COMMENTARY | What does it take for a top American boxer to go from well-respected talent to crossover, mainstream superstar?
Don't ask Andre Ward, who is as dominant in his division as any other fighter in the sport and has proven himself to be among the best active boxers alive. Also, don't ask Chad Dawson, who has been the most accomplished light heavyweight of the last six years or so. Don't bother asking Timothy Bradley or even Bernard Hopkins, either. All have been labeled "boring" and have been brutalized in the media as less-than-fan-friendly talent. None have really won support beyond the usual hardcore crew of fight fans who will tune in, no matter what, to see every fight that can be accessed via cable TV or internet hook-up.
On the other hand, last July, upstart super featherweight, Adrien Broner registered an incredible 3.4 TV rating for his bout with the relatively unknown Vicente Escobedo, making it the most watched HBO Boxing After Dark telecast of the year-- even outdoing the taped replay of Manny Pacquiao's controversial loss to Timothy Bradley.
Broner's fifth round TKO of Escobedo came at the end of an entire day of intrigue which revolved around Broner's inability to make the 130 lb. limit and his team's efforts to buy off Escobedo to step into the ring, anyway.
Throughout the day, social media buzzed with updates of the situation as the fight became an on-again, off-again affair. Fans spent good portions of their day talking about the fight in general and Broner, specifically. While the reactions were mostly negative, love and hate are not reflected in ratings numbers. The cold, hard fact of the matter was that, after Escobedo finally accepted the terms to go ahead with the fight, people tuned in to watch the closing chapter of the all-day drama on HBO.
Then, after five rounds of dominance and mastery from Broner, the 23-year-old Cincinnati native closed the show with an excruciatingly awkward fake-proposal to his girlfriend that truly made for a cringe-worthy moment and gave fight fans yet another reason to take to social media and boxing forums in order to vent.
All in all, it was almost twenty-four hours of pure Broner promotion and, with just that one day of drama, he very well could have surpassed much more accomplished fighters like Ward and Bradley on the boxing meter of stardom.
Now, this Saturday, Broner will be making his lightweight debut and taking on a significantly tougher task in WBC 135 lb. champ, Antonio DeMarco. The bout should be more competitive and entertaining than his last one, but the real attention-grabber is Broner, himself, and the anticipation of another ire-provoking drama during the lead-in to the fight.
Already, there's talk of a weight hang-up as DeMarco's promoter, Gary Shaw, is insisting on a doubling of his fighter's purse if Broner "is even one ounce over the 135-pound limit."
And, of course, there are the obligatory "Broner is the next Mayweather" articles that spring up whenever a Broner fight is on the immediate schedule.
While comparisons between Broner and Mayweather mostly center around their similar ring styles and physical attributes, it's clear to see that they also share a talent in getting under the skin of old school, conservative fight fans and the fickle media.
Whether this ability to get on one's nerves is part of a promotional game plan or just a byproduct of a thick-headed, egocentric world view, there's no denying that it's effective in grabbing attention and stirring up interest.
Broner is the next Mayweather in that sense. As long as he keeps winning, he'll be generating the kind of heat that draws eyeballs and inspires headlines. Most of that attention will be negative and most of the fans watching will be rooting against him, but love and hate are of little concern to those promoting fights. Both translate into money and fame.
Paul Magno was a licensed official in the state of Michoacan, Mexico and a close follower of the sport for more than thirty years. His work can also be found on Fox Sports and The Boxing Tribune. In the past, Paul has done work for Inside Fights, The Queensberry Rules and Eastside Boxing.
Keith Idec, Shaw: If Broner Has Weight Issues, DeMarco Gets Double, Boxingscene
Jake Donovan, Broner on Facing Mayweather, Endless Comparisons, Boxingscene
Lem Satterfield, Schaefer: 'Adrien Broner is a superstar', Ring TV