It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.
Though that phrase has surely been better used elsewhere, it was still at least somewhat spot-on when recapping the final 10 seconds of Adrien Broner’s Cincinnati homecoming on Saturday night.
The best came when the local hero capped a blistering combination with a left hook to the point of opponent Emmanuel Taylor’s chin, rendering the 20-fight pro horizontal to seal a clear decision triumph.
The worst came in the immediate aftermath, when Broner punctuated his spotlight moment with an exaggerated juvenile hip wiggle that added fuel to the fire of those who can already barely tolerate him.
In a way, the brief sequence was pretty illustrative of the entire endeavor.
When he felt compelled to do so against a solid, but clearly not-on-the-same-level foe, Broner looked every bit the three-division world champion ready to push for supremacy at 140 pounds. And when he didn’t, he provided all the evidence needed for those who argue his sizzle still far exceeds his steak.
The back-and-forth between legitimacy and silliness continued in the aftermath, too.
Though the official scorecards were a welcome and accurate respite from a recent stretch of iffy judgments, Broner quickly transitioned things from contender back to clown by stalling Jim Gray’s post-fight Showtime interview until he’d re-donned designer shades and had a cohort brush his hair.
He followed with a reference to the competitiveness of the fight itself, a direct contrast to his previous match with Carlos Molina in May. (Warning: Video contains NSFW material.)
Only after the sideshow ended did he consent to matters at hand, which in this case amounted to crediting Taylor—whom he’d choked at the Friday weigh-in—for a gutsy effort, chastising “fake champions” for not being as “real” as him and focusing on the fight card’s co-star, Lucas Matthysse.
“First of all, I didn’t kind of call out nobody,” Broner said, correcting Gray’s initial interpretation of his intentions relating to the Argentine slugger. “My next fight should be Matthysse. He can get it. If it was up to me, I’d fight Matthysse with my cut eye tonight. I’ll beat his a-s, too.”
Matthysse was a winner by abrupt KO in the final run-up bout when referee Benjy Esteves counted out a foe who seemed more interested in pursuing a second go-round with Danny Garcia than bothering with Broner. But he did at least entertain the idea if Garcia chooses another path.
“For a title or not, I want Danny Garcia,” Matthysse told Gray. “If Garcia doesn’t come, then Broner.”
It’s an intriguing matchup that had the Showtime crew salivating to get it signed, but the concern for the Broner camp has got to be whether their man will drop the schtick long enough to handle the business.
The spurts he fought against Taylor—particularly in the fourth, 10th, 11th and 12th rounds—would make him a legitimate choice to beat anyone in the 140-pound neighborhood, particularly a guy like Matthysse who’s been proven vulnerable against opponents who choose to do anything but stand still.
“I thought Round 10 was very telling,” Showtime studio host Brian Kenny said. “Taylor had some success, and then in the final minute, the final 30 seconds, Broner let his hands go. He showed that he had another gear, and slapping into that gear shows real progress from Broner.”
But if he focuses more on promotion than preparation, those same handlers need look no further back than last December—and his crunching loss to Marcos Maidana—to see exactly what can go wrong.
“He underestimated Maidana just a little bit, and that’s all Maidana needs, just a little bit,” lead trainer Mike Stafford said. “He opened that door and (Maidana) got a big punch in, and that’s what won him the fight. (Broner) fought a champion on the right night. It came as a complete shock because we’d never been in that situation with Adrien.”
If he wants people to see more superstar than sideshow, he’d best not let it happen again.
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.