"A young Floyd Mayweather."
We've heard that a lot this week about Adrien Broner (27-0, 22 knockouts), the 23-year-old wunderkind who beat Paulie Malignaggi by split decision in Paulie's own backyard in a win that earned him the WBA welterweight title as well as the last say in a bitter war of words.
It's one thing to cavalierly compare an athlete to the best in his sport. Sports fans love making lists and snap judgements. More than a decade after No. 23 hung up his Air Jordans for the last time, pundits are still comparing him to LeBron James. And, in boxing, that kind of bombast comes particularly cheap. Both title belts and grandiose claims, it seems, are in ready supply.
But since the above quote comes from Mayweather, a man who holds himself, and thus Broner, in the highest regard, perhaps it's a comparison worth exploring deeper. Considering the two men now compete in the same weight class, is it any wonder everyone is inclined to put Broner next to his idol and see how well he matches up?
On the surface, the two are peas in a pod. Broner spent much of the night using a shoulder roll defense–head way back, left arm low to defend his body, right hand poised to deliver a lightning-quick counter.
Just like Floyd.
He engaged in spurts, often content to let Malignaggi throw meaningless and ineffective punches. He engaged only when he was ready, when success was assured and, frankly, when he felt like it. Just like Floyd.
And, as important as anything that happened in the fight was the aftermath. Broner refused to pay Malignaggi the proper respect and left the ring, just as he entered it, wearing the black hat. The villain. Just like Floyd.
There were, however, some clear differences between the two. For starters, while they both use the same defensive posture, Floyd utilizes it much more effectively. It's a style that requires the fighter to constantly readjust his positioning to fend off an opponent's attacks. You beat it with activity and volume punching. While your first punch isn't likely to land cleanly, in theory it's the second, third and fourth punches in a combination that can do damage.
Mayweather prevents that from happening with a quick right-hand counter and fancy footwork. And with supernatural speed and boxing smarts. No fighter is smarter or makes better adjustments on the fly.
Broner, isn't quite there yet. Robert Guerrero landed just 113 punches against Floyd. Malignaggi showed Broner was more vulnerable to volume punching, successfully breaking down his defensive posture and connecting more than 200 times.
Normally these minuscule flaws are no problem. He makes up the difference with power. He and Money May both throw a mean right hand. But only Broner's has real knockout potential. As announcer Al Bernstein pointed out, Mayweather is a great defensive fighter with solid offense; Broner is an offensive fighter with a good defense. They are cut from a slightly different mold.
Unfortunately, his punches never seemed to hurt Malignaggi, allowing the champion to stay in the fight, stay active and almost steal the bout from an obviously more talented foe. Broner was leaping two weight classes—and it seems his power may not have made the jump with him.
It's too early to say whether Broner can match Mayweather's accomplishments in the ring or at the box office. His future is yet to be written...but it may not be at welterweight. After the fight, Broner vowed to let fans choose his next opponent. Here's hoping it's either Danny Garcia or Lucas Matthysse at 140 pounds. Those are bouts that, once and for all, will determine if Adrien Broner can live up to the hype.