Preview: Manny Pacquiao vs. Adrien Broner, A Freak Show worthy of the Las Vegas Strip

Preview: Manny Pacquiao vs. Adrien Broner, A Freak Show worthy of the Las Vegas Strip
Photograph of Manny Pacquiao (left) and Adrien Broner (right) posing for the weigh ins.
Source: Scott Hirano/SHOWTIME

It is somewhat fitting that the long-awaited matchup between Senator Manny Pacquiao and frequent arrestee Adrien Broner is taking place at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. The same venue that has housed Circus Du Soleil, David Copperfield, and, Floyd Mayweather vs. Manny Pacquiao. The connection all the previous mentioned shows have is they have the Las Vegas taste to them. They captivate, they bring something that you could only expect from Sin City. Manny Pacquiao vs. Adrien Broner fits in with all in the genre perfectly. This fight between the “Pac-Man” and the “Can-Man” certainly couldn’t be confused with the plight of other high-level matchups that Showtime has on the first half of their schedule in 2019. It doesn’t fit alongside matchups such as Errol Spence Jr. vs. Mikey Garcia, or, Gervonta Davis vs. Abner Mares, or the rematch between heavyweight kings Deontay Wilder vs. Tyson Fury. It fits into its own category, and that isn’t a bad thing. This matchup is fascinatingly odd, there are levels to the oddity of this matchup and the storylines going in and out of the blockbuster fight on January 19th. And it is in the oddity, and the storylines, that you have a massive Pay-Per-View worthy showdown that features two of the biggest draws in the sport, past their prime. Sounds familiar? doesn’t it? 

The Redemption Story:

Adrien “The Problem” Broner, 29, has been no more a “problem” for his opponents inside the squared circle as he has for himself outside of it. Broner, at one point was one of the most heralded fighters in the world. Considered by some to be a future Pound-For-Pound best in the sport. Veteran ringside commentator Jim Lampley once said after Broner TKO’d Gavin Rees on an HBO telecast in 2013 “How long is it before we put Broner somewhere near their league [Andre Ward & Floyd Mayweather]. It’s too early for that yet, but clearly that will be the target…” Lampley continues his sentiments, “By all lights, what we see here, appears that somewhere down the road, that discussion will take place.” We never got to that point down the road. Hindsight is 20/20. Anyone who had an opinion on boxing saw a bright future from the then budding protégé to one Floyd “money” Mayweather. At the time, Broner was only 23 years old, and he had already traversed two weight categories winning and defending championships at both super featherweight and lightweight. He achieved a record of 25-0 with no fights remotely close. He had also achieved massive economic successes at by his clear talent, and relationship with Mayweather. Broner had over one-million dollars in the bank at the time of the Gavin Rees fight. He was on top of the world. And, for a man who grew up with nothing, Broner himself will tell you he didn’t- and many would argue he still doesn’t know how to act with all the success that came at an early age. “I come from water and cornflakes” is a quote that Adrien “About Billions” Broner often barks out to point out his struggle of an upbringing. He often says boxing saved his life, in fact it’s a phrase Broner has used since he was 12 it certainly doesn’t show. Broner now has the ego of a glutton, rather someone who came up from nothing. Broner’s egotistical nature is at the root of his unfocused approach to boxing which has been quite visible over the last five years. It is in that eleven fights-five-year period, from the Rees fight to his most recent draw against Jessie Vargas, that the narrative would eventually formulate that Adrien Broner has become a “letdown” and that his career is a far-cry from what could have been. It is evident the skills that Adrien Broner still has, he is a top-flight pugilist when he’s at his best. The twelfth round against Shawn Porter, the second half of the Jessie Vargas fight, the fact that he is the youngest ever four division world champions, and his initial 27 fight unbeaten streak could all be used as circumstantial evidence to prove that a hungry, focused Adrien Broner is a dangerous one and the reason you cannot quite rule him out against an aging Manny Pacquiao. Unfortunately, a focused Broner is something seldom seen as of recent years. It seems like a “do-or-die” angle is created by the Showtime producers, and a promise of a “re-focused” Broner. We all know, truth be told, he hasn’t been focused in recent years. He simply cannot avoid run-ins with the law, attempted robbery charges, sexual battery charges, and most recently, two separate sexual misconduct charges in two diffrent states. He was supposed to be in court in the states of Florida and Ohio on the same day just two weeks before the biggest and most important fight of his career against Manny Pacquiao on the 19th. Also, frequent videos of drug and alcohol abuse, embarrassing public behavior, and an affection for clubs and the party lifestyle have left Broner at rock bottom more than once. To say Adrien Broner is 100% focused seems illogical from an outsiders perspective, but, the rhetoric from Team Broner headed by coaches Kevin Cunningham, an ex-police officer, well known for his strict style of fight preparation, and, Mike Stafford who has been with Broner since he was seven years old, is that this is the most focus and the most well prepared Broner has been for a fight in years. Also, according to Steve Farhood (Showtime’s Hall-of-Fame commentator), The Showtime Sports All-Access crew who documented the entire training camp of Adrien Broner said Broner has worked tremendously hard in this training camp and he seems to be truly focused on the task of beating one of the greatest of his era, Manny Pacquiao. For all wrong Broner has done in his career, a dominate, statement making win could rectify what would otherwise be considered an overall disappointment, and Adrien Broner and his close-knit team are fully aware of that rare opportunity.

