By Alex Beard (@alex_beard17)
Betting odds are often misleading, particularly in boxing. In a world where Buster Douglas can derail the ferocious Mike Tyson, placing money on one man’s chances of beating another in a fist fight is a fool’s errand.
Logic can sometimes appear to be entirely absent from the betmaker’s predictions, evidenced most glaringly by the fact that 0-0 Conor McGregor apparently has a better chance of beating 49-0 Floyd Mayweather than most elite-level prizefighters.
Therefore it’s hard to be too surprised by Adrien Broner’s position as a heavy underdog going into his clash with Mikey Garcia next weekend. But his pre-fight odds of 5/2, opposite Garcia’s 3/10, are somewhat extraordinary considering Garcia is just two fights and eight rounds into a comeback from an 18-month layoff.
What those odds do, however, is demonstrate just how frustrating a fighter Broner has been for the entirety of his career. ‘The Problem’ has been exactly that to himself for a long time now, somehow managing to be an underachiever despite boasting world titles in four different weightclasses.
He has beaten the likes of Gavin Rees, Paulie Malignaggi and Adrian Granados, but has yet to post a career-defining win despite all his success. The two most accomplished boxers on his résumé are the two men who have defeated him: Marcos Maidana and Shawn Porter.
Can Garcia be the big win on Broner’s ledger, then? The 29-year-old will feel pretty confident about his chances of avoiding such a fate. Garcia is a supremely talented technician, a master boxer-puncher who posted a leading candidate for knockout of the year when he decimated Dejan Zlaticanin in January.
With a record of (36-0-KO30), Garcia is undoubtedly one of the pound-for-pound best boxers on the planet. The ease of his win over then world champion Zlaticanin was phenomenal, while his exploits pre-layoff were equally scintillating – including wins over Orlando Salido and Roman Martinez. He has stated that he wants a clash with Jorge Linares once Broner has been disposed of, and there is not one boxing fan who wouldn’t want to see that.
Broner (33-2-KO24) can take confidence from this fight’s stylistic match-up, however. We hear it constantly, but styles truly do make fights. Broner has only been beaten by suffocating pressure fighters, Maidana and Porter being two of the best at not allowing their opponent’s any time to set their feet and time their punches.
Garcia’s not quite in that mould. He can come forward, certainly, particularly if he doesn’t respect your punching power, but he’s no Shawn Porter in that respect. Generally he prefers to box on the back foot, which could give Broner the chance to steal rounds based on ring generalship and forward pressure. Obviously he would need to try and avoid Garcia’s stinging counters if he follows that strategy, but he can take comfort in the fact he’ll have more time to mount his offense than in his two losses.
While Broner’s sojourn to welterweight has shown that there are limits to his punching power’s translation over the weightclasses, he still hits fairly hard and showed as much in the final round of his clash with Porter. The fact that he had done next to nothing in the previous 11 stanzas’ is Broner 101. Both men have the potential to knock each other out, despite the fact that neither have been stopped in their careers thus far.
The key thing for Broner, as ever, will be his mind-set. A fully-on, 100% motivated Broner is a handful for any fighter, but he has too often looked lackadaisical and reluctant to engage. He remains someone that people like to watch, possibly because they want to see him lose, and at 27 he still has time to put the pieces together and become the star that many observers thought he could be. It all comes down to his psyche.
Broner is certainly capable of shocking Garcia on July 29, but he needs to overcome the mental obstacles he has placed in front of himself. There is an elite boxer inside ‘The Problem’, but he needs to find the key to unlocking him. A showdown with a truly world-class Garcia may prove to be too much for him – but a win would finally crown Broner as the talent we all thought he could be.by