"How can Adrien Broner get to that elite level?" "How can Adrien Broner fix what's wrong?" Those are the types of questions that many asked following Adrien Broner's Saturday night loss to Shawn Porter, a listless performance where he looked not so much outclassed as out-motivated and out-fought.
The answer is really simple, though a lot of people aren't going to agree, even with more than enough evidence to support the claim. The answer is that there is no fix for Adrien Broner. There is no getting him to the elite level.
The answer is, Adrien Broner just isn't that good.
This was the second pro loss for Broner, who was comically humbled at the hands of Marcos Maidana back in December 2013, derailing any remaining optimism or foolishness that he may be "the next Floyd Mayweather," the fighter who could carry the torch as the sport's bankable superstar.
He is not Mayweather in the ring, nor is he Mayweather out of the ring. Floyd Mayweather has plenty of problems in his personal life, and may be as unlikable a superstar athlete as we've seen in the modern age, there is no questioning Mayweather's dedication to his craft. Broner does not have that, and Mayweather himself has stated several times that he's tried to get through to Broner that there's a lot more to being Floyd Mayweather than a shoulder roll and a set of fast hands.
There was exactly one moment on Saturday night when Broner (30-2, 22 KO) looked like anything resembling the fighter that he, his team, and various TV networks and commentators have tried to sell for the last four years. It came early in round 12, when Broner caught Porter with a hard, lighting-like left hook that put Porter on the canvas, and brought a truly stunned expression to the Cleveland native's face.
Otherwise, the "Battle of Ohio" was no battle at all. Porter may not have been able to consistently connect on Broner, but that's because Broner spent most of the fight running (and I don't call many things "running"), holding, grabbing, clinching, forearming, shoving, and backhanding. His performance was, in a word, pathetic. Or disgraceful. Or simply lame. Broner seemed early to want to try and figure out Porter's timing, but once he couldn't do so consistently, he all but gave up on trying to win. It became a case of just not wanting to get too badly embarrassed, as Porter recklessly and energetically flailed and dove toward Broner, hoping to land anything he could, as Broner had made clear that he had no serious intention of fighting otherwise.
Now on the verge of his 26th birthday, the reality is we may have already seen Broner's peak, and it wasn't that impressive in the first place. There seems to be no great ambition for Broner to actually be the best fighter in the world, or his weight class, or his state -- he likes to talk about those things, but there's talking and then there's doing. For one thing, his skills are overstated. But more important than that, he just does not have the drive and work ethic to be the sort of fighter he has sold himself as being.
Broner's greatest claim to fame now is either pooping at Popeye's and recording video of the deed, or his three world titles. The two things are closer to equal than one might believe. Broner's first world title came with a win over Martin Rodriguez, a non-contender. His second came over Antonio DeMarco. His third, a highly debatable win over Paulie Malignaggi.
If the Porter fight did not convince you that Broner simply isn't who he's been advertised as being, maybe the Malignaggi fight will if you remember that one, too. Or the 2011 HBO debut against Daniel Ponce De Leon, another fight Broner arguably lost. Or the loss to Maidana. Or to go way back, a largely accepted robbery win in 2009 against Fernando Quintero.
And what are his best wins, the ones that aren't controversial? DeMarco, who was a solid fighter, but hardly a world-beater sort; Emmanuel Taylor, a fringe contender that Broner didn't exactly blow away last year; Gavin Rees? The grossly overrated by West Coast media Eloy Perez?
In theory, you can say that Broner is still young, and thus can get better. But he's not going to do that. He's going to be the same guy that he's always been. Waiting for Adrien Broner to "mature" and "focus" will be a long misery for those who still want to believe. He is similar to Julio Cesar Chavez Jr -- what Broner lacks in an inherited name value, he makes up for with even more perplexing entitlement.
I don't dislike Adrien Broner, or Chavez for that matter. I find their antics amusing. Chavez is funny mostly on accident, as he cluelessly has never realized how big of a goon he makes himself look. Broner is funny mostly on purpose, though the longer the con goes on and the more times it's exposed, the less in on the joke he's going to be. But the thing they have in common is something that has felled a lot of hypejobs, legacies, and supposed prospects in the past: they're phonies. What they say they want is not matched by what they're willing to put in to take it. And even if it were, are either of them really so good that they could get to that level?
Boxing's hopelessly diluted title situation and TV package business model will make the careers of both of these fighters seem greater than they have been. Neither of them have ever done anything great inside the squared circle, but they've generated enough buzz outside of it to pass as "stars" and pick up some flimsy paper belts along the way. But no matter how watered down boxing becomes, eventually, reality catches up between the bells. Sergio Martinez and Andrzej Fonfara officially did it to Chavez, while several others had cases in other fights that the "star" escaped with a "win." Broner has losses to Maidana and Porter, two limited but hard-working brawlers, and a handful of fights where he's gotten a pass because of his status.
Boxing is a lot of things, but it will always expose the cons. Or at least the ones who wear the gloves. Adrien Broner is not special. In fact, we've seen his like many times.