Adrien Broner's sometimes-mentor, Floyd Mayweather, likes to say that there are levels in boxing. To Mayweather, it doesn't matter how much heart or determination a fighter has; what's paramount is the innate collection of skills and talent that a boxer possesses. In his view, the more talented fighter, which of course would be him in any hypothetical construct, should always win.
Mayweather's "levels" philosophy has been parroted throughout boxing over the previous few years by many of his sycophants and others who should know better. In truth, fighters with inferior talent win bouts all the time. Boxing presents dozens of examples every year where, to invert a hackneyed phrase from the sport, skills don't necessarily pay the bills. It should also be mentioned that the two opponents who gave Mayweather his most difficult fights, Jose Luis Castillo and Marcos Maidana, had innate talent levels significantly beneath Mayweather's.
Nevertheless, the "levels" construct still persists in boxing. It's not that Floyd's necessarily wrong in his beliefs and philosophies but upsets happen all of the time in boxing. Talented fighters fail to reach their potential. A top guy can struggle with a certain type of style. Ultimately, the variation of boxing styles is one of the sport's draws. There are ways to beat an expert boxer, a knockout artist or a supreme athlete. Talent is and will continue to be crucially important but strategy, preparation, execution and personal intangibles will always play a role in determining who wins a given contest.
As for Adrien Broner, the essential disconnect with his career is that many expected him to be fighting on the elite level, where rare breeds like Mayweather reside. From a certain perspective, Broner can look at his career to this point as a success. Winning titles in four divisions by the age of 27 isn't an easy feat. However, there certainly is a "yes, but" to many of Broner's accomplishments. Many of his title fights, especially above lightweight, were cherry-picked encounters against lesser opponents. He's blown weight a number of times and has lost two titles on the scales. At 140 and above, Broner has never been regarded as the best in his division despite securing championship belts.
Since leaving lightweight in 2013, Broner has amassed a record of 7-2. He lost to Maidana, who dropped him twice at welterweight, and Shawn Porter, who thoroughly outworked him, despite a Broner-mandated catchweight of 144 (this was in hopes of draining Porter, who had spent most of his professional career fighting at welterweight and above). Broner also eked out decision wins against Paulie Malignaggi (for a title) and Adrian Granados on Saturday. With different judges, it's certainly possible that Broner could be 5-4 in this run – that’s no one's definition of an elite fighter.
Granados has a hard luck record of 18-5-2. All of his losses have been either split or majority decisions against him. He certainly beat Kermit Cintron in 2013 yet could only muster a draw on the scorecards. He knocked out rising prospect Amir Imam in 2015. He recorded majority decision losses to Frankie Gomez, who was one of the top prospects in boxing when they fought in 2011, and to Felix Diaz, a talented Olympian who beat Sammy Vasquez and many felt bested Lamont Peterson. Granados has victories over five undefeated fighters (an impressive number – Broner has only beaten two) and conceivably could've gotten notches over a few more. In short, Granados has been matched tough and he's been competitive in all of his bouts.
What I'm getting at is that Broner and Granados, in fact, fight at similar levels at 140 and above. Broner has been competitive but not dominant against titleholders at these weight classes and Granados has exhibited the same type of form. Thus, it wasn't shocking that Saturday's fight was as close as could be. The final scores were 97-93, 96-94 (Broner) and 97-93 (Granados) but even the split decision doesn't do the competitive nature of the fight justice. Maybe seven or eight rounds of the bout were swing rounds where either fighter had a legitimate case of winning.
The bout ultimately came down to Granados' aggression and punch volume vs. Broner's accuracy and clean counters. I scored it a draw. It seemed that social media was fairly evenly split on the fight's winner.
There are some who ripped Broner after the match for going life-and-death against a fighter who had a number of blemishes on his professional record. However, that contention diminishes both fighters. Granados is one of those guys, like Orlando Salido, who is far better than his record suggests. He almost always has been the B-side in major fights and has been brought in to lose. We know how boxing works. The B-side is far less likely to receive the benefit of the doubt in close bouts. Granados is a solid B+ fighter. On the right night, he could give most top junior welterweights and welterweights a run for their money, and maybe even beat them. And it's certainly possible that he won on Saturday.
