What Adrien Broner Needs to Learn from Floyd Mayweather in and out of the Ring

Lyle Fitzsimmons@@fitzbitzFeatured ColumnistMay 4, 2014

USA Today

If boxing is your career field, you could have far worse mentors than Floyd Mayweather Jr.

Now 37 years old, the Pretty Boy-turned-Money man has cut an enviable swath of excellence across five weight classes in 18 pro years while simultaneously building an out-of-ring conglomerate unmatched by peers past or present.

And while he's undeniably loathed by some, he's just as loved by others and has typically earned grudging respect from the middle thanks to athletic acumen—whether they embrace his sometimes abrasive persona or not.

You want cocky, he can do that. You want humble, he can do that. You want mainstream crossover with a high-voltage smile, he's got that covered, too—with a Dancing with the Stars highlight tape to prove it.

No matter what role he's playing, in fact, he does so with enough boyish twinkle to make even sworn enemies concede he's a master of nearly all he surveys.

"Maybe he'll never lose," rival and former foe Oscar De La Hoya said in 2012. "Maybe we're watching the greatest fighter that ever lived from our era here. You never know. This sport can throw you a curveball. I know that first-hand. Maybe we're watching a Floyd Mayweather who's reached his peak, or maybe we're watching a Floyd Mayweather who hasn't even begun."

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And then, it seems, there's Adrien Broner.

The Cincinnati-born stylist, still precocious at age 24, has provided multiple glimpses of in-ring greatness while racking up title belts at 130, 135 and 147 pounds.

He often refers to Mayweather as a "big brother," and, when it comes to jewelry-copping achievements as a preposterously gifted 20-something, the comparisons are perfectly apt.

Both have unmistakable physical gifts. Both never fail to come to work in pristine condition. And both have the skills to not only win fights against credible foes but to look spectacular in doing so.

Still, when it comes to the other elements of becoming boxing's hottest promotional propertyas Mayweather unquestionably has done—Broner falls flat.

And with each display of sheer repugnance that he provides after a statement-making win, the likelihood that he'll ever reach the "Money" stratosphere plummets sharply.

It's one thing to think you're the biggest thing going and to broadcast that mindset whenever you're in microphone range. Mayweather—like Muhammad Ali and others before him—has no compunction incorporating phrases like "The Best Ever" into his everyday lingo.

After all, people gravitate toward show-stoppers even if it's only to root against them.

But there's a line to be crossed between unapologetically confident and undeniably classless, and Broner seems more determined than ever to unabashedly cross it.

His Saturday night match with Carlos Molina was billed as a chance to come back after a first loss, rebuild confidence and perhaps show the touch of humility he claims to have gained thanks to the crushing December encounter with Marcos Maidana.

It was mission accomplished from bell to bell at least, as he overcame some early speed bumps, found his rhythm midway and spent the last half of the fight beating a clinical rat-a-tat on Molina's swollen, reddened face.

When Showtime's Jim Gray approached for post-fight comments, the stage was set for the supposedly new Broner to show the post-win Mayweather graciousness had rubbed off, too.

For image-building purposes, it was high time for a close-up.

Instead, Broner tastelessly labeled the win as no more than a televised sparring session, reveled in the fact that he "beat the f--k out of a Mexican" and conceded that at the end of the day, he's still "going to be Adrien Broner."

Whether we like it or not, apparently.

In the end, if the night was a screen test, his result would have been "don't call us, we'll call you."

To be fair, the 1950s are gone and no one should expect Broner—or any other modern athlete for that matter—to mirror all the role-model palaver of generations past.

Still, there seems to be an intense contrarian motivation with The Problem to push every behavioral envelope, no matter how non-incendiary the situation.

If it's a guy just being who he is, fine. He's a big-time ring talent, and that's all any of us have a right to ask from him on a boxing show.

Win big fights and you'll be judged a big fighter. And if you don't care if people cheer for you, you needn't act as if you do.

But if Broner's true aim is to inherit the mantel of overall greatness upon Mayweather's exit, nights like Saturday indicate there's a lot more ground to cover before this "little brother" becomes a real man.

Right now, he seems a little bit too content with "little punk."

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