By Michael Rosenthal
Has Adrien Broner’s act run its course?
Broner is a good self-promoter, even if he gets crude in the process. He followed the lead of the best self-promoter in the business and his mentor, Floyd Mayweather, who used his bad-boy image to amass a fortune.
The problem for “The Problem” is that he hasn’t been able to back up his words over the past half-decade, as his one-sided loss to Manny Pacquiao last Saturday once again demonstrated. He talked a good game, as he always does, but he gave precious little once the opening bell rang.
Broner (33-4-1, 24 knockouts) is a good fighter, as his titles in four weight divisions indicate, but he hasn’t been an exceptional one since he grew out of the lightweight division. He won belts at 140 and 147 pounds, against carefully chosen opponents, but he’s only 7-4-1 since rising permanently above 135 and is 0-2-1 in his last three fights.
And the four losses came against arguably the best opponents of his career, Marcos Maidana, Shawn Porter, Mikey Garcia and Pacquiao, meaning he fell short when it counted most.
Why has Broner, who is only 29, struggled? Size appears to be a problem; he can’t impose himself physically on bigger opponents the way he did at 135 and below. He also has the strange habit of throwing relatively few punches, as we saw again on Saturday. He threw an average of 24.6 shots per round and landed a pitiful 4.2 per round, according to CompuBox. How can he expect to win any fight with that level of activity?
“We’re both counter-punchers,” Pacquiao said afterward. “Our strategy for this fight is to counterpunch. So, I was surprised he didn’t throw a lot of punches [at] me. He was waiting for me.”
Perhaps Broner is afraid to be hit. Maybe he’s worried about growing tired in the later rounds. Or his unfortunate style might simply be inspired by Mayweather, who didn’t have to throw a lot of blows because he was next-to-impossible to hit. Again, Broner is no Mayweather. He doesn’t have special defensive skills, which requires him throw a reasonable number of punches to win fights.
Whatever the reason, his inactivity is bizarre and self-defeating.
Of course, the shaky performances haven’t slowed down his mouth one iota. He had the nerve after the Pacquiao fight to say he was robbed, a victim of corrupt officials who want to see a second Mayweather-Pacquiao superfight.
“I beat him, everybody out there knows I beat him!” Broner said in the ring immediately after the fight. “I controlled the fight, he was missing and I hit him clean more times. I beat him!”
Yeah right. The boxing world and fans rolled their eyes collectively and many ridiculed him on social media after he made those comments. Could it be that no one wants to listen any longer?
Broner’s shtick is one reason he was selected as Pacquiao’s latest opponent. The presumption is that his wild comments, many of them offensive, draw attention to the fight and help generate pay-per-view buys as a result. Those who think along those lines might say it worked: A reported 400,000 bought the fight.
I wonder how much Broner really had to do with that beyond the perception that he was a legitimate threat to the 40-year-old Pacquiao. His shtick has become stale. It’s not fresh, it’s not clever, it’s not amusing. It’s boring. And his bravado seems particularly absurd given his effort and results. He doesn’t throw punches, he doesn’t win fights, he just talks.
And I suspect that fans, even those who have supported him, are starting to see through that. Broner is selling something he has been unable to deliver.
I don’t expect Broner to go away just yet, not as long as he can still generate sizeable paydays. He reportedly was guaranteed $2.5 million for the Pacquiao fight, a figure that gives him – not his critics – the last laugh. But his days as a major attraction clearly are numbered.
Michael Rosenthal is the 2018 winner of the Boxing Writers Association of America’s Nat Fleischer Award for excellence in boxing journalism. He has covered boxing in Los Angeles and beyond for almost three decades.