Is Adrien Broner boxing’s next superstar?
CHRIS MANNIX: Color me impressed. There has been something about Broner that didn’t sit right with me — maybe it was the connection to Al Haymon, who puffed up Broner’s record by keeping him away from the toughest challenges for most of his young career — but after that pounding of DeMarco, there is no doubt Broner is a bona fide star in the sport. DeMarco is an underrated fighter and an excellent finisher, and Broner picked him apart, savaging him with uppercuts, patiently peppering him with jabs while utilizing that (wait for it) shoulder-roll defense to deflect DeMarco’s power shots.
Broner was already a television star; he has the HBO numbers to prove it. Now he has earned his status in the ring, too. Let’s hope he keeps it going. Ricky Burns, who will defend his version of the lightweight title on Dec. 15, is a logical next opponent, and there are no shortage of guys at 140 pounds to give Broner a fight. Finally, a young American star who seems worthy of the hype.
RICHARD O’BRIEN: After an impressive and, on his part, decidedly relaxed dismantling of DeMarco on Saturday night (it was more like watching an enthusiastic technician entering code on a keyboard than it was like seeing a guy actually fighting), Broner declared himself “the new era of boxing.” That remains to be seen, of course.
Certainly Broner, at 23, and clearly comfortable having stepped up to the 135-pound limit, has the physical gifts (speed, strength, power) and the schooling (he’s technically very sound, with a varied offense and a polished defense) to make him, well, a problem for any fighter in the lightweight or junior welterweight divisions. (A quick assault on Juan Manuel Marquez or Ricky Burns would be a great start.) The question, of course, is how far can he extend his effectiveness. At 5-foot-7, Broner may be a bit too compact to keep moving up, to junior welter, welter and beyond. And multiple titles and challenges to the best across a range of weight classes are what make for the biggest stars in boxing.
At the same time, I also think there’s the danger that Broner could get pegged — or, indeed, could peg himself — as a kind of poor man’s Money, a Mayweather clone, and that such an image could keep him from becoming the star he could be. There’s the physical resemblance, of course, and the shoulder-rolling defense (and the smirking and self-celebratory rhetoric), but Broner has a natural aggressiveness in the ring that Mayweather has seldom shown. He would be wise to play that element up. A boxing public weary of Mayweather’s slick showmanship would welcome a supremely talented champion who actually came to fight. If Broner does that, superstardom should be no problem.
BRYAN ARMEN GRAHAM: Broner is now a two-division world champion at 23. He’s 25-0 with 21 knockouts. He just cracked SI.com’s pound-for-pound list at No. 12. On Saturday, he made his seventh appearance on HBO and his headlining debut on the flagship “World Championship Boxing” franchise: He took a step up, both competitively and commercially, and he dominated.
He is opinionated. He is eccentric. (Quite eccentric.) Call him cocky and call him profane, but Broner gets it. It’s not enough to be Andre Ward, not if you want to be the first boxer to generate a billion dollars, which is Broner’s articulated goal. “I’m not just a professional boxer, I am a professional entertainer too,” he said over lunch in Manhattan last month. “Since the first grade I’ve been a class clown. This is just me.”
Broner is coming along at a time when boxing needs fresh stars, with Floyd Mayweather (35 years old) and Manny Pacquiao (34 next month) nearing the twilights of their careers. He’s managed by Al Haymon, the enigmatic force responsible for making Mayweather the richest athlete in sports. The heavyweight division remains stagnant and domestically irrelevant. HBO has invested millions in building him up and they’re enthused by the return thus far. “He’s making the progression that great fighters make,” HBO’s pay-per-view chief Mark Taffet said last month. “He’s on the path. For a 23-year-old man, he’s exactly where he needs to be.” If he stays hungry, keeps winning and keeps entertaining, there’s no reason why Broner can’t be one of the top names in boxing within the next three years.