Cincinnati’s Adrien Broner (24-0) is not the next Floyd Mayweather. At best, he is New Mayweather, a product that compensates for recent layoffs in R&D by hiring an outside marketing team. Broner does not have Mayweather’s pedigree: he did not win an Olympic bronze medal at age 19, he did not come from an immediate family of talented prizefighters, and he sure as hell did not just stop an undefeated Diego Corrales (33-0, 27 KOs) to remain champion at 130 pounds.
That’s what Mayweather did in his 24th professional fight – after becoming a world champion by beating Genaro “Chicanito” Hernandez into retirement, blitzing Angel Manfredy and making five successful title defenses. Broner, conversely, picked up a vacant 130-pound belt from unknown guy with an 0-1 record outside his native Argentina, made one title defense, and then missed weight by 3 1/2 pounds, Friday, before stopping an outmatched and outweighed Vicente Escobedo (26-3, 15 KOs) Saturday.
There was an uncomfortable lack of adult supervision in Cincinnati last weekend, as Broner jeopardized his first HBO main event by missing weight twice. The one adult present was Broner’s manager, Al Haymon, who, reports say, was embarrassed by what his charge pulled. Haymon is exceptionally good at what he does – identifying marketable athletes, outsmarting network executives – but in his roots, he is a concert promoter, not a boxing guy. His eye for fighter talent is arguable. He is, in some senses, Bob Arum without matchmakers Teddy Brenner and Bruce Trampler – which makes him a lot like Richard Schaefer.
Which means nobody knows exactly how to develop Broner as a fighter; he is more AndreBerto2.0 than a second coming of Money Mayweather, whose development as a prizefighter, some might recall, was handled by Top Rank. Broner does some things very well. One is throw the counter right uppercut against plodding Latino fighters who were taught at a young age every confrontation reduces to a game of Left Hook to the Liver. Broner whipped the right uppercut at Escobedo in round 2 and took most of the fight right out of him.
One sees this in the gyms of the Southwest. Every Mexican kid, or at least every kid with Mexican parents, is taught to keep his right hand high on his cheek when he swoops in to throw his left hook. This defensive posture assumes his opponent will be throwing a left hook of his own at the same instant, and whoever lands first will invariably corkscrew the other guy in the canvas. But none of them, as he sets his weight too far forward and gets his chin over his left knee, has a defense for a right uppercut right up the middle. Some guys in Detroit have noticed this. Someday, Mexican trainers will give their fighters Joe Frazier’s advice – set your right fist palm down, between your chin and the top of your chest, when you throw the 3 – but that day isn’t arrived yet.
Besides, there may be only one way to overcome the shell defense Broner learned from watching Mayweather, and Roy Jones Jr. is not about to tell us what it is. This column has no such loyalty: A long jab is what picks the shell’s lock. Designed to catch the right cross with a high lead shoulder and thwart the left hook with a high right hand, the shell can either slip the jab or counter it, but not both. Jab the shell effectively enough, and the right hand moves from cheek to chin – and then interesting things happen. This is why Escobedo’s most effective punch Saturday was a jab, and it’s why, of the names Broner said “can get it” next, Antonio Demarco, a lightweight titlist who stands 5-feet-10, is most interesting.
Broner is an altogether lesser fighter than Mayweather, but the biggest difference between them is not a stylistic one; it is something measured by the way others react to them. Other prizefighters like Mayweather. He is one of them, and better than they are. There was a mishap with the Juan Manuel Marquez weighin, yes; Mayweather borrowed more advantage than he needed then saw how tiny Marquez was and paid him handsomely for the difference, all the while acting annoyed by his contracted promoter.
Other fighters don’t seem to like Broner. It takes a whole lot for a guy like Vicente Escobedo, Saturday’s sacrifice, to come out of a beating and still be frustrated by an opponent – as opposed to begrudgingly impressed. But frustrated is what he was. In Escobedo’s postfight tears was a statement like this: You could have beaten me fair and square, but you chose not to, which means you are not one of us.
What happened with Broner, his outgrowing a weight class, is nothing new. That it was preceded and followed by such classlessness, though, is a bit novel. Broner has a man’s body, a man’s strength, and perhaps a man’s ring IQ, but emotionally he is a 14 year old. He does not connect actions to consequences and does not appear particularly adept at pattern recognition. He is not, in other words, intelligent or mature. Most professional athletes aren’t – they stop maturing the day a coach or parent recognizes their exceptional reflexes – but Broner’s case appears predetermined for unpleasantness because there are no adults to provide the guidance needed by someone of his temperament.
Adrien Broner’s dad needs to put the hairbrush down, then, cancel his son’s Twitter account, and say, “Boy, stop acting a fool.” For if his dad doesn’t, Broner’s manager just might.
Bart Barry can be reached at bart.barrys.email (at) gmail.com