Adrien Broner wants to be a star more than he wants to be a fighter.
Therein lies the problem.
Broner is the most frustrating type of figure in the sport. He has all the physical tools one could hope for. He has fast feet and hands. He carries legitimate power in both fists. His movements are crisp and fluid.
The 24-year-old from Cincinnati even has some intangibles on his side. Broner is one tough dude. He’s proved it. He can take a punch, and even when he’s hurt, he carries the fortitude within him to come right back at his opponent with fierce gumption.
Moreover, Broner is a fighter who relies on offense more than defense, and that’s something easy for fans to rally behind.
Oh, sure, he thinks he’s a skilled defender, but his bread and butter is attacking. Deep down, he knows this, and it plays out in almost all of his fights.
Broner eats right hands. Broner shakes them off. Broner attacks back with ferocity.
That’d good television, but Broner has decidedly lacked something important so far in his career, and he ended up paying the price for it in his last fight.
Broner lacks humility, and so, he was humiliated by Marcos Maidana.
The hard-hitting welterweight beat up Broner at the Alamodome in San Antonio last December to hand the would-be star his first loss. Maidana won by unanimous decision 115-110, 116-109 and 117-109.
All Broner's skills, power and self-proclaimed greatness meant nothing when the bell rang on fight night. Maidana was a ferocious storm and Broner was a corrupted ship, capsized and sinking into the depths of the sea.
Instead of the captain who meticulously charts weather patterns and prepares his vessel for every conceivable possibility, Broner was content to throw parties for his friends and pretend he didn’t need to prepare.
Broner suffered for it. He was left a disheveled mess heading back to the locker room and later to a local San Antonio hospital.
This was boxing’s next big star?
Some have suggested Broner has learned his lesson from the debacle and is now focused on temperance in regards to his outside-the-ring shenanigans—especially those that served as distractions to dedicated training.
According to USA Today’s Bob Velin, Broner is playing it smart this time around:
Broner has also laid low on social media after getting some advice from a friend he calls his "big brother." He had engaged in some unsavory tweeting that wasn't exactly wise for a man who believes he will someday become the first boxer to crack a billion dollars in earnings. He also engaged in a Twitter war with Khan recently.
Broner said he’s actually glad he lost the fight to Maidana. In fact, he implies it’s changed him as a person.
"Losing that fight was definitely the best thing that ever happened to my career," Broner told Velin. "If Adrien Broner didn't lose that fight, if you think I'm a jackass now, what would I have been (if I won)?"
But is he being serious? Maybe.
Filtering Broner’s lively personality is one thing, but what about taking his career seriously enough to make other good decisions?
Broner is dropping down to junior welterweight for his fight on Saturday against Carlos Molina. That’s the division he skipped over after winning alphabet titles at junior lightweight and lightweight before jumping up to welterweight to face Maidana.
When I talked to world-renowned boxing trainer Ronnie Shields for The Sweet Science following Broner’s loss to Maidana, he told me Broner moving up too high in weight so soon in his career was a bad move that he should rectify before going forward:
Because to me, he’s not strong enough to be a welterweight right now. He’s a good fighter. You can’t take that away from him. But he’s not strong enough at that weight, and the guys at the weight are really, really strong.
Whether he knows it or not, Broner heeded Shields’ advice.
And it’s a positive step forward, a glimmer of hope for those who hope to see Broner be all he can be as a prizefighter.
However, no one knows how this thing ends. For every positive step Broner appears to take toward becoming a grownup and serious professional, he does other silly things that might give one pause on the matter.
The latest example, courtesy of Bad Left Hook’s Scott Christ, was Broner’s belligerent arguing at Tuesday’s grand arrival with the event’s host, Tattoo.
One can’t help but still wonder about Broner. Is he still boxing’s next big thing? Can he mature? Will he become one of boxing’s brightest stars?
It would seem that’s up to him.