• Steve Bunce

Time for Broner to swap crass for class

Steve Bunce June 18, 2013
Adrien Broner is a two-time world champion and a role model - it's time he started acting like one © Getty Images

If Adrien Broner's step up to welterweight to face WBA champion Paulie Malignaggi on Saturday night wasn't a great enough fight in its own right, it has one hell of a back-story attached to it as well. There's a guy that everybody loves in Malignaggi, who managed to take the world title on the road from a good champion against the odds, and who has made no secret of the fact he's looking for paydays from now on. And then there's Broner, a fantastic young talent stepping up two weight divisions with an attitude problem that could yet hurt his career.

There's several ways to look at Broner's move from lightweight to welterweight. The first is that it's a bold and brave move. It's certainly old-school - it's what they had to do back in the days before light-welterweight existed - but there's more to it than a heroic move north in the divisions. There's certainly something opportunistic about it; he's looked at the other welterweights up there and decided Malignaggi was the weak link, and he's not the only person in boxing to do so.

Another way to look at it - which is the one I like - is that he took a look at the light-welterweights and realised that there are some beasts in that division! There are some absolutely fantastic fighters in there - and they're all controlled by Golden Boy, the people that promote him, so the matches could have been made in the blink of an eye. He could have put himself up against Lucas Matthysse or Danny Garcia, fights that he would probably win but he could also get hit on the chin. Or maybe Devon Alexander, who he would probably beat, but boy - would that be a stinkeroo! Hey, I'm a massive Alexnder fan, but he can make fights ugly.

Instead, he's managed to get a fight with Malignaggi, who is getting a lot of money for the fight, but not enough - and he is not happy with that. Broner's getting more, and it'll be a great fight, so everyone's a winner in some ways. The public have enjoyed the free banter so far and it has been fiery and foul in equal measure.

I honestly think when Broner first started throwing insults about in the build-up to the fight it was on a far friendlier, comic level. Paulie disagrees and insists that Adrien has made it personal, taken it outside boxing. It's gone wrong since the first conference, and I think both of them have stepped over several lines. It's not hype - this isn't a pay-per-view fight that would make this level of mud-slinging understandable in a cheeky bid to drum up subscriptions. Their money's guaranteed - no matter how many people watch it, their cheques aren't getting any bigger.

So it's more personal than that. Who stepped over the line first? I think it was neck and neck. Who's been the more obnoxious? Probably Adrien Broner. He's managed to get under Malignaggi's skin - Paulie denies it, but I think he has - and I reckon that's exactly why Broner does what Broner does. Paulie admits that perhaps he should have stepped back at times, been more professional. Adrien would never apologise or acknowledge being wrong.

But there's another take on the brash former super-feather and lightweight world champion, as Barry Jones talked about on this week's podcast. Broner's 23 years old, and already he's been in and out of prison and has dozens of arrests on his rap sheet. But he's a role model now, he's world champion and he's a quality fighter - and yet he keeps on doing stupid things.

Not long ago he filmed himself flushing dollar bills down a toilet - that's a felony. That was during the same break in Florida when he was arrested and accused of biting a security official - where he was described in the police report as being drunk - and was filmed on somebody's phone performing what looked like a sex act on a tattooed stripper in a nightclub. Subsequently pictures have been found of them together - he'd taken her to a fight a few months earlier.

He should know better. I've got no problem with boxers having a private life - but don't film yourself, don't have your friends filming you in a strip club or flushing dollars down a toilet, and don't bite security guards outside expensive hotels where there are security cameras everywhere. And we haven't even touched on the things he's said. If somebody working for ESPN tweeted the things that he tweets they'd lose their job - in a second.

Would we give Broner the time of day if he wasn't such a great fighter? © AP

Broner's walking a very thin line at the moment. Luckily for him any discussion about his bad-boy antics ends with the same refrain: "but he's a great fighter." If he didn't have that talent - if he was just a decent fighter or even a good fighter - he wouldn't get anybody's time. At the moment he's still respected for what he does in the ring, but he's got to watch himself. You can't have it both ways.

The smart money says that this is Broner's fight to lose. If he beats Malignaggi - and I believe it's a harder fight than people think - he needs to show some class in victory. He doesn't need to be the crass bore that we've seen so many times.

Assuming Malignaggi loses, the rest of his career will be dictated by the manner of his defeat. If he were to be stopped in seven or eight rounds, cut and bloodied, I think that would diminish his potential in the market. However, if he puts up the sort of resistance he put up against Miguel Cotto, against Amir Khan, against Ricky Hatton, and either goes the distance - or at least the last couple of rounds - then he'd still be a marketable fighter. Either way, he's got to take a big risk fight - you never know, perhaps Khan again. It was a good fight last time until it ended in the 11th.

Paulie Malignaggi was ringside with Ricky Hatton had his comeback fight last year. A second showdown with Hatton was set in stone, giving Hatton a shot at the world title and Paulie the chance to make some serious money. That went wrong when Senchenko stopped Hatton and sent him back into retirement - though it didn't stop some people at Golden Boy still trying to talk up the fight! They were still trying to resurrect it while Ricky was busy putting on 30lb and telling the world he was finished! Paulie was gutted: Steve Lillis, a pal of mine who works with me on Box Nation, was out with him the next day and said it was like he was coming from a funeral. He knew he'd just lost out on a record payday.

If Malignaggi were to beat Broner - he's never going to match him for speed, but if he can walk through whatever Broner's hitting him with and use that extra inch in height and 12-18 pounds of extra weight to somehow contain him - then Paulie would find himself heading into a very good place.

Let's be clear: If Paulie Malignaggi beats Adrien Broner - and it's a big if, don't get me wrong - then he fights Floyd Mayweather. That's what's at stake here: a purse of as much as $15m. Not for Broner - he'll keep on picking up the bigger share of smaller purses for a while yet. But if Malignaggi pulls off this unlikeliest of victories, he will be in the ring with Money next year.

On Buncey's Boxing Podcast this week, Leon McKenzie tells us about his journey from the football pitch to the boxing ring as he prepares for his first professional fight. We've also got Adil Anwar on the phone ahead of his British lightweight title fight against Darren Hamilton, George Groves joins us to dish out some more compliments in James DeGale's direction and Peter Fury looks back at Huey's sixth professional victory - and gives us the latest movements in the Tyson Fury-David Haye negotiations. I spoil you, I really do.

Until next week - adios.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Steve Bunce Close
Steve Bunce has been ringside in Las Vegas over 50 times, he has been at five Olympics and has been writing about boxing for over 25 years for a variety of national newspapers in Britain, including four which folded! It is possible that his face and voice have appeared on over 60 channels worldwide in a variety of languages - his first novel The Fixer was published in 2010 to no acclaim; amazingly it has been shortlisted for Sports Book of the Year.