LAS VEGAS -- Whether you love or hate Adrien Broner, the fact is that he has become must watch television over the past couple of years.
However, his opening fight in the return of boxing to network television after three decades was anything but entertaining. The immediate reaction was that Broner’s stock had taken a hit despite thoroughly outclassing John Molina, Jr. at the MGM Grand Garden.
However, upon closer inspection, Broner’s future remains bright, regardless of how unimpressed we may have been with his performance. He just needs to learn sooner than later how to manage his personality and boxing skills.
It’s evident that the Broner-Molina showdown lacked the fireworks that many anticipated. Given Molina’s flair for the dramatic and Broner simply being dramatic, there was an expectation that these two would put on a show for the casual fans that tuned into NBC’s broadcast.
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That certainly was not the case as Broner took apart Molina in a one-sided chess match when viewers just wanted to see someone get the board smashed over their head. And considering Broner’s arrogance, it was increasingly frustrating to see him never once engage into a slugfest.
But when you really think about it, as selfish boxing fans, we wanted a bloodbath that ended with Broner being a battered mess and unable to talk. And considering Molina’s style as a brawler, this would have played into his hands. We’ve seen this happen before when Broner tried to engage in a battle of fisticuffs with Marcos Maidana and ended up being the Argentinean’s lottery ticket to face Floyd Mayweather on two occasions. That happened on the back of Broner, who thought that he could outslug a slugger. He paid the price, and regardless of his temperament, was thoroughly humbled.
“Last two days I thought, ‘The last time I went into the ring and fought with my heart, I lost,’” Broner said at the post-fight press conference in reference to his loss to Maidana. “I am never going to let that happen again. So, I said I'm going to use my God-given talent and make this fight as easy as possible.”
It appears that Broner realized that he’s been fighting with far too much bravado as of late and could make his evenings inside of the squared circle a lot easier if he relied on his reflexes and superior boxing ability to win fights. And when he put his tools to work against Molina, his opponent didn’t have a chance. The blame shouldn’t be placed on Broner for how the fight played out. Much of it should be put on the shoulders of Molina, who showed far too much respect to Broner and rarely initiated exchanges. Of course, Broner’s footwork and jab should also be credited for keeping Molina at bay. It was the perfect game plan to neutralize a fighter whose only chance was to make the fight ugly.
So why are we mad at Broner? Because he’s gotten under our skin with his grating antics and we want to see him backup his trash talk with entertaining performances. If it sounds familiar, it’s because it is very much like Mayweather, who spent years grinding his opponents down with his words and then severely outclassing them in the ring. It’s not exciting, but it has been effective. And the reason why it works is because the juxtaposition of the sweet science with a potty mouth was a simple fascination combination made only more significant because you paid your money to see Mayweather lose. And all he did was keep winning.
Broner is obviously not in Mayweather’s league, but he has the polarizing personality to be one of boxing’s biggest stars once Mayweather and Pacquiao walk away from the sport. However, with Broner’s veil of invincibility lifted, he has some work to do before he becomes a PPV mainstay. The personality certainly needs to be tweaked as he crosses over to crass and leaves the fans despising his antics. His in-ring skill set is still developing but he may have found himself as more of a boxer than a slugger.
Here’s the problem: Broner picked a hell of a time to find himself. When handpicked by Al Haymon to open up boxing’s return to network television, Broner was expected to entertain. For better or worse, he’s one of the few names that non-boxing fans know and would be interested in watching. And what does he do? Deliver a sound yet boring unanimous decision victory. It was a smart fight but he could have fought smart on premium cable to fight fans who understand that smart boxers have longer careers. Casual fans could give a damn about strategy because all they want excitement. That’s why this fight was selected to open up the broadcast. To make matters worse, he tries to deliver his “Can Man” speech during his post fight interview and needed to be cut off. He single handedly might have turned away viewers before the exciting Keith Thurman vs. Robert Guerrero fight. That’s exactly what boxing doesn’t need when coming to network television.
Broner’s worst enemy is himself. No matter how good he gets in the ring, he’s going to have to learn when to turn it on and off. That’s the most important thing the young fighter should learn from Mayweather. “Money” was a showman who figured out how to navigate the media and be just enough of a villain that you would watch him fight but not be completely turned off by him as a character. He regularly donates to charity and makes sure we hear about it. He projects some good qualities, which makes you believe that he is acting. Broner, on the other hand, has no off switch.
Sooner or later, he’ll figure out how to balance his in-ring skills with his outside the ring persona. The problem with that is wondering just how long people will wait to see it materialize.
Andreas Hale is a content producer for Jay Z's LifeandTimes.com and Editor-In-Chief Of PremierWuzHere.com, as well as a frequent Sherdog.com columnist. Check out his archive here.