Adrien Broner has been mostly hype, but in one way he is among the all-time greats

Kevin Iole
Combat columnist
Adrien Broner takes on Mikey Garcia, right, on Saturday at the Barclays Center. (AP)

Only 16 boxers in history have won a major world title in four separate weight divisions, though the fact that six of them remain active might speak to how much easier the feat is to accomplish these days.

No matter, though, because it’s only been done 16 times, it’s significant nonetheless given how many boxers have competed throughout the years. Adrien Broner is one of those 16.

Of the six who are eligible for induction into the International Boxing Hall of Fame, all but Leo Gamez have made it. You may have heard of the other five: Thomas Hearns, Sugar Ray Leonard, Roberto Duran, Pernell Whitaker and Oscar De La Hoya.

The implication is clear. A fighter who wins titles in four or more weight classes is almost by definition one of the greatest of all time.

Of those who have done it but not yet eligible for the Hall of Fame, it’s a good bet that Gamez, Erik Morales, Floyd Mayweather, Manny Pacquiao, Juan Manuel Marquez, Roman Gonzalez and Miguel Cotto will be elected at some point. Jorge Arce and Nonito Donare are questionable whether they’ll make it.

And that leaves Broner, who on Saturday faces the most significant test of his career in a non-title super lightweight bout against unbeaten Mikey Garcia at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. The bout, which will be televised live by Showtime, is an outstanding match that pits fighters with a combined 69-2 record.

Garcia is about a 3-1 favorite, the first time in Broner’s career that he won’t gone into a match as the favorite.

Broner, who has won the WBO super featherweight belt, the WBC lightweight title, the WBA super lightweight crown and the WBA welterweight championship, is the vastly better known fighter, thanks to his antics on social media.

Adrien Broner lands against Adrian Granados in Broner’s split decision win in February. (AP)

Broner is an outrageous and often vile and profane presence on social media. He called himself a legend long before he had accomplished much in boxing, and his reputation far exceeds his feats in the sport.

He’s never clearly been the top fighter in any division he’s competed in, though he’s been among the best. He defeated Martin Vicente Rodriguez to win his 130-pound belt. He topped Antonio DeMarco for the lightweight belt, Khabib Allakhverdiev for the super lightweight championship and Paulie Malignaggi for the welterweight crown.

None of those men was regarded as one of the top contenders in their respective weight class at the time Broner fought them.

Still, winning titles in four weight classes is no insignificant feat, even with the proliferation of weight classes and a perceived decline in overall talent in the sport.

Broner has very fast hands and sharp power, though he’s nowhere near what could be regarded as a knockout puncher. He has faced a lesser level of opposition than the other 15 men who have won four or more titles, and none of his 36 opponents to this point is even close to consideration for the Hall of Fame.

The best opponents he faced were Shawn Porter, who routed Broner in a 2015 match, and Marcos Maidana, who blew him out in 2013.

But Broner wouldn’t say that Garcia, who seems on track to become a Hall of Famer, is his most significant opponent.

“I mean, you can say that but at the end of the day, man, I fought a lot of good fighters then, but I’m just worried about getting my victory, man,” Broner said. “I can say the fact, but I ain’t trying to get into all that right now. I’m more focused and ready to fight.”

If he is indeed focused and concentrating on his fight, it’s a good thing. If there is one thing that Broner lacks, it’s the determination that made, say, Mayweather so great. Mayweather has been Broner’s mentor throughout his career, but Broner hasn’t come close to showing Mayweather’s work ethic or his aptitude for the game. He’s more like a good-time Charlie who treads off his physical skills and name recognition rather than a guy who is determined to become as good as he can be.

By the time Leonard had as many fights as Broner does now, he’d already beaten Hearns, Duran, Wilfred Benitez and Marvin Hagler, all of whom would go on to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

It’s obvious that Broner is the least accomplished of the 16 to have won titles at four weights, and a win over Garcia would do much to turn his career around.

He’s physically gifted enough to be unbeaten at this point – and to have faced a far more significant level of opposition than he has – but he’s been content to cruise.

He won’t have a prayer of getting into the Hall of Fame unless he wins several significant fights between now and the time of his retirement. A loss to Garcia would make him 0-for-3 against his best opposition and would essentially tag him more as a creation of social media than as a true star in the sport.

He’s good enough to become a star on his own; he just has to make up his mind if he wants it badly enough, though.

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