His chosen sobriquet is especially fitting: Adrien “The Problem” Broner is just that. He’s a formidable fighter, with a particularly problematic dynamic of offensive and defensive prowess. These fistic virtues are well established; there’s little trouble assaying the undeniable abilities of Adrien Broner. He should prove to be a rather baffling riddle for opponents for some time. Appraising his antics however, and their effect on his career, are much more difficult tasks.
For some, his rapping and hair brushing are merely manifestations of the confidence required to take part in compromising violence. The Broner apologist might suggest that the gaudery evidences Broner’s security in his own abilities, his willingness to increase the stakes by adding to audience expectations. A man who’s as brash as Broner must do more than simply win: he has upped the ante, adding an aesthetic demand to his ring exploits that must also be satisfied to meet the expectations of the performance. Those who appreciate the theatrics can defend Broner on the grounds that he’s challenging himself to be more than a fighter, but an entertainer as well. And in being an entertainer, Broner is garnering an audience.
For others, Broner’s antics, the thespian quality of his time in front of the camera, are merely a product of a benign childishness. Broner—at only 22 years of age, and yet years deep into his profession—has certainly committed much seriousness to the exacting demands of his particular vocation. Given such a sacrifice, those who take this position argue that the playful young man should be permitted his potentially off-putting antics as merely a byproduct of his age. He isn’t being forcibly escorted through the doors of nightclubs, experimenting with psychedelia, or participating in other activities associated with the edifying hooliganism of many a man his age. At 22, he has spent considerable time under the scrutiny of others, and so his innocuous routine should be forgiven. It’s an instance of child’s play in a man’s art, and it isn’t without precedent.
There’s a third faction which loathes the arrogance and the pomp, that cannot palate the superfluous choreography accompanying the bruising dance. Those who find the ceremonial grooming and rehearsed interviews so distasteful identify a degree of disrespect in Broner’s antics. There’s very little playful about a sport where men break their hands striking their opponents, and some believe the entire edifice is trivialized by Broner’s clownish histrionics. Even a less severe judgement of Broner’s schtick can sketch a rather obnoxious, juvenile portrait. For many, the absence of decorum in Broner’s celebration is an indictment of his class. Perhaps these cruel strokes are fitting, and Broner is guilty of an arrogant idiocy that has no place in what McIlvanney so appositely titled ‘The Hardest Game’.
Applying a Venn-diagram to the above portraits would probably reveal a more temperate characterization: the overlapping sections of the three circles permitting just enough of each perspective to prevent too rigid a characterization. Yes, he has conducted himself as a professional in regards to his first priorities, evidenced by a surgical and definitive stoppage of Eloy Perez last week. But the question of what to make of Broner can’t be satisfied by his record. His performance, which he clearly puts much preparation into, entails more than what he accomplishes during the fight. Adrien Broner wants viewers to evaluate the entire package. He must be pleased to know that many are considering him as just such a whole, though there’s striking disagreement over the sum of those parts.
This process of appraising Broner has spawned a second question.
There’s a line of reasoning proposing that Broner’s theatrics augment his fistic endeavours. It seems intuitive to assume a connection between a noteworthy performance—for whatever reason—and increased viewership. A week removed from his knockout of Perez and people are still discussing Broner’s histrionics, proof enough that his extracurricular activity is memorable. The more interesting question is: will Broner’s antics make him a star?
Broner, particularly in Cincinnati and neighbouring cities, will probably increase attendance at the cards he performs on. This impact can be expected to increase as Broner continues to win under the lights of a major network (conditions which seem likely as Broner is probably the best fighter in his division, and is an HBO staple). Promoted properly, Broner might even develop into a solid regional attraction, somewhere along the lines of Tomasz Adamek or Fernando Guerrero.
But neither Adamek nor Guerrero boasts the appeal of a Mayweather or Pacquiao—neither fighter is a superstar. Of course, neither Adamek nor Guerrero augment their performances with the self-promoting histrionics of Broner. The added ostentation is an important factor, as talent alone has proven insufficient for stardom. Will his polarizing gaudery then, allow Broner to achieve the status of the sport’s most popular practitioners? Or will his antics’ greatest achievement be the production of a schism among preexisting fans, with those eyes that were going to watch regardless simply observing with a reduced impartiality?
The most interesting problems tend to produce more questions than answers. They boast a complexity that requires layers of deconstruction, revealing multiple avenues of further inquiry. It’s often best to handle such puzzles with a cautious rumination. Perhaps Adrien “The Problem” Broner, both in his polarizing affectations, and his star potential, should be catechized with similar diligence, though it’s unlikely that most minds aren’t already firmly made up.