In the words of a certain rap artist called Marshall Mathers – will the real Adrien Broner please stand up!
These have been the calls from boxing fans across recent years when it comes to Adrien Broner stepping into the ring.
This Saturday night would be perfect timing for the self-proclaimed ‘About Billions’ fighter to translate his undoubted talents into his biggest prizefight.
If you’re a believer in Broner, then this contest with primed star Mikey Garcia stakes a claim for being one of the best match-ups of 2017.
Glimpses of his brilliance are ultimately enough to suggest Broner 33-2(24KO’s) is by far Garcia’s toughest opponent to date, and stands as a real threat to the Californian’s unbeaten ledger.
But while flashes of Broner’s ring craft have left us wondering what could be, Garcia’s moments of magic have fans purring at what a sublime talent we have on our hands.
Garcia’s return to the ring last year was much anticipated.
A stoppage of Elio Rojas was exciting, but expected. Then the demolition of WBC Lightweight champion Dejan Zlaticanin this January surpassed our initial expectations of how good Garcia 36-0(30KO’s) could be.
At 29, the brother of trainer Robert Garcia is in his prime, and a swift step into the Super Lightweight division was a well-advised one.
Lightweight is a good division, but Garcia’s power at that weight makes him the most feared fighter, and his moment in the sun really lies in a potential barn-burner with Terence Crawford – either at 140lbs or in the Welterweight division.
Like Garcia, Broner is a former Super-Featherweight and Lightweight title holder, and like his foe, Broner has always looked oversized for those weight classes.
But Broner’s jump out of the Lightweight class was straight into the Welterweight division.
And following an unconvincing win over Paulie Malignaggi, Marcos Maidana exposed Broner’s limitations, albeit showing us the immense heart that Broner has in a boxing ring.
Two years ago, Broner also fell short in a division that clearly, he does not suit. Losing more convincingly on points to the still underrated Shawn Porter.
Ahead of arguably his third defining fight, the easiest way to rule Broner out is to point to the losses in those two previous “big fights”. But look beyond just the fact that the weight class did not suit Broner, and recognise the similar styles of both Maidana and Porter.
The two were marauding, aggressive boxers, who both work at their best inside. Where Broner’s flashy mid-range uppercuts and quick counters are made redundant.
In the case of Porter, the man is huge, a Welterweight fighter with the strength of a Middleweight.
Garcia couldn’t be further from the styles of Maidana and Porter. The unbeaten favourite is a smart and calculated boxer with a knack of landing with devastating power from mid-to-long range.
However, everything about Garcia screams “star!”
His demeaner inside and outside the ring is greatly appreciated, and his knack of closing the show with highlight reel knockouts, combined with his perfected jab and ring generalship, make him one of the shortlist of names that first come to mind when thinking of the sport’s leading athletes.
Broner at his best could continue to win championships and beat notable names, but even a career-best Broner performance may not be enough against a man whose name can stand rightly alongside the Andre Ward’s, Vasyl Lomachenko’s and Terence Crawford’s – some of this generations elite class.
While ‘AB’ has failed to deliver on these nights before, for arguments sake we must consider that Broner can find his groove come fight time.
But even when in full flow, Broner has a knack of laziness, a trait that one cannot just predict won’t be there against Garcia on Saturday. If Broner has success, the likelihood is that he dwells on that too long, while the quietly confident Garcia will remain ice-cold, even during his best moments.
Garcia is the emotionless assassin in the ring, while Broner lives every moment, whether the fight is going his way or not.
The opening 4 round of this contest are likely to have a drastic effect on the outcome of the entire fight.
A start that sees Garcia establish a jab, take center ring and find a rhythm would likely result in Broner sinking into a continuing deficit.
Either a comprehensive points win for Garcia or even a late stoppage would be the outcome, with Garcia growing in confidence as the underdog accepts his fate as the fight trudges on.
The best scenario for the fans would be that Broner controls the action early. His awkward and fast hands would cause the more cautious Garcia trouble.
Broner could be at his elusive best, and a tentative Garcia may give him far too much space. But Garcia would rally in the second half of the contest, either turning the fight on its head with a last gap stoppage, or coming up short in contentious fashion.
The pick is with the former. Broner losing control of the contest after the first two rounds. Broner can pull rounds back in the middle of the fight.
But the consistency and effectiveness of Garcia’s punches will prove too much for the Cincinnati man to overhaul.
Pride will keep Broner on his feet through some tough moments between rounds 8-10, before Mikey Garcia is declared a unanimous decision winner.