Adrien Broner’s steady ascent toward boxing’s elite pantheon of fighters has almost seemed preordained. Heavy hype has consistently surrounded Broner’s development, and the Cincinnati native has, thus far, obliterated every challenge while cultivating one of the sport’s most engaging personalities.
Still, the idea of Broner’s assumed greatness seemed to flourish before he captured his first world title—the WBO’s super featherweight strap. However, since becoming a world champion for the first time in 2011, the 23-year-old Broner (25-0, 21 KO) has done much to justify the lofty expectations heaped upon him.
Comparisons between Broner and pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather Jr. are obvious and understandable. Broner’s fighting stance mimics Mayweather’s shoulder roll, and while Broner does not yet possess Mayweather’s defensive acumen, he combines breathtaking speed and in-ring comfort with greater explosive punching power than Mayweather—albeit against somewhat limited opposition.
So, is Golden Boy—Broner’s promoter—preparing Broner to eventually supplant Mayweather (43-0, 26 KO) as boxing’s most skilled, marketable and charismatic fighter?
Well, ideally, but there’s only so much Golden Boy can do and so much credit they can take. 2013 will stand as a crucial year in Broner’s development as an elite fighter, and this will be the result of both Broner’s in-ring excitement and extracurricular antics.
In a sense, promoters end up acting merely as facilitators for someone like Broner. And there are few fighters who understand this better than Floyd Mayweather.
Considering Mayweather, it is apparent that he has forged his own identity as a fighter and marketable entity. Mayweather is somewhat of a maverick, and in 2006 he rejected an 8 million dollar offer to fight Antonio Margarito (per ESPN). Instead, Mayweather bought out his former promoter, Bob Arum, for $750,000.
At the time of the above-cited ESPN article, Arum stated that he and Mayweather split on amicable terms and intended to continue working together. This has obviously been exposed as farcical, the prime evidence being the inability for Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao—Arum’s most prominent fighter—to agree to terms for a bout.
And yet, Mayweather has not suffered.
SB Nation’s Scott Christ succinctly explains Mayweather’s association with Golden Boy promotions, a “partnership” that has existed since 2007 yet allowed Mayweather to remain a technical free agent:
Floyd can legitimately say that he's his own promoter, that he does what he wants, that he makes all this money, because these things are technically true. But it's been Golden Boy doing the legwork, not the surely defunct "Mayweather Promotions." Golden Boy has booked the buildings, dealt with the commission, filled the undercards, and done all the normal promotional work. Mayweather collects his money because he's the reason people show up and he's the reason people buy the PPV.
Mayweather’s financial and promotional blueprint, in this regard, is genius. The subsequent drama surrounding the establishment and collapse of Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson’s TMT Promotions (now SMS Promotions) have only reinforced the idea that Mayweather is the indispensible variable in any boxing or promotional equation.
From a business standpoint, Golden Boy will want to avoid Broner quickly outgrowing their outfit.
Now, Broner, unlike Mayweather, is actually a Golden Boy fighter. Despite this, Broner is potentially moving in the direction of being independently viable and only needing promotional support to take care of logistics. At this point, Broner achieving Mayweather’s “free agent” status is speculation and conjecture, and much will depend on his continued in-ring success.
Golden Boy has smartly developed Broner into an HBO staple. At this juncture, the most important thing for Broner is to impress large audiences in big fights on a major network. Golden Boy has given him the necessary platform to be successful.
Broner’s next fight is on February 16 at the Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City against Gavin Rees. A former 140-pound titlist and current European and British lightweight champion, Rees (37-1-1, 18 KO) is a credible opponent who makes good fights. That said, Rees is at least a notch below the marquee-type challenger that fans and pundits are desperate to see Broner fight.
BoxingScene.com’s Keith Idec reports that, despite the dearth of attractive opponents at lightweight, Broner is in no rush to leave the division. Assuming Broner actually intends to clean out the 135-pound division, Golden Boy must secure him a fight against WBO champion Ricky Burns in 2013.
While Broner would be a clear favorite to defeat Burns, it is the only lightweight fight that carries genuine significance for Broner. Other than Burns, no fighter at 135 would compel a broader cross-section of fans to genuinely care about an actual Broner bout.
Until Broner and Burns fight, each defense of Broner’s WBC title will merely be a showcase. Now, in terms of pizzazz and overall entertainment value, Broner has distinguished himself as one of boxing’s most intriguing figures. Whether it’s a fake marriage proposal or having his hair brushed, Broner is never short on attention-grabbing antics.
That said, Broner has, thus far, been able to justify his persona and borderline petulant need to be the center of attention. And yet, he is at somewhat of an impasse. In order for Broner to truly break through with casual sports fans, his promoters need to secure him the best possible fights.
Given the proper opportunities, Broner can be more than just the next Floyd Mayweather. All that remains to be seen is whether he will eventually out-shine Golden Boy Promotions.