It was supposed to be the start of an unforgettable year for Adrien Broner. He had just hit huge numbers with HBO and demolished a smaller, less capable boxer in Gavin Rees, for his first title defense at 135lbs.
A showdown loomed with Ricky Burns, the current WBO lightweight champion, for an exciting unification bout. Frank Warren, Ricky’s promoter at the time, was asking for a big payday for his boxer and rightfully so. After watching Broner go right through champion Antonio DeMarco and then Rees, Broner was becoming the star that HBO wanted him to be and was quickly gaining a following, which meant big bucks for his opponents.
Plans abruptly changed for the fight still in negotiations when Burns jumped ship from Frank Warren’s camp to rival promoter Matchroom Sport and turned down the Broner fight in the process. Ricky elected to set up another unification fight, this one against IBF champion Miguel Vazquez. A win for Burns would still make him a dual titleholder and keep a future Broner fight desirable, especially if Broner wanted to be the only other lineal champion in history to hold all four sanctioning body belts at one time, besides Bernard Hopkins.
That Vazquez fight would not happen either. Ricky Burns now decided to take on even less talked about opponents with one challenger Raymundo Beltran even breaking his jaw in the process. Burns lost his status as a reputable champion and continues to float on into insignificance.
Pundits clamored that Broner was too big for the 135lb division and they called for him to move up and take on other fighters, ignoring that Broner had just entered the lightweight division. Forums suggested the time was ripe and Broner had to stop bullying the division after his only two fights. They dreamed of a showdown between him and Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Broner was ringside to watch Richard Abril successfully defend his WBA title in March as he let the whirlwind of speculation continue on who he’d fight next. HBO had no desire to give Abril, who most critics thought outclassed Brandon Rios, another chance at derailing one of their preferred future stars and Miguel Vasquez was never a consideration either.
If Broner’s advisors treated his future like an 18 year old brunette bombshell treated her virginity they would’ve made the thirsty fans wait, the anticipation build and had HBO work the proper steps to the big night instead of skipping second base and getting turned inside out by older, more experienced players of the game.
A young champion full of potential that was just getting his start in the limelight was being put on an even faster track to bigger fights and Paulie Malignaggi was first.
Paulie “The Magic Man” was just supposed to be an easy entrance to the welterweight division and a quick route to becoming a champion in another division. Paulie rapped the opinions of this writer and told Broner he’s just a kid and he’s moving up too quick. Paulie continued on that he could outbox and outmaneuver the fighter who had been fed straightforward opponents. The result proved Malignaggi right and was disappointing for Broner, even with the win.
Adrien Broner, the next great champion and PPV star had trouble keeping Malignaggi at bay, showed terrible defense, looked slow and unimpressive as he escaped Brooklyn with a split decision. Even big brother Floyd Mayweather said Broner should’ve knocked Malignaggi out.
Fast forward to December 14th and Adrian Broner was soundly handled by hard-hitting puncher Marcos Maidana. The year that started so well and looked promising had Broner finish 2-1 with one win a SD. Now those same writers and forum regulars are all calling for a strategic retreat to the 140lb division.
How would the year have been different and the future looked if Broner hadn’t jumped two divisions—practically three since he just started in the lightweight arena? I’d like to offer a realistic perspective on what could’ve been and what realistically should’ve been.
Adrien Broner could’ve continued his character buildup with a summer showdown with the pesky Richard Abril, unified the WBC and WBA titles and in the process proven he could beat a fighter who comes from a class of Cuban boxers who are stylistically different but effective at getting wins. By this time the calls for him to move up would’ve been at a fever pitch and his name could’ve been in article after article about the limitless possibilities instead of having another controversial win on his record, the first being against Ponce de Leon.
A winter meeting against Vazquez would’ve let Broner get another belt. Still undefeated and now undisputed champion of the lightweight division, Adrien Broner would be the number one prospect for bigger fights.
After unifying three of the four belts in the lightweight division, a bout with depleted WBO champion Ricky Burns would be there for the taking, and the best money option for the hopefully now fully healed Burns. Staging the fight in England would also encourage Broner’s star to rise higher and his exposure to grow wider. A completely unified lightweight division would be historic and Broner’s name would be on the label of stardom.
Moving to junior welterweight would be perfect timing at this point as champion Danny Garcia has just decided to move up to welterweight. There’ll be plenty of gold for the taking when Garcia vacates his titles. A vacuum effect will be in full swing with fighters looking to fill the void and who better to take the place at the top of the division other than the undefeated and unified lightweight champ?
All signs would point to Adrien Broner moving upward to 140lbs with an “0” still intact and a confidence growing. Broner still wouldn’t be mature outside the ring but inside the ring he’d be evolving with the experience real champions like Floyd Mayweather earned. Instead Broner is on his heels trying to explain what just happened. Life is all about choices. What will Broner choose to do next?