A few short years ago, Adrien Broner was viewed as one of the sport’s hottest young talents. He’d won world titles in three divisions by the time he was 24 and was hyped as the heir to Floyd Mayweather Jr. But that was then and this is now. Saturday night he battles once-beaten Khabib Allakhverdiev, in an attempt to remain relevant at 140 pounds. It’s no sure thing that Broner will beat the tough Russian.
Broner’s early success was built as much on promotion as genuine talent. To be sure, the talent has always been there. Broner wasn’t selected at random to be “Floyd’s heir.” But his brash, marketable personality had as much to do with the opportunities he was presented as his actual merit.
Broner first became a “world champion” when he captured the vacant WBO super featherweight belt in November 2011, by virtue of knocking out Vicente Martin Rodriguez. Rodriguez had done little to suggest he was a world-class opponent prior to that fight and has done less since. In April 2013, still fighting at 130 pounds, he lost to a 22-19-2 fighter, Sergio Escobar. The fight with Broner has been one of Rodriguez’s only bouts outside of his native Argentina.
Broner’s win for the WBC lightweight belt was a good one. He stopped Antonio DeMarco in eight rounds. At the time, DeMarco was legitimately among the top-rated lightweights in the world.
To win his third world title, at 147 pounds, Broner squeaked by the light-hitting Paulie Malignaggi in a hotly contested split decision. Malignaggi is one of the weaker welterweight belt holders in recent years. Broner was pounded by Marcos Maidana in his first defense, getting dropped in Rounds 2 and 8 and leaving the ring in tears, rather than sticking around for a post-fight interview.
Broner won three straight fights following the loss to Maidana, and continued to swagger as if he were the second coming. But earlier this year, he was thoroughly outworked by Shawn Porter, at a 144-pound catchweight. In a fight that could have truly brought him back to the top of the sport, Broner fought at a listless pace for most of the night.
Broner continues to be viewed as a potential contender at 140 pounds, which is frankly a better natural weight for him than 147, where he gets a bit flat-footed. If he can take care of business against Allakhverdiev, he should be positioned for a world title fight at light welterweight next year. His name will continue to draw some attention.
But that win over Allakhverdiev is a little better than a 50/50 proposition. Allakhverdiev has lost just once, by unanimous decision to Jessie Vargas, in an extremely close fight which I actually had Allakhverdiev winning. A focused Broner should have the talent to win this one, but if he tries to coast, he’ll be in for a rude awakening. Allakhverdiev can box at a distance and applies pressure very well.
If Broner fights in this one like he did against Porter, he’ll find himself with a two-fight losing streak, and 3-3 in his last six. This fight is going down in Broner’s hometown of Cincinnati, so he should have every advantage in this one.