The Economics:

Manny Pacquiao, a Senator, a philanthropist, the most humble millionaire you will ever meet, endearing to everyone he meets,  if there was ever a better representative for the sport of boxing, I do not know who that person is. Manny Pacquiao is the ultimate protagonist. He, like his counterpart, Broner also comes from nothing. A wooden and metal shack on an impoverished island country with little to eat. Pacquiao has the outcome of someone you would expect came from nothing, and his countryfolk as well as boxing fans and media universally adore him for it. Adrien Broner is the clear perfect candidate to be Manny Pacquiao’s antagonist. He’s brash, arrogant, flashy, selfish, and a headline grabbing trash talker. These two men come from very similar backgrounds, but they have become polar opposites with time. Sometimes a fight just makes sense, this is one of those times. You have a clear good guy vs. a clear bad guy. This is a fight that could sell itself  just based on the personalities involved. 

When the announcement came from left field that Manny Pacquiao would be signing with Al Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions stable after spending an entire career with direct rival Bob Arum’s Top Rank Promotions, it was clear what he was after. He wants the big names, and most importantly he wants the biggest name of them all, a rematch with Floyd Mayweather. 

This fight in particular, Pacquiao vs. Broner has been spoken about for around two years now. This dates back to a post Mayweather Pacquiao looking for big name opponents to get him big money and allot of attention. This fight made economic sense for all involved, except Broner who was offered only one-million dollars at the time from Pacquiao’s former promoter Bob Arum. That, of course brought negotiations to a screeching halt, the fight was dead in the water for years despite obvious fan intrigue in the bout. A couple of years later, Manny Pacquiao and Adrien Broner were under the same roof and now the stars have aligned. You can’t help but to get somewhat of a feeling that Showtime is “using” Broner given his recent track record of losing high-profile fights against the upper echelon. After all, boxing is a money business first and foremost. Floyd Mayweather vs. Manny Pacquiao 2 makes MONEY. There’s a clear route set up, and it is brilliant planning by Showtime if it plays out in the most likely of scenarios. 

One thing that remains a constant, Broner is a ticket seller and he is must-see television. He’s only hit under the 500,000-viewership mark one time since he began headlining events with his 2013 main event attraction against well respected Brooklynite Paulie Malanaggi. Those are unheard-of numbers for a premium cable network in the 2010′s.  He is one of the few legitimate stars in boxing, when he is in the ring, people watch. Whether it is out of spite, or out of love, people tune in. Broner can move a needle despite never headlining a pay-per-view event himself. Allot of his star comes from his more than frequent visit to the headlines, he is what I would consider the most polarizing figure in prizefighting. From arrests, to relentless trash-talking, to truly funny one-liners. Adrien Broner is a salesmen, and more often than not, you get what you pay for. There isn’t a single fight out of his 37 that could be considered “boring”. Unlike his style predecessor, Floyd Mayweather, Adrien Broner is known to be comfortable in the pocket. He will not back down from a firefight, be it to his own demise and the fans approval, or vice versa. You can call Adrien Broner allot of things, but you certainly cannot call him boring.  Manny Pacquiao has been a PPV star for the bulk of his career making his PPV debut all the way back in 2005 with his first fight with Erik “El Terrible” Morales. Since then, Manny Pacquiao has broken one million PPV buys on seven separate occasions, and he’s brought home over $1 Billion dollars in PPV revenue alone. Like his opponent, Manny Pacquiao is one of the rare five in boxing that can draw massive numbers and transcend into the more casual sphere of sports. That is why this fight is the perfect appetizer for a Floyd “Money” Mayweather rematch. This is big business. 

Manny Pacquiao’s Late Career Revival:

Senator Manny Pacquiao, 40, boxing’s only eight division world champion, first ballot Hall of Famer, multiple time fighter of the year, the arguable best of an entire generation, everyone who has remotely hovered around the sport of boxing for some time over the past two decades knows the movie-like story of Manny Pacquiao. They are also aware of his pugilistic excellence that he has exuded over the past twenty years inside the boxing ring. Capturing world titles in eight separate weight divisions- from light flyweight all the way up to light middleweight. He has shared the ring with a who’s who of boxing royalty, four fights with Juan Manuel Marquez, three fights with Erik Morales, two fights with Marco Antonio Barrera, Oscar De La Hoya, Miguel Cotto, and most notably Floyd Mayweather. It is remarkable that someone of Pacquiao’s age and his prestige is fighting at the highest levels of the sport, especially considering the amount of wars he has been in throughout a what will be on Saturday night, seventy fight career. Manny Pacquiao doesn’t have a risk adverse style by any means. He’s one of the all time great offensive fighters in the long and rich history of boxing, he’s been in allot of tough fights, and to be preforming in such a way that he did against then WBA ‘Regular’ Welterweight Champion Lucas Matthysse this past July, it is almost like we’ve gone through a time warp back to 2009. And, the boxing public can’t get enough of it. Of course, this late career revival will come with consequences. There have been allegations in the past by more of the conspiratorial minded that Manny Pacquiao is a dirty fighter, that he uses steroids. This allegation steams from a contract dispute that Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao had when the original contest was supposed to take place after Manny Pacquiao beat Miguel Cotto in 2009. The fight was intally agreed on, after it was settled both men would split $50 million upfront, but there was a conflict between both Team Mayweather and Team Pacquiao on the drug testing. Mayweather was hard-set in favor of blood testing by The United States-Anti Doping Agency, Team Pacquiao was hard-set on not being blood tested within 30-days of the fight taking place as “it would weaken my fighter.” said Freddie Roach. Thus, the fight was called off, and the anti-Pacquiao propaganda from Mayweather and his backers began, likewise the claims of Manny being a drug cheat. These allegations have resurfaced from commenters both credible and not, after Pacquiao’s fantastical turning back of the proverbial clock against Lucas Matthysse. This was not the same Manny Pacquiao we have seen in fights from the Juan Manuel Marquez knockout loss on (2012-2018) we saw a much diffrent Manny Pacquiao in those fights, an older version of the man that once was over his next seven bouts. This was a physically faster, stronger, more spirited version of an old Manny Pacquiao. And there are plenty of reasons that could attribute to what seems like a late-career resurgence. One, he could be easing more into the groove of being both a senator and elite level prizefighter, you have to imagine he couldn’t have been completely focused on fighting when he was dealing with all of his political asperations outside of boxing. Now, he has a secured job as Senator, and more experience with balancing both boxing and politicking. There is no true incriminating evidence that Manny Pacquiao has ever used or is using steroids. He hasn’t ever tested positive on a drug test in all his time taking them. And for this fight with Adrein Broner, he looks to be in even better shape than he was last July, and they have been testing under the WBA’s mandatory VADA testing since training camp began. Both fighters are clean until otherwise proven dirty, Manny Pacquiao is an extreme outlier for someone his age to be as fast, as strong, as powerful and as athletic he is. That just shows you how special Manny Pacquiao is. 

A flattened, shocked, Lucas Matthysse coming to his senses after a vintage Manny Pacquiao knocks him down and eventually finishes him in the fifth.
A flattened, shocked, Lucas Matthysse coming to his senses after a vintage Manny Pacquiao knocks him down and eventually finishes him in the fifth. (Action Images/Reuters/Lai Seng Sin)

After Manny Pacquiao’s sixth round knockout loss (now dubbed “the shot heard ‘round the world”)  to Juan Manuel Marquez in their fourth fight together, many called for Pacquiao’s retirement then and there, it would have been unimaginable to think he would be fighting on six years after and in nine fights. He went on a three fight win streak looking decent, but no better against Brandon Rios, Timothy Bradley, and Chris Algieri thus setting the stage for “The Fight of The Century” even if it was six years past when it should have taken place. The fight, and the potential rematch, will both be covered in full in my book slated to come out at the end of the year, Pacquiao would of course lose that fight in less than spectacular fashion citing a shoulder injury that hindered his ability to use his lead right hand. He took one more fight before “retiring”, that was a little wanted trilogy bout with Timothy Bradley. Pacquiao would cruise to a decision. This was and seemed like it was going to be Pacquiao’s last fight, especially considering the issues Pacquiao was having with his then newly acquired career in Philippino politics. The fight was nearly cancelled due to some obligations that Pacquiao had to attend to on a governmental front. He would then unretire (as many boxers do) a remarkable seven months later and dominate a much larger Jessie Vargas in a near shutout decision in Las Vegas. Then, the entire Manny Pacquiao comeback contingency plan was exploded by a rough and rugged Jeff Horn and a controversial decision by three judges at ringside in Horn’s backyard. A Floyd Mayweather rematch was expected to be next, but after the loss, more rumors of retirement would come, and Pacquiao wouldn’t fight for the rest of the calendar year as he was attending to senatorial duties and recovering from the Jeff Horn fight. The aforementioned fight with Lucas Matthysse come one-year and one-week to Manny Pacquiao’s loss to Jeff Horn. He would go on to dispatch Matthysse in a familiar aggressive Pacquiao fashion, knocking down the Argentine slugger three times in five rounds. We saw a flash of a past Manny Pacquiao in the ring this past July, it didn’t look like a “prime” Manny Pacquiao, but it didn’t look much diffrent than the Manny Pacquiao that brutalized Miguel Cotto or Oscar De La Hoya if you squint hard enough. Granted, Lucas Matthysse picked up a reputation of being a “quitter” in his later years, but he had also picked up some decent wins before facing Manny Pacquiao last July. This fight with Adrien Broner is the toughest fight on paper that Manny Pacquiao has been in since his losing effort against Floyd Mayweather all those years ago at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. We are here again, we are at the crossroads, the astronomical economical rematch with Floyd Mayweather lies on the other side of the street, the only thing in Manny’s path to revenge is Adrein Broner. Likewise with Broner’s question of focus and dedication, we have a question of Manny Pacquiao, has he gotten old overnight? will we see the Pacquiao we saw lose to Jeff Horn in heartbreaking fashion? we can only speculate until we see the “legend face the letdown” as Steve Farhood astutely observed. One thing that is undeniable, this fight is going to be fireworks from the beginning to the conclusion, especially if both polarizing figures enter the ring at their respective peaks for being past their primes. 


Anyone who tells you they have a real read on this fight is lying. This is one of the more unpredictable fights I have witnessed in my years of being a boxing spectator. In one corner, you have Adrien Broner, the youngest ever four-division world champion. An underachiever with a chip the size of his ego on his shoulder. He has all the motivation in the world to actually SHOW up for this fight. This is his chance to write a new chapter for himself and his career. And, judging by the rhetoric from his corner and the ones in the know, this is the hungriest and most focused Adrien Broner has been in a long time. It is always a question if Adrein Broner will preform to occasion and to expectation, but I for one am buying into the notion that he is truly focused for this fight. He has had a much more monotoned fight week, usually there is no shortage of drama from the colorful Broner on fight week, all we got this week was Adrien calling out Showtime’s Al Bernstein for “setting him up”, “going against him”, and for being a “b*tch ass ni**a “ that’s mellow compared to what we have experienced in times past. Manny Pacquiao has had an important reverse of roles as well in Las Vegas during this fight week. The usually hyper focused but warm Pacquiao was all smiles, all week long. He has been laughing, joking, and opening up more so than he ever has in his high profile matchups. You can get the sense this is a more relaxed version of Manny Pacquiao, it feels as if he is at home. His camp headed by longtime cutman turned head coach Buboy Fernandez and seconded by longtime head coach turned cutman Freddie Roach has been the best he’s had in years. Roach has been on record saying this version of Manny Pacquiao hits just as hard, and is just as strong as the Pacquiao of past years. Whether that be true or not is to be foreseen, Pacquiao’s conditioning can not be called into question however as he looks to be in awe-inspiring shape for a man who just turned 40-years old. He looks to be finally fitting into the welterweight mold better than he has in fights prior. We may very well see the best versions of Manny Pacquiao and Adrien Broner relative to their post-prime positions in the ring on Saturday night, and that is all that we can hope for. 

From a historical based-technical viewpoint, I expect a high class firefight in the ring on Saturday night. Assuming Manny Pacquiao is the same Pacquiao we saw thrash Lucas Matthysse into submission, and Adrien Broner is the same Broner (if not better) that fought ferociously for a draw against Jessie Vargas in April, we could have a real treat on our hands. Adrien Broner, while coming from the Floyd Mayweather mold, has some major stylistic differences to Floyd. He mainly boxes out of a high guard, and while it does remain true that Broner is indeed a natural counterpuncher, he is a fine offensive fight as well. He has been criticized in fights previous, namely the Mikey Garcia fight for shelling up in his high guard when pressed with smart, fundamentally sound aggression, something Manny Pacquiao has in spades. Broner will need to shy away from his typical catch and counter style that he has applied in previous fights as that will most likely spell his doom against one of the finest offensive fighters of all time. For Adrien Broner to win this fight, I believe he needs to stay busy offensively, but not get complacent against Pacquiao, he needs to work with his jab at distance and he needs to work the body of Manny Pacquiao on the inside. And he absolutely can not get off to a slow start as he has in nearly every fight he has been in since the Marcos Maidana fight.  He will get stopped if he takes rounds 1-6 off. Personally, I do buy into the fact that Adrien Broner is the best version of himself that he could be, but I simply do not believe he’s good enough to beat someone of Manny Pacquiao’s caliber unless Pacquiao has gotten old overnight. In that case, Broner could potentially stop Pacquiao. But, in the most likely occasion, I see Manny Pacquiao winning a clear but competitive decision over Adrien Broner who’s chin is notoriously hard to crack. I think Broner probably give Manny some fits early and in the middle rounds, but I believe Manny Pacquiao’s excellence will shine through paving the way for a Floyd Mayweather rematch in late summer-early fall. Face it, we will all be watching that.


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