Adrien Broner and the Not Floyd Mayweather Club
Mayweather would fall on the ectomorph side. Broner is more of a classic mesomorph. And the body types lend themselves to differing athletic gifts…
Floyd Mayweather Jr.‘s legacy as all-time great has officially been fortified.
This is not because of anything Floyd has done in the ring recently, nor because of his outside-the-ring activity (moneymaking ventures, etc.). The newest addition to the Mayweather resume, believe it or not, has nothing to do with him at all. It relates to an alternative, but no less apt, definition of greatness: you’re great when the world delivers imitation after imitation, people routinely compared to you for reasons that are weak at best.
In the case of Floyd Mayweather Jr., the comparisons started in 2009 with Devon Alexander. At the time, Alexander sat towards the top of a crop of young junior welterweights who looked to take over boxing in the post-Mayweather/Pacquiao world (along with Amir Khan, Lamont Petersen and Timothy Bradley).
Demographically he fit the bill—an African-American fighter in a weight range similar to Floyd. Early on, Alexander appeared faster than his opponents, demonstrated boxing skills, hand speed and slickness. After his knockout victory over Juan Urango (March 2010) the world was hell-bent on the comparison: this is the next Floyd Mayweather Jr. Notably absent from the comparison was the personalities. Alexander, unlike Floyd, was mostly regarded as an unassuming good guy from humble beginnings.
Thankfully, the Alexander-Mayweather comparison didn’t last very long. If it didn’t end the night of his unimpressive decision victory (bogus in my opinion) over Andriy Kotelnyk (August 2010), it definitely ended with an underwhelming performance in a loss to Timothy Bradley (January 2011). The comparison withered, not because Alexander lost, but because we recognized that Alexander is nothing like Floyd Mayeather Jr. Alexander can appear stiff, distracted and fixated, a boxing bipolarism that authors some puzzlingly mediocre performances. He seems to have ironed out some of the flaws in his toolkit, and now appears primed to succeed as a workman-style boxer-puncher with good all-around skills (in the Cory Spinks mold) rather than a wunderkind with hall of fame potential.
Now that we’ve dispensed with the Alexander comparison, we move to our next object, Adrien “The Problem” Broner. He is unquestionably among the most talented rising stars in boxing and, along with Canelo Alvarez, has been charged with moving the sport into the future. Unlike Devon Alexander, Broner’s comparison to Mayweather includes his boxing persona. He is brash, outspoken, cocky and the rest of the laundry list of adjectives that many use to describe Mayweather’s behavior. More importantly, like Mayweather (and unlike Alexander), “The Problem” has backed it up in the ring, most notably in his thrilling 8th round TKO mauling of lightweight champion Antonio Demarco (Nov. 2012).
Unfortunately for Broner, the Mayweather comparison doesn’t stand up to heightened scrutiny either. And that is, neither the boxing comparison nor the persona comparison.
Broner vs. Mayweather: The Boxers
Both are right-handed. Both utilize the unorthodox shoulder roll. Both are effective counterpunchers. Both began their professional careers near the 130-pound weight class, in their 19th year. That sounds like a lot in common and whether it justifies a running parallel between the two depends on what you believe to be essential boxing characteristics. From the sweet science perspective, the similarities end there and none of them are particularly essential.
The differences begin with traits that have nothing to do with the punches. Using the now mostly outdated (but still utilized) somatotype characterization for physical body types, Mayweather would fall farther on the ectomorph side than Broner, who is more of a classic mesomorph. And the body types lend themselves to differing athletic gifts, which translate into styles. Mayweather Jr. is a classic boxer-puncher, the best of his generation. While pre-welterweight Mayweather was a physical marvel who could overpower opponents, even as a youth we recognized that the method to his magic was above the neck—Mayweather is a cognitive, perceptive, adaptive, boxing savant who takes in more information about his opponent per unit time than anyone in the game.
Adrien Broner, on the other hand, is mostly a below-the-neck fighter. While Broner has already dealt with some uncomfortable fights (like his fight vs. Daniel Ponce De Leon), he’d much rather exert his will than adapt or react. This is to say nothing bad about him—many of the all-time greats fit the mold. And even intelligent pure boxers can still dominate using below-the-neck skills. Most recently, Manny Pacquiao, Roy Jones Jr., and Wladimir Klitschko—three future hall of famers—made their mark primarily because of their below-the-neck gifts. This isn’t to diminish the importance of training, or approach. What it is saying is that some fighters win because of their ability to outwit opponents, and others because of their ability exert their natural abilities on a lesser opponent in an effective manner. Mayweather defines the former. Broner fits into the latter.
Lastly, we must compare the importance of defense in their respective boxing quivers. Floyd puts a premium on defensive prowess; he generally sets up his offense with his defense and has been able to succeed for so long in large part because he hasn’t accumulated very much punishment. While Floyd certainly shows signs of aging, there is little doubt he can fight competitively until he’s 40, should he choose. While Broner can be elusive with good reflexes and is able to evade opponents when he needs to, his philosophy resides much closer to the “take one punch to give a punch” school of thought. He is adept at picking off punches and minimizing target angles, but takes far more punishment, especially to the body, than Floyd Mayweather did at the same stage.
Broner vs. Mayweather: The Personalities
Broner and Mayweather might actually be further apart in personality than in boxing style. For one, there is the ontogeny of Mayweather’s inflated self-esteem: unlike Broner, it isn’t borne out of thin air or a marketing machine. Floyd saved his cocky act for much later in his career: Pre-Arturo Gatti, Mayweather was mostly gracious with nothing more than a standard dosage of bravado for a young American boxer. The inflation of Mayweather’s public persona developed as a product of resentment towards boxing’s power structure that he felt exploited or unfairly criticized by. After he saw that he could cash in on it, he decided to add kerosene to it, which is partly responsible for his wealth. In his words—“Some pay to see me win, some pay to see me lose, but they all pay.”
Broner’s braggadocio is far less genuine. It has none of these origins and appears to be manufactured mimicry for the purpose of building the name brand. Even more, it’s partly authored by the same people who built Mayweather’s brand—Al Haymon and Golden Boy Promotions. And because of that, it’s less authentic, believable and tolerable (to many).
But in the end, no one really knows if Broner’s act of flushing money down the toilet, having his hair brushed in the ring, or general obnoxiousness is genuine or a copycat act. And the legitimacy of our criticisms of his behavior partly reside in whether or not it is successful in building the Broner brand; if it is, then our moral superiority (that screams “you shouldn’t do that, Adrien!”) is misplaced.
We do, however, know that Broner has proved relatively little and that the only place he’s best served mimicking Mayweather is in boxing accomplishments. Time will tell if the “The Problem” can reach “Money” status in the only category that really matters.