Adrien Broner will return to the ring for the first time in two years on Saturday, Feb. 25, when he faces Michael Williams Jr in a BLK Prime pay-per-view main event from Atlanta.
It’s fair to say, and completely without “hating,” that Broner (34-4-1, 24 KO) has seen more prosperous days in his career. Now 33, Broner’s last fight was a disputed win over Jovanie Santiago, and that’s his only fight since his Jan. 2019 loss to Manny Pacquiao. The last time Broner really convincingly won a fight was against Ashley Theophane in 2016.
This is also not quite the event BLK Prime imagined when they drew up the plans, as Broner was originally set to face Ivan Redkach, then it was Hank Lundy — neither of which was a “big fight” — and now it is Williams, whose highest-profile fight saw him get obliterated by John Bauza on Top Rank prelims in late 2021.
But Broner is coming back, and this week he sat down with The DAZN Boxing Show to talk about not only that return, but overcoming a drinking problem and much more as he prepared for the comeback.
On Mike Tyson inspiring his comeback
“(The training) is really not the hardest part, it’s more mental. You’ve got to cut everything off, and in the position I was in, it was, like, ‘Damn, alright.’ One day I was shitface drunk not thinking about a gym, I’m talking about, ‘Fuck the gym, I ain’t lookin’ at no gym.’ And what happened was — and this is gonna be in my movie, too — what happened was, one day, I was just in a bad spot in my life, shit was going crazy.
“And I was just getting drunk every day, and then one particular day, I had a chance to go see Mike Tyson. And we went to the gym ... I’m drunk. And he looks at me, and he gets emotional, like, he starts talking to me, like, ‘Damn, man, it makes me want to cry, because I see so much of myself in this dude right here.’ He was, like, ‘I know everything you’re going through. I went through all of that.’
“He was more hurt to see me going through that shit. We were just talking and he said something, like, ‘Man, I’m gonna tell you something: You ain’t seen nothing yet. You think you was at the height of your career, you think that was something, that ain’t gonna be shit (compared) to when you get your shit together, say fuck it and really come back.’
“After that day and really seeing Mike, it was, like, ‘Alright, man, fuck it.’”
On cutting off people around him when needed
“Usually, honestly, usually when I have camp, my camps will be anywhere from $200-300,000 camps. I’m taking care of this person and that person and this person, and I’m just doing it out of love, like, real love from my heart. This camp, it was, we’re just gonna focus on me. I only have (a few people). That’s it.”
On the toughest thing for him to drop
“Alcohol. That was one of my biggest vices. I’ve never done a drug a day in my life. ... As a fighter, we don’t know how to just do a little bit. If we do anything, we’re gonna do a whole lot of it. And I’m a big gambler, as well, I stopped that shit, too. I just don’t know how to — you know, it’s just in our nature as fighters.”
On whether it’s easier for him to stay motivated and train now
“That’s never been a problem for me. That’s the thing with me. It’s just — if I’m on something, I’m on something. If I’m off of it, I’m off of it. Ain’t no in-between. ... If I’m out the gym, I’m out the fuckin’ gym. Like, for real! 100 percent.”
On his financial situation between fights
“I think, you know, this time it was probably the toughest for me, because I went from every day I’m texting Al Haymon, he’s sending me money every day. It went from $5,000 a day, $10,000 a day, $2,500 a day, $1,500 a day, $1,000 a day, $750 a day, $500 a day, it got to $250 a day, man, it was, like — I ain’t took no check from (Haymon). He would tell me, ‘OK, this is what you’re making.’ I ain’t took no check in the last six fights. I know I got money, this is my money! This is my motherfuckin’ money. I’m, like, I know I got money, but — it’d just be one of them days. Me and Al’s relationship is different than these other fighters, so when I talk to him, I talk to him like I talk to you. This is the way we communicate, because that’s just me.”
On still being owed money and his relationship with Al Haymon
“I said, ‘Fuck that money, I’ll go make my own money.’ ... Listen, I’ll tell you this and I’ll tell anybody this. Al did shit for me and changed my life, so I don’t care about that shit. I’m a hustler, bro. I never been the type who will just sit around and be broke. I know how to go make some money. Everybody’s like, ‘Damn, how the fuck did he retire like that?’ I was making millions off the NBA but that’s another conversation. But I’m just saying, I’m a hustler, bro.”
“Right now is, like, man, I have to really, like, sit back, like, ‘Damn.’ After that day with Mike, I was staying in a hotel room every day for the past three years, two years. I just been going through shit, shit’s been crazy. But I went back to the hotel, I looked in the mirror, and I was, like, ‘Fuck it.’ For real.”
On his relationship with Kevin Cunningham
“Somebody who really helped a lot with me getting back is my uncle Kevin, man, Coach Cunningham. Me and him, we got a different relationship. ... I don’t know, I come off different to people. With Coach Kev, Uncle Kev, he’s been around me since I was six or eight years old. We know each other. I’m not gonna lie, there’s been times in this whole camp where he told me, ‘I ain’t gotta do this shit! I can go chill at home and get on my boat!’ There’s been times.”
“But I cut off, then I relapsed, then alright, cut it back off. Then it went from me drinking every day to me only drinking on the weekends. Then he’d pick me up on Monday, right, and I now I gotta run five miles on Monday, but on Monday, I can’t get up and run, because I’m shitfaced from Sunday. But I still go to the gym on Monday, I just missed the run, but I still go to the gym. And when I get to the gym I smell like a gallon of liquor. On the way home, even though I trained hard as fuck, he’d be, like, ‘Hey, man, you’re gonna have to quit that shit on the weekend. You’re gonna have to stop missing these runs.’ And then, with him, he’ll take the long way home.
“So he’s just talking to me, just me and him in the car. Like, ‘Man, you smell like a whole thing of liquor right now, man, you gotta quit that shit.’ But I had just gone in the gym and trained harder than anybody in the gym. But he still would say, ‘You can’t be missing these runs. Just say fuck it, bro.’ One day it really locked in with me. He said, ‘Look, bruh, you done did enough partying for everybody! Come on, man, lock in for 12 months! Change your whole life.’”
If there’s anything he regrets saying publicly
“Hell no. No.”
On the best advice he’s ever gotten
“Something my mama said. My mom, she’s, like, one of the closest people to me. One of the smartest people I ever knew. She ain’t holding back nothin’ when it comes to me, she’s gonna let me know the truth, even though she knows her son. She knows me. I’m 100 percent her. But, she’s like, ‘Even though I know you’re gonna go out here and do what the fuck you want,’ she still tells me the truth whether I like it or not.
“And one day she said, ‘You know, you ain’t never gonna see change unless you change.’ And at first, I’m, like, ‘Mama’s just talkin’,” but then I’m, like, ‘Damn, I really gotta change.’ Once I really changed and started doing shit different, she started seeing it. She would call — she does little slick shit, real smart, college, Dean’s List, all that. She’s real smart. Very intelligent person.
“She’d do things and call at certain times, because she knows me, to see if I’m drunk. I can’t hide nothin’ from my mama. She’d call, I’d talk to her. ... I can’t hide nothin’ from my mama. But once I made the turnaround, she’d call, and usually when she’d call, I’d try to get off the phone as quick possible ... because I know she knows (I’m drunk). But now, when she calls, we talk for a long time, and she knows, like, ‘Damn, my son is really done with that drinking, he’s sober, he’s in a good state of mind, I see the results, I see the body change.’ She loves every bit of what I’m doing right now.”
On his relationship with Showtime and Stephen Espinoza
“I haven’t (spoken to him since the BLK Prime) deal. ... But at the end of the day, if Stephen Espinoza was to see me, it’d be all love, bro. I ain’t got nothin’ bad to say about Stephen.”
On how things are going with BLK Prime
“What I can say about them is, he’s a stand-up guy. It ain’t no loops. Everything he told me he was gonna do has been done. Now it’s just time for me to perform.”
“I think this company will be one of the biggest platforms for boxers. Honestly.”
On the changes in opponents for the fight
“I’ve been training so goddamn hard, I don’t care who’s on the other side of the ring, honestly. I’ve been boxing so long, man — of course, you know, strategies change and that, but I’ve been boxing so long and I’ve been in front of so many different styles, once I get in there and make my adjustments, I’ll be alright.”
On who he’d pick for his next three opponents if he had control
“I ain’t gonna lie to you. I ain’t gonna lie to you — I’m really not worried about that. My main focus right now is Michael Williams Jr, bro. Anything after that comes after that. After that, then you can ask me and I’ll probably give you names.”