor to narrow his guard further, and then rips to the body and upstairs with two more uppercuts in quick succession as Taylor's own forearms cut off his vision. Broner then takes advantage of the narrow guard and whips a left hook around Taylor's gloves. The hook opens up Taylor's guard just enough for Broner's piston-like straight right to land flush.
Defensively, Adrien Broner is flashy, but nowhere near the genius of Mayweather, who he tries so hard to emulate.
This sequence shows essentially the full arsenal of Broner's defensive options. He almost always leans to avoid damage, be it from a high guard/Philly shell or on the ropes to roll off shots on his shoulders. Broner is more than capable of using footwork to move out of range and counter with his slick left hook, but more often than not, he leans back on the ropes, doing his best Mayweather impression. Unlike Floyd however, Broner rarely uses his feet circle out and create distance. This, instead, results in Broner relying on simply attempting to muscle out and push his opponent off to regain space. In the lighter weight classes, this was serviceable due to Broner's size advantage, but at welterweight it became his undoing against the relentless pressure of Maidana. Broner's reliance on avoiding damage using his shoulders without using his legs will serve him no favors against more aggressive opponents.
There is not much on Molina to write on other than his heart and heavy hands. Offensively, he is generally unspectacular, even limited, and defensively he is porous.
More often than not, Molina's fights end up looking like this.
Molina's (red gloves) entire game plan is to apply pressure on his opponent and rely on his power punches and durable chin to carry him through the fight. This typically causes Molina to back his opponent to the ropes through sheer aggression, but unlike most pressure fighters, Molina spends most of his time trading at arm's length, rather than smothering up close and controlling like Marcos Maidana or Robert Guerrero. It does not help that Molina is also not very solid defensively to fight at close range and often comes out of these exchanges looking worse than his opponent. This is largely due to his tendency to square up and lean forward when he boxes.
Molina severely tucks his chin, causing him to lean his head forward while his hands are essentially float under his face rather than guard it. Molina also always drops his right hand while throwing with his left, all of this basically allowed his opponent, Mickey Bey, to potshot him from the ropes, a typically disadvantageous position.
Molina also does not have the best ring generalship.
Despite being one of the slower boxers in the division, Molina, more often than not, will follow his opponents around the ring rather than cut off their movement. Molina always steps where his opponent was, not across to where his opponent will be, giving his opponent plenty of room to maneuver around and work new angles of offense and escape. Against Mikcey Bey, Molina fought a frustrating bout one step behind Bey nearly the entire fight, eating jabs and getting clinched after he finally gets close. This simple following gave Bey plenty of time to intercept Molina's forward motion with nasty hooks, uppercuts, and straight rights.
The one thing that stands out about Molina's offense is his ability to punch off the break.
Molina (yellow trunks) knocks down Matthysse for the second time in his career
Typically, when fighters break from the clinch, their primary focus is to reestablish distance. However, Molina, be it out of veteran craftiness, or just a stubborn willingness to brawl, is almost always the last person to land a blow off of the clinch, and usually it is his most damaging. It was this ability to damage when the opponent doesn't expect it that got him the late comeback victory over future IBF champion Mickey Bey in his biggest win to date. Up until that point, Molina was getting badly beaten by the faster, stronger, and more technically sound Bey, but in the 10th round, with a minute left on the clock to an easy victory, Mickey Bey dropped his hands while throwing a rapid series of uppercuts and ate a short Molina hook that put him on queer street.
Molina proceeds to go full animal on the wobbly Bey, slinging bombs from his hips and pulling an exhausting, last minute knockout victory.
Quite honestly, this is a fight to make Adrien Broner look good. Molina still has just enough credibility from his war with Matthysse to make this fight seem mildly competitive. However, he is no Marcos Maidana, and despite possessing power that led to a few come-from-behind wins, he has nowhere near the same pace, pressure, or ringcraft. Despite Broner not carrying nearly the same amount of power as he did in the lighter weight classes, his speed and natural abilities still badly outclass Molina. Unless Broner somehow loses composure and gets caught by a wild comeback hook, he should win by an easy, wide decision.