The end for Broner?
THE GAME OF MY LIFE - Bill Velasco (The Philippine Star) - January 28, 2019 - 12:00am

The revealing loss of Adrien Broner to Manny Pacquiao eight days ago signals the virtual end of his career. After the running game – and resultant denial of loss and tantrum, who can take him seriously? The rest of the act was merely an ill-conceived mask for his unwillingness to compete. Instead of coming out of the bout honorably, the problem left his dignity at the door, as well.

A cursory examination of his career places him at the right place, and at the right time on several occasions. Beginning with the vacant World Boxing Council Youth Intercontinental super featherweight belt in 2010, Broner has been lucky with title shots. Nine times in total, he has fought for a vacant belt, five times world titles. And in a couple of those instances, the title was declared vacant because Broner did not make weight.

History will not judge him well. Heck, three days after the fight, nobody was talking about Broner anymore. He joined Lucas Matthysse as another fractured, flawed, fragile casualty in Pacquiao’s hit list. And it looks like there is no coming back from it, even if he is only 29.

The flip side is that he will sink into relative obscurity, to the level that his belts will have more value. Up and coming contenders will smack their lips at the chance to add a four-division world champion to their list of victims. Few will even check that Broner never lasted as a champion, and that changing weight never worked out for him. Instead, he will likely be cannon fodder, someone who gave away the first half of a fight in a mad game of catch-up, until he couldn’t turn it on anymore. He will be likened instead to George Chuvalo, the Canadian heavyweight contender from the 1960’s and 1970’s. Chuvalo amassed a 73-win, 18-loss, two-draw record, and was beaten by Muhamnad Ali (twice), George Foreman, Joe Frazier, Floyd Patterson, Buster Mathis, Ernie Terrell and Oscar Bonavena. If he had only beaten two of those big names, there would be more conversation about him. But as a consolation, Chuvalo can brag that, in the face of that level of competition, only Foreman and Frazier ever knocked him out. 

Similarly, Broner has had trouble against elite fighters, particularly in world title fights and his own title defenses. Pacquiao, on the other hand, has scored the majority of his knockout wins in world title fights, once going six years without a loss. That stat alone shows the wide gulf between the two, much wider than their oft-discussed age difference. Timothy Bradley scoffed when this writer asked about Pacquiao’s age back in 2016. Bradley, who lost two of his three fights against the Filipino champion, said he heard “bullets flying” in their first clash, and realized that was because of the speed of Pacquiao’s punches.

“Age? Hah!” Bradley told The Star. “Why don’t they try getting into the ring and getting hit by him?”

So what makes the difference? Why does Broner shrink in the light of his greatest challenges?

Some would say it is fear of success. Paychologically, we have many fears, particularly in a highly-competitive environment. We have a natural fear of being hurt, which is a biological response to physical danger. Some of us manifest fear of failure, which can be paralyzing, and manifests in either choking or panicking. In sport, this is a common phenomenon. Athletes have a mental block they must overcome in order to succeed. It may be represented by a particular opponent or place, or triggered by a particular painful memory.

In Broner’s case, it may be a deep-seated fear of success, a lesser-known but equally-prevalent phenomenon. There are times when we are subconsciously comfortable where we are, despite all its accompanying pains and misery. It is familiar. We know what we’re getting. This is the gist of Hamlet’s “to be or not to be” soliloquy, Shakespeare’s most famous speech. Fear of death, an unfamiliar territory, prevents the tragic hero from taking his own life, which would have helped him escape his depressing circumstances. He feared the new situations he would have encountered in death, a new realm.

Similarly, many people fear the change success brings, so they hold themselves back. In Broner’s case, this manifests in his repeated failure to make weight, and his unwillingness to engage, especially early in a fight. It may not be the pressure, but the possibility of winning, and not being able to go back to the way things were, to the familiar. It is a very specific fear. Unlike Matthysse, whose confidence was shattered along with his orbital socket in 2016, Broner is stuck where he is, always has been. And unless he overcomes this blind spot, he will keep banging his head against a ceiling of his own making.

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