I’M covering Adrien Broner vs Mikey Garcia for Sky this weekend so have spent quite a lot of time over the last few days looking at Broner’s old fights and old behaviour and it got me thinking.
I say “old” behaviour because AB insists it’s no longer About Billions, it’s now About Boxing and he does seem to have reached a stage of his career where he either genuinely doesn’t want to behave in the manner he used to or he’s just realised that it no longer serves a useful purpose.
What it got me thinking about was the price boxers pay by choosing to seek notoriety for what they do and say outside the ring rather than just letting their boxing do the talking, as the old adage goes.
The notoriety route is a shortcut; it can see a fighter garner attention and a type of reputation that sells, but it’s dangerous as you can very quickly find yourself in the wreckage at the side of the road.
Broner isn’t part of that wreckage yet but if he suffers a damaging defeat on Saturday then he will be; he’ll be out of the race and, worse still, irrelevant.
The bottom line is that if you choose the low road then you must keep winning because nobody likes a loser as Broner discovered against Marcos Maidana. All of a sudden he was no longer as interesting to his social media disciples, even to his own entourage, who having accompanied him to the Alomodome ring hollering and combing his hair, totally abandoned him on the lonely walk back to the dressing room just an hour later.
After another defeat, to Shawn Porter, the Cincinnati kid, and he was still just a kid, was pretty much yesterday’s news. And no matter what he does, or goes on to achieve, the mainstream interest in him will never reach the same peak it did when he became a three weight world champion on June 22 2013. Not even if he beats Garcia on Saturday, which would be his greatest achievement in the boxing ring, and not even if he then went on to challenge and beat the winner of Terence Crawford vs Julius Indongo to become the undisputed king of the super-lightweights.
And when I look at his career in that cold light I do wonder whether Broner, and other characters like him, can’t be treated a bit harshly, and denied the credit they’re due (for an example closer to home you need look no further than Naseem Hamed). They are still fighters after all and have to take their opportunities and the punches that come with them like everybody else.
But when I find myself mulling that over I’m reminded of a line from Gary Lockett. Lockett was Gavin Rees’ trainer when Rees travelled to Atlantic City to challenge Broner for his WBC lightweight title back in February 2013, a time at which The Problem was setting new records for crass and obnoxious behaviour on an almost daily basis. Afterwards Gary was asked if there was a danger that Broner was being judged too harshly for the way he was behaving; he was a young man after all and all the fame and attention couldn’t be easy to deal with. The reply was perfect. When, Lockett said, you choose to behave like Broner does, you cannot be judged too harshly. And that’s the point; it is a choice. Embarrassing youthful indiscretions are one thing, most of us have committed those, a deliberate policy of shock and, in the end, bore, is another.
But having said all of that, who’s to say that Broner hasn’t done the right thing?
There’s no doubt that the way he’s chosen to go about his career has secured him much bigger purses than he would have received had he just quietly worked away in the gym and shunned the spotlight.
On the domestic front Ohara Davies has plotted a similar course and there was great delight amongst many when he was beaten by Josh Taylor a few weeks ago. But despite that defeat Davies’ next fight will be live on Sky, for a WBA ranking belt, and people will want to watch it. Would that be the case if he was a less inflammatory character? No, it wouldn’t; he’d be rebuilding with a six rounder away from the TV cameras.
I do agree with Gary Lockett that it is a choice, and that a person should be held accountable for his or her actions. I’ve always believed that and I always will but I do also think that it’s a sacrifice, and not an easy one to make.
Boxers are smart. I’ve yet to meet one who I thought wasn’t. You quite simply cannot do what they do, with all that it involves, if you’re not. So I don’t believe for a second that Broner, and others like him, don’t know what the consequences of their actions will be when they decide on the strategy they will take. I don’t believe they don’t know that it will attract a sizeable but very fickle following, many of whom will desert them after their first defeat, and I don’t believe they don’t know that it will mean that no matter what they achieve in the ring, no matter how well they fight, that there will be plenty who will never give them their due credit. They know all of that, but they make that sacrifice, not because they don’t care but because they care less about that than they do about making as much money as they possibly can out of a career that could be over at any time.
Don’t get me wrong; it’s not for me, all that carry on, and I’m not asking anyone to feel sorry for Adrien Broner; he made a decision to do things a certain way and he has to live with it. But it wouldn’t have been an easy decision, because it’s not an easy thing to do, to set yourself up for an almighty and inevitable fall.
I say inevitable but there is of course one man, the man Broner modelled himself on no less, who has yet to suffer that fall. People have been waiting for him to lose for years but he never has. But he is the exception, not the rule and the exceptional can cause all sorts of problems; mainly in this case by encouraging the others.