Searching for the truth has always been difficult when taking stock of former three-division titlist Adrien Broner.
As boxing’s undeniable clown prince, Broner is a rare fighter who sits on the fragile nest egg of holding real potential to become the sport’s biggest draw. But it’s never easy separating the fighter from the sideshow that comes with him, creating polarizing responses as to whether he’s really good enough to ever get there.
It’s clear that Broner (28-1, 22 KOs) is no longer the same monster he was at 135 pounds and below, able to overpower opponents by standing directly in front of them and breaking them down with menacing countershots.
But does that mean he’s necessarily as overrated and incapable of adjusting as he appeared to be while losing his welterweight title to Marcos Maidana in December?
That’s the question that will continue to follow Broner until he steps up and quiets the doubt by defeating a top-ranked opponent. Now competing at junior welterweight, he likely won’t have that opportunity Sept. 6 when he faces Emmanuel Taylor in Broner’s backyard of Cincinnati.
Although Taylor (18-2, 12 KOs), 23, is a respected boxer, he isn’t in the same class as the division’s leading men of Danny Garcia, Lamont Peterson and Lucas Matthysse, with the latter joining Broner as co-headliners of the card in separate bouts.
Still, if Taylor is unable to outright answer the questions following Broner, he should be able to at least further the conversation by testing Broner’s commitment to the sport.
“Every time I fought at home, I gave my fans a knockout,” Broner said. “I spoiled my fan base in Cincinnati. So every time I fight here, that's what they want.
”I have to give them a knockout. I got to. And it's got to be pretty too. I think I'm going to hit him with the 30 piece and the biscuit.”
Although Broner said the right things in the aftermath of his humbling loss to Maidana, his next fight against Carlos Molina in May saw a return to both his tired in-ring antics and a one-dimensional style.
Broner not only failed to re-establish himself as a power puncher after dropping down in weight, but he was also hit repeatedly by a heavy underdog who lacked the power to make him pay. Just like in his loss to Maidana, Broner was far too stationary and repeatedly caught with his hands down by looping right hands, making for an unimpressive showcase victory.
Taylor has been keeping close tabs.
"I saw his fight against Maidana, and I saw a lot of weaknesses there. But that's not the only way he can be beaten,” Taylor said. “I definitely can take advantages of his weaknesses, but I have some other plans for fighting this guy.”
The good news for Broner is that he’s still so young, having turned 25 in July. The trash talk has returned in the buildup to the fight with Taylor, although a lot of that plays into his persona as a spoiled, flamboyant star who draws as many fans hoping to see him lose as simply see him.
It’s a marketing strategy that has done wonders for Broner’s “big bro” Floyd Mayweather Jr., who has the goods in the ring to back everything up. Broner simply isn’t that same level of fighter. But then again, who is?
In some ways, the loss to Maidana removed Broner from the pressures that come with living in Mayweather’s shadow, allowing him to start fresh and become the best Adrien Broner he’s capable of.
Step 2 of that journey begins Sept. 6 against Taylor where, regardless of the reasons why we watch, Broner remains a lightning rod who forces us to tune in. Yet, only “The Problem” can answer whether his nickname is a greater reflection on the issues he provides for his opponents or to himself.