Even Andy Warhol might have been surprised at how quickly Broner seems to have gone from crass fame to being a reclamation project. “The Problem” returns to the ring tonight on the undercard of the Mayweather-Maidana pay-per-view when he faces 20-1-all-the-way-to-50-1 underdog Carlos Molina in a junior welterweight bout scheduled for 10.
Career advancement has never been stranger in boxing than it has been over the last few years. Fighters go from inconsequential bout to inconsequential bout bankrolled by HBO or Showtime and rarely find themselves in matchups that matter to anyone other than their chief backers: networks, advisors, and promoters. This is why there are so many threadbare resumes in boxing even among “stars” and “p-4-p” stalwarts. Adrien Broner, for example, has faced exactly four accomplished fighters in his career—Daniel Ponce De Leon, Antonio DeMarco, Paulie Malignaggi, and Marcos Maidana—and he has been impressive only once.
Even so, Broner continues to raise a cyber-hubbub among the publicists masquerading as journalists in the fight racket. He even pops up now and then in decidedly non-boxing markets the same way Anna Kournikova and Tim Tebow—two athletes whose media buzz far outstripped their athletic accomplishments—used to pop up on television commercials or Fox News. In certain respects, of course, Kournikova was worth paying some attention to. But Broner, who has a record of 27-1 with one no-contest and 22 knockouts, has what passes for pizzazz these days.
Years ago, men like Jack Dempsey, Joe Louis, Sugar Ray Robinson, and Rocky Marciano were admired for their public images. Robinson was stylish, eloquent, and treated his opponents with respect (at least away from the negotiating table). Of course, it helped that Robinson was the smoothest ringmaster in history, but he also understood that a rooting interest would take a fighter farther than negative appeal would. Most fighters did. And that was generally the case until Muhammad Ali came around, but Ali was sui generis and a willing political symbol during a turbulent era.
Because boxing pits one man against another in stylized, ritualized combat, it sometimes leads to spectators over-identifying with the fighters based on anything from nationalism to ethnicity to economic success. But in the case of Broner, what is it some of the cosplayers beyond the ropes identify with so much? Is it the substituting of U.S. currency for Charmin two-ply wipes? Is it the ménage a trois video? Is it the posting of mug shots on Instagram? Is it the hideous rapping? Or the humiliation of outclassed opponents? Maybe Slavoj Žižek ought to take a crack at figuring it out.
Pure Instagram ham, with a dash of hashtag swag thrown in (forget the humble brag, alas), to go along with his Starpulse panache, TMZ-worthy poisonality, and an avalanche of bling not seen since the heyday of Mr. T, Broner ought to be on an episode of “Love My Selfie” instead of in a boxing ring tomorrow night. But his obnoxious antics have translated to Nielsen gold, however, so he gets a hokum set-up fight despite all the braggadocio. Whatever it is that makes Broner, Cincinnati, Ohio, so buzzworthy, he has enough of it to render athletic competition unnecessary—for now, at least. Make no mistake about it: Molina, 17-1-1 (7), is in Las Vegas to be jackknifed under the hot lights.
Molina, so undistinguished that Jim Lampley confused him with WBX junior middleweight titleholder—and current inmate—Carlos Molina on a recent episode of “The Fight Game,” has shown little over the course of his nearly seven-year career except a certain earnestness. Out of the ring since Amir Khan pulverized him into a bloody tenth-round TKO defeat a year-and-a-half ago, Molina, Norwalk, California, gets a comeback fight that may leave him with his limbs akimbo. Unfortunately, it looks like no one with any suction is playing guardian angel for him.
Just about all Molina, 28, has going for him is the hope that Broner has been irreparably damaged by the demolition job Maidana laid on him last December. And what Maidana did to him was brutal. From TCS:
In addition, there is the possibility that Al Haymon was not as keen as the Twitterverse was on Broner exercising his rematch clause against Maidana. After all, not only was Broner thrashed by Maidana, but he was humiliated as well. He rose like man a suffering from Jake Leg after being knocked down in the second round, tried to buy a disqualification by writhing on the canvas like a two-year old in a Wal-Mart after Maidana butted him, hit the deck again in the eighth, was the victim of revenge humping, had his hair “brushed” by everyone but his father after the fight was over, and then fled the ring under a gauntlet of beer cups.
Although Maidana trampled him from wire to wire, Broner, 24, still has a good straight right and a sneaky counter left hook. And when he puts his punches together, he can throw some flashy combinations. At 140 pounds, the power shortage he showed as a welterweight may be less pronounced, which is bad news for Molina, who has only seven kayos and will be hard pressed to keep Broner honest.
Against Khan, Molina lost every nanosecond—including the rest period between rounds. Before that, he cobbled together a 17-0-1 record against an assortment of Skid Row types, and it is a credit to his management team that an undefeated record was enough to get him a major payday against Khan. Now it is the fact that he could barely lay a glove on Khan that gets him his second bleak opportunity. This is the merciless logic of boxing. And it gets worse for Molina: To beat Broner, he will have to hope that all the scheming of boxing power brokers from the backroom to the boardroom somehow goes awry. Now that would be something worth paying 75 smackeroos for.