WATCHING ringside at the U.S. Bank Arena in Cincinnati, Ohio last weekend, I had the feeling that Adrien “The Problem” Broner may never develop into the fighter we all hoped he would be. Sure, he pulled out a points victory over Emanuel Taylor in a fight that entertained his hometown crowd and, no doubt, those watching on Showtime TV.
But the way he failed to outclass an opponent at least one level beneath him only served to emphasise the talent difference between Broner and the man he idolises, Floyd Mayweather. That contrast will become even starker if Mayweather does what most expect this weekend in Las Vegas and outclasses Marcos Maidana, who gave him an unexpectedly tough time four months ago.
It may seem strange to talk of Broner’s potential going unfulfilled when he has, by the age of 25, already held world titles in three divisions: super-feather, lightweight and welterweight. At the same age, Mayweather had been champion in only two classes, super-feather and lightweight.
But while Adrien could claim to have been top dog at both 130lbs and 135lbs (albeit his stint at 135 was fleeting), all he did at welter was win a belt, and against an opponent perfect for him in smart-boxing but light-hitting Paulie Malignaggi (who was ringside in Cincinnati, doing commentary for Showtime).
Truth is, Broner still has much to prove and while moving down to 140lbs – a class he bypassed in his quest for big fights – was sensible given his smallish frame (a listed 5ft 6 1/2ins tall), questions remain over his commitment to his craft. His tendency to cover up and lay on the ropes when an opponent opens up might play against a non-puncher such as Taylor, but would surely invite disaster against the likes of Lucas Matthysse, the Argentine puncher who also appeared on the Cincinnati card and showed his power is as fearsome as ever.
This tendency has been evident for a while – Maidana exposed it when taking Broner’s unbeaten record and welter belt nine months ago – so why has Adrien not worked on eradicating it? One could argue that his defensive lapses were never going to be punished by Carlos Molina or Taylor, the men he has beaten in comeback bouts this year. So why take these contests, against foes who allowed Broner to stay in his comfort zone without needing to address his weaknesses?
Boxers returning from defeat are entitled to a gentle recovery, and the Molina fight was down a stacked card headed by Mayweather-Maidana I. But the Taylor match was top of the bill, in Broner’s first hometown show since July 2012. With his offensive skills and polarising personality, Broner will no doubt secure another big title payday – but when it comes, will he be better prepared for it than he was last time?