As for those who continue to disparage Broner, he fought as well as he could on Saturday. He didn't dog it in the ring and he dug down to pull out the last few rounds of the fight. Even when bested by Porter, he still got a final-round knockdown. When Maidana beat him pillar-to-post early in their fight, he staged a mid-round rally. He fights; he doesn't quit. Ultimately, Broner's fiercest critics have failed to recalibrate his true talent level. Similar to Granados, he's a B+ fighter above 140. He doesn’t have the power to hurt top fighters and his punch volume remains paltry. He's susceptible to anyone with a decent work rate and self-belief. That's his level.
So if Broner's only an entertaining B+ fighter, what's the crime? The sport needs big personalities and fighters who bring in viewers. Does Broner have too high an opinion of himself and his talents? Probably, but that's certainly not a unique trait among professional athletes. People tune in to his fights. Maybe they like his flamboyant antics. Others really want to see him lose. Pure boxing fans love to watch his clean counters. It's not as if Broner isn't a real fighter in the ring. He just hasn't reached the lofty perch that many expected for him half-a-decade ago.
Ultimately, many talented fighters don't reach their potential. And although Broner hasn't lived up to expectations, he certainly has provided many entertaining fight nights. Yes, his out-of-the-ring lifestyle has contributed to his professional shortcomings, but again, that's not exactly a unique position in or out of boxing. Broner continues to compete and entertain and as long as he remains in this position (and is matched carefully), he'll be an asset to the sport.
The problem that Broner and his team face at welterweight is that there are very few easy fights for him. With his low-volume punch output and defensive lapses, he's a threat to lose to any top-15 guy in the division, and Broner's only relevant if he continues to win more often than not. There are some good fights out there for him at his level, such as Amir Khan, Andre Berto and Lamont Peterson, but he could lose at any time. Still only 27, Broner's going to need Al Haymon to do his best work to stay relevant into his 30s.
Finally, after the fight, I had a little spat with Mark Kriegel, a sportswriter who contributed taped interviews with Broner and Granados to the Showtime broadcast. Kriegel tweeted out after the bout that Granados essentially lost the fight at the negotiating table. The match was originally scheduled for 142 lbs. but Broner insisted on moving the fight up five pounds to 147. Granados also wanted a 12-round fight but Broner and his team demanded it be for 10.
What's so rich about Kriegel's tweet is that he knows that Granados had no leverage. Granados has been a B-side opponent fighting for scraps his whole career. Was he suddenly going to walk away from a career-high payday of $250,000 so he could fight in six months for $30,000 at a club show in Chicago? Was Granados an Al Haymon favorite? Did he bring the TV date? Essentially, Granados had no bargaining power. The deal was 10 rounds and 147 lbs., take it or leave it. Granados did what 99% of boxers would've done in his position – he accepted the fight, even if conditions were less than ideal.
Kriegel's been around boxing long enough to know that Granados had no good choices. To pretend that Granados and/or his team somehow failed because they negotiated poorly is a startling misrepresentation of the realities of the sport. Granados’ situation leading up to the fight provides another example of the “Plight of the B-Side.”
Furthermore, Kriegel's position is incomplete. One main reason why Granados lost is because judge Steve Weisfeld scored it 97-93 for Broner. Now, I can assure you that Weisfeld is one of the best officials in the sport. I'm not saying that I agreed with his card on Saturday, but he's been one of the most consistent and accurate judges in professional boxing over the last 20 years. He's not a "Haymon judge" or a guy happy to be earning a few extra bucks and getting a room. He's a pro. Somehow he found seven rounds to give to Broner. He’s not on the take; he just saw a particular fight one way. Perhaps a judge like Dave Moretti, who favors aggression more, would see the fight differently.
Granados lost because of the “Plight of the B-side” AND the mechanics of the sport. Yes, he faced a screwjob in negotiations leading up to the fight but also, a fair, out-of-state judge preferred Broner's cleaner work. That's boxing. Saturday's result wasn't a robbery. Legitimately, both fighters had a case to be the victor. Unfortunately, the loss was a(nother) case of bad luck for Granados.
Hopefully U.S. networks won't abandon Granados because he has talent and makes for good TV. And at worst, he fought one of boxing's Golden Geese on essentially even terms in a headlining fight. Less than two years ago, he was still appearing in six-rounders. So, Saturday was a disappointing loss, but now he's on the map. That's progress.
Adam Abramowitz is the head writer and founder of saturdaynightboxing.com.
Adam Abramowitz is the head writer and founder of saturdaynightboxing.com.
He is also a member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board.
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