When we explain success, we talk plenty about mental strength. We talk about how champions focus harder, keep their composure better and demand more of themselves. Champions, however, get the buzz of success to keep them going. The strongest resilience in the sport might well belong to those fighters who fail but endure.
Will Esco recognised this in a cracking piece of analysis on Adrien Broner’s future:
“He has proven himself not to be an elite fighter and if his psyche can handle that without crumbling, there’s still some good money for Broner to make as a top-level gatekeeper.”
Accepting that you are not going to be who you dreamed you were going to be but then still going onto build a respectable career takes strength. Broner dreamed of being an all-time great but has now lost the three biggest fights of his career. Will’s question is an intriguing one; can Broner come out the other side of this comedown?
Self-delusion, the old friend of many in the ring, can take a fighter a long way. If you believe in your destiny for greatness, that is probably enough to keep you going. Eventually, however, the evidence gets overwhelming. None of us know exactly what’s in Broner’s mind. In a recent episode of his AB show, he declared his superiority but did reference the rise of a talented new generation and admit that he was now as close to being as veteran as a prospect. Amidst the bravado, there were hints of maturity and of a man coming to term with the facts. He might well be at the stage at which he talks of future glory while knowing that it’s probably not coming.
None of this may matter much in terms of whether Broner fights on or not. That is likely to rely on a much simpler equation: he is a young man who enjoys the high life and boxing remains by far his best way of paying for it. Yet how he sees his place in the sport does matter for the sort of fighter that he’s going to be. The accepted narrative on Broner is that not only is he not as good as he thinks he is, he doesn’t work nearly as hard as he should. The former has now been proved, the latter is a little murkier. While he’s undoubtedly been work-shy at key moments in his career, I’d argue that the Broner who lost to Porter and Garcia turned up in good shape; at least some of his hype about the return of “the Can Man” does appear to have been backed up in the gym. The concern is that if the promise of glory drifts away, the commitment will go with it and he’ll turn up for the pay without an interest in truly competing.
This is where Will’s question gets interesting because an effective “top-level gatekeeper” cannot just turn up. They need to be in shape to test and sometimes expose “the next big thing”. We are going to discover whether Broner has the pride to keep working to be as good he can as he can be. One thing both Broner’s admirers and detractors can agree on is that he feeds off everyone’s eyes being on him. So far, fight fans keep watching; for all that his career has stalled, his fights do big numbers. Even the AB show gets plenty of views. Fans have kept watching after some competitive defeats against top-level fighters; I’m less sure this would still be the case if he starts racking up defeats against more average competition, which is exactly the sort of trouble he could carelessly slip into. I reckon Broner suspects this as well and I think it’ll keep him going. This isn’t a man willing to easily give up the spotlight.