Saturday night, Adrien "The Problem" Broner knocked out Antonio DeMarco in the eighth round, on HBO, after thoroughly beating his ass. If you don't watch much boxing, you may be unaware that Adrien Broner, at 23 years old, is boxing's Next Big Thing, not in the sense of The Next Big Overhyped Flavor of the Moment, but in the sense of The Most Talented Young Boxer in the World. Adrien Broner is a problem than cannot be solved, by anyone who will fight him, maybe ever.
Every boxing match is a story of why one man beat another man in an even fight. If you can answer that question (accurately—accurately), in any given fight, you can understand boxing. Usually it comes down to certain attributes that one fighter has that happen to correspond neatly with the other fighter's weaknesses. Great fighters, the best fighters, are different, because their skills are such that they beat everyone, no matter their opponent's abilities. They can create the weaknesses that they then exploit. Adrien Broner, though young, is one of these types of superlative fighters. He is, for all intents and purposes, unbeatable.
Why? In a fight between two strong, tough, powerful professionals, with punches flying everywhere, couldn't anyone lose, theoretically, on any given night? Well, yes. Theoretically. Realistically, no. Adrien Broner will not lose. There are three basic reasons why. First is his defense. Adrien Broner is virtually unhittable. By that I don't mean that it is impossible to land a glove on him, but that it is nearly impossible to land a clean, hard, knockout-quality shot on him. He uses the shoulder-roll style of defense, perfected by Floyd Mayweather. (Broner does bear a certain stylistic resemblance to Mayweather, the best boxer in the world, the key difference being that Broner hits harder and is therefore more dangerous.)
Let's say you want to hit Adrien Broner. When you approach him, what do you see? You see that he is turned sideways towards you, his left shoulder raised up in the air, covering your approach to his chin. Furthermore, his torso is tilted backwards, away from you, exaggerating the shoulder's cover. Trying to hit his head is like trying to hit something inside of a volcano by shooting uphill. His lead left arm is down, his forearm covering his belly. His right hand is held steadily up near his chin. If you throw a straight punch to his head, he will block it with his front shoulder, or just bend at the waist and slip it. If you throw a straight right or a left hook to his body, he will block it with his left arm. If you throw a hook to his head, he will block it with his right hand. If you throw a right hook to his body, it will land harmlessly on his back. You now find that there is no punch you can throw that will land.
So you try to throw a bunch of punches. The shoulder-roll style, which requires a fighter to constantly readjust his positioning in response to incoming punches, can be broken down, in theory, by combination punching. In other words, your first punch might be blocked, and your second punch might be blocked, but those blocks have pulled the man out of position, and he will not be quick enough to readjust in time to block the third punch. Which brings us to the second problem: Adrien Broner is faster than you. I feel confident saying this without even knowing you, because, unless you are one of maybe a half-dozen of the world's top professional boxers, Adrien Broner is faster than you. The shoulder-roll style of defense is incredibly effective for Floyd Mayweather, but it is not widely used. Why? Because it requires exceptional speed. (If you ever want to see a guaranteed beating, watch any slow or unskilled fighter who has decided to "try out" the Mayweather style in sparring. A fighter of normal speed or middling talent using the shoulder roll can be beaten with speed, because his default defensive position leaves his entire face open, and if he is not quick enough to adjust to punches as they come in, he is nothing more than a man with huge defensive hole through which punches will rain onto his jaw.) Very few men have the speed to use that particular style at the highest levels. Adrien Broner is one of them. That means he can see your punches drifting in from a mile away, and he can react to them before they reach him. Not just his body, but his hands, are much, much faster than yours.
Which brings me to the third problem: Adrien Broner is a devastating puncher. There are quite a few boxers with great speed, but middling power. Adrien Broner is not one of them. Adrien Broner will knock you the fuck out. Let us come back to the theoretical combination that you have decided to throw in order to penetrate his impenetrable defense. Let's say you decide to throw the old 1-2-3, the jab-right-left hