Will Adrien Broner Ever Reach His Full Potential?

Kelsey McCarsonFeatured ColumnistSeptember 3, 2014

Will Broner ever be as good as he thinks he is?
Will Broner ever be as good as he thinks he is?Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Adrien Broner is one of the most exciting, engaging and entertaining fighters in the world. But will the 25-year-old junior welterweight from Cincinnati ever reach his full potential as a boxer? Or will the possibility of what kind of fighter Broner could be always eclipse what he actually accomplishes?

Yahoo Sports’ Kevin Iole doesn’t believe Broner’s resume includes a career-defining win just yet, something that doesn’t quite fit with Broner’s brash confidence.

Iole writes: "Despite winning three championships in three weight classes, he doesn't have a defining win. He's never been identified as the best without question in any class he's been in. He's gotten a few gift decisions and he was hammered in his biggest fight, a December loss to Marcos Maidana."

Broner doesn’t quite see things the same way. The three-division titlist told Iole he’s already done enough to be in the Hall of Fame, something most voters, such as Iole, would likely disagree with.

Everyone wants to know about how [the Maidana loss] hurts my legacy. But you know what? I did a whole career of [expletive] before I ever took that fight. You know? If I'd have retired at 23, I'd already done enough to be in the Hall of Fame. I'm not settling for what I've done already, but this is all extra. I've done enough to be a Hall of Famer based on what I've done now.

Regardless, Broner’s 12-round decision loss to Maidana last year at the Alamodome in San Antonio was a wake-up call for the fighter. Maidana’s rough-and-tumble style, unorthodox aggression and overall physicality were just too much for the talented Broner to overcome.

In just his second bout at welterweight, Broner was knocked down twice by Maidana and badly roughed up to the point of being helped back to his dressing room by his handlers after the fight. Judges at ringside scored the bout 117-109, 116-109, 115-110 for Maidana.

Broner looked beat-up after the Maidana fight.
Broner looked beat-up after the Maidana fight.Credit: Rachel McCarson

After the loss, Broner exercised a rematch clause, but the fight never came off. Wisely, Broner and his handlers moved him out of the welterweight division and down to junior welterweight for his next fight, a May 2014 decision win over Carlos Molina.  

Most boxing insiders expected Broner to dominate Molina and knock him out. After all, Molina was coming off a knockout loss to Amir Khan and was not considered a threat above lightweight, where most of his career had taken place.

Broner won the fight but didn’t do anything exceptional. It was a workmanlike win over an opponent he probably should have outclassed.

ESPN.com’s Brian Campbell notes that Broner still appeared one-dimensional in the win and devoid of any significant improvements.

Although Broner said the right things in the aftermath of his humbling loss to Maidana, his next fight against Carlos Molina in May saw a return to both his tired in-ring antics and a one-dimensional style. Broner not only failed to re-establish himself as a power puncher after dropping down in weight, but he was also hit repeatedly by a heavy underdog who lacked the power to make him pay. Just like in his loss to Maidana, Broner was far too stationary and repeatedly caught with his hands down by looping right hands, making for an unimpressive showcase victory. 

But why isn’t Broner improving? At age 25 and coming off a loss, shouldn’t someone as gifted as Broner be getting better every time out? And shouldn’t someone with such high potential, someone who desperately needed to make a big statement against a soft-hitting former lightweight, have looked much better than Broner did against Molina?

Boxing writer Andy Ryan of Bloguin.com’s The Queensbury Rules sees evidence that Broner simply might not work hard enough in the gym to be anything other than he is right now.

Accepting the need to improve means accepting the need to work. From failing to make weight against Vicente Escobedo to admitting he was out of shape for Malignaggi, Broner hasn’t shown a great love of the gym. It seems to be a question of focus rather than laziness. ... Boxing success is built on single-minded commitment, not a part-time rap career.

Still, Broner is relatively young by boxing standards. Theoretically speaking, his best years are still ahead, assuming he possesses the gumption to fight into his 30s or 40s. A fighter’s peak is typically around age 30, and Broner could still be something quite magnificent by then.

Maidana put the hurt on Broner over 12 rounds.
Maidana put the hurt on Broner over 12 rounds.Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Still, there’s something disturbing about Broner’s attitude. He sees the craft as a means to an end rather than an artful exercise of his humanity.

In other words, Broner just wants attention, and boxing is how he gets it.

"People say I'm a professional boxer, and I am," Broner told Iole. "But that's only a part of who I am. I'm also a professional entertainer. I'm a guy that needs the lights and the cameras focused on me.

But boxing isn’t a part-timer’s sport. One must be completely committed to it in order to withstand the brutality of the ring for the long haul, and if Broner is to reach his full potential as a fighter, he’ll need to figure that out fast.

That, or someone like Maidana will come along again and convince him of it.