by Kieran Mulvaney
Lightweight champion and possible superstar-in-the-making Adrien “The Problem” Broner returns to our screens on Saturday, when he defends his title against Welshman Gavin Rees. Love him or hate him (and there are plenty of fans who feel one way or the other), it’s impossible to ignore the brash young man from Cincinnati. His meteoric rise has included dominant (and sometimes controversy-tinged) wins against the likes of Eloy Perez and Vicente Escobedo; most recently, he annihilated Antonio DeMarco in what may have been the stand-out performance of his career so far.
We sat down with HBO Boxing analyst Max Kellerman, who will call Saturday’s fight alongside Jim Lampley and Roy Jones, and he offered his thoughts on Broner’s boxing, personality and career trajectory.
There’s Surely Somebody Out There Who Can Beat Broner or Give Him Trouble, But We Don’t Yet Know Who It Is
“It is to Broner’s credit that a guy like Gavin Rees, who’s a legitimate fighter, is ordinary compared to him. And the thing is, most fighters are ordinary compared to Broner. There are two kinds of fighters who could give Broner trouble. One is a guy who is on his level: if he fought Floyd Mayweather, that would be a difficult fight, right? For both guys. And the second is someone who possesses whatever kind of style happens to trouble him. We’re not sure what that is yet: is it a southpaw, someone who’s aggressive but cute, like Daniel Ponce de Leon was at the time Broner fought him [and struggled to a decision win in 2011]? Because Broner struggled in that fight, does that mean that’s the kind of fighter who will always trouble him? Or was that just a younger fighter having an off-night against a veteran?”
He Maximizes His Advantages
“His basic philosophy seems to be: I’m faster than you, I’m stronger, I hit harder, I’m more skilled, I have a better defense. There are two directions you can take that. You can totally minimize the risk in the fight and win as you please. Or you can say, because I have all these advantages, then the more exchanges there are, the more damage I’m going to do. So Broner steps inside punching range and beats the hell out of guys.”
If He Ends Up as Good as We Think He Might Be, We’ll Look Back on His Last Fight as Exhibit A
“I’m not saying Broner is going to the Hall of Fame. But if he is, his victory over Antonio DeMarco is a time capsule fight. If Broner turns out to be this super-special great fighter, that is a classic example of a great fighter in his prime. DeMarco was widely regarded as the second best guy in the division, and how many more perfect fights can you have? It was one of the more thorough beatdowns I’ve ever seen. It was a virtuoso performance.”
His Personality May Grate, But He Aims to Please
“He’ll turn some people off because they view him as arrogant. But if you talk to him, he’s a good guy. His celebration of self is meant to include other people. He wants you to celebrate him too. It’s not intended to be alienating. Floyd Mayweather has a celebration of self in which, to a certain portion of the population, he wants to play as the antihero. Broner isn’t really doing that. He isn’t going to change who he is to make you like him, but he wants you to like him.”
Let’s Line Them Up and See What We’ve Got
“I believe Broner and Broner’s people think that they’ve got the goods, and I think it’s first come first served. That’s what it seems to me. Broner is such a superior talent that it’s simply a matter of staying consistent and ultimately showing us what we suspect: That he’s much better than everyone, and he’s one of those guys who can fight one top guy after another and lick them. That’s the suspicion and now here’s the fun part: Let’s see if he can do it.”
Note: Following the postponement of the Johnathon Banks-Seth Mitchell rematch, which was scheduled to open Saturday’s broadcast, Broner-Rees will now be preceded by a super-middleweight contest between Sakio Bika and Nikola Sjekloca. Montenegro’s Sjekloca is undefeated but untested on the world stage; he’ll be up against by far the toughest and most experienced opponent of his career in Cameroon-born veteran Bika, who has been in with the likes of Joe Calzaghe, Lucian Bute and Andre Ward. The winner of the bout will be in line for a crack at one of Ward’s super-middleweight belts.