When Adrien Broner was just 6 years old, his father Thomas Knight, concerned with the amount of scraps his son was getting into, brought him to the Mount Auburn Community Center Gym. They immediately put Broner into a fight, which he won handily, even dropping his young opponent.
Seeing how advanced Broner was, trainer Mike Stafford decided to put him in with future Olympian Rau’shee Warren, who beat Broner and made him cry.
Since then, Broner has plied his craft in Cincinnati under the guidance of Stafford, taking part in more than 300 amateur fights (279-15) before turning pro in 2008.
Now, the 21-year-old, who campaigns at both junior lightweight and lightweight, is on the fast track, backed by powerful adviser Al Haymon and Golden Boy Promotions. He’s run his record to 19-0 (16 knockouts) while often fighting on the off-TV undercards of major Golden Boy shows, getting much needed exposure. And with the backing of Cincinnati promoter Andrew Williams, Broner is being built into a local attraction as well. The biggest challenge now is getting rounds for Broner, who has stopped nine of his opponents in the opening stanza.
“I was always told ‘once they’re hurt, get them out of there’ so that’s what I try to do. I like to put on a show,” said Broner, who faces veteran Daniel Ponce de Leon on the Saul Alvarez-Matthew Hatton undercard Saturday at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif., on HBO – Broner’s first exposure on the network.
One such first-round KO came on November 6, on HBO’s Boxing After Dark non-televised undercard, headlined by Zab Judah’s victory over Lucas Matthysse in Newark, N.J. Broner’s many talents were on display against veteran Ilido Julio: blazing hand speed, accurate combination punching and explosive power. Also on display: Broner’s swagger. After the first knockdown, “The Problem” shimmied to the neutral corner. When he had finished Julio, Broner celebrated with a backward somersault and a dance, which he calls “The Mr. Miyagi.”
An observer at ringside liked what he saw.
“When I dropped the guy the first time, I was talking to Roy Jones [ringside to call the TV fights for HBO] and I said ‘that’s how you used to do it,’” Broner said. “Roy Jones said that I’m gonna be a champion, just keep doing what I’m doing.
“I feel like every time I fight, the crowd is coming to see me, even if I’m not the main event. It’s my time to shine, my time to put on a show, and I just like to perform. I love attention. I don’t think anybody in this boxing game’s got more swagger than me.”
Broner is an entertainer, even at this early stage of his career, making dramatic entrances for local fights. In a 2010 encounter with Carlos Claudio, he was lowered to the ring from the rafters. With his confident demeanor and flashy style, it’s no surprise who his favorite fighter is.
“I watch Floyd Mayweather a lot, so a lot of my craft comes from him,” said Broner, who feels that his best weapon is his jab. “I love him to death.”
But like the pugilist he looks up to, Broner has had his scrapes with the law. In March of last year, he was arrested in Cincinnati for his alleged involvement with a purse snatching, a charge that was later dropped.
“This kid’s had some trouble in the past,” said Williams, who promotes several up-and-coming Cincinnati fighters under his R & R Promotions. “It’s stopped some opportunities for him, but I think it’s made him a better person. It’s made him a little bit more focused, because he knows the pitfalls that can hurt him.”
Broner saw many of his friends fall victim to gun violence. As his star grows, he realizes that trouble will seek him out. Luckily, he has a strong support system on which to lean.
“Coming up in Cincinnati, it was kind of hard for me to stay on track,” Broner said. “But now I’m on track and I’m not looking back. Without Andrew Williams, Mike Stafford, my parents and boxing, I don’t know where I would be.”
Broner is very close with his mother, Dorothy, and father, Thomas. His father attends all of his fights and plays a big role in his development. His twin brother, Andre, with whom he used to train, has also been a positive influence in his life. But the addition of three new members to his family had a particularly strong impact on him. Broner has two sons, 3-year-old Adrien Jr. and 1-year-old Armani. His daughter, Nariya is 2. Together, they drive him to reach even further heights in boxing.
“It’s great to see my son watch a boxing fight and then tell me, ‘Daddy, I wanna box,’” Broner said. “It definitely makes me train harder, fight harder because I know I have to be a good role model for them.”
Williams hopes to get Broner around 10 fights in 2011, stepping up the level of opposition each time out.
That means he’s likely to face adversity at some point. When he does, he’ll have an experience to draw from. In his ninth pro bout, in May 2009, Broner won a majority decision victory over Fernando Quintero, who entered undefeated at 7-0-1. The fight took place outdoors at the Sundance Square in Fort Worth, Texas, an especially hot and muggy day. The weather made for an arduous affair, the only time Broner has gone eight rounds. But he came out on top in what he deemed the hardest fight of his young career.
“His smartness and the way he analyzes fighters are impressive,” said Stafford, who has coached Broner his entire amateur and pro career. “He can go up and down in weight. He’s able to keep up with a little guy due to his speed. The guys bigger than him, he can beat them to the punch.”
Broner said he’s comfortable fighting anywhere from 130 to 140 and will most likely be fighting at welterweight in a few years.
He is already creating a buzz as a sparring partner, twice helping fighters prepare for Tim Bradley, working in camp with both Lamont Peterson and Devon Alexander before their matches with the undefeated junior welterweight. That kind of sparring should serve him well.
“Adrien has a tremendous amount of respect for the fighters that came before him,” Williams said. “Aaron Pryor, Ezzard Charles, Bud Smith (all Cincinnati legends). We know our history.”
If Adrien Broner can fulfill his vast potential, he could be Cincinnati’s next boxing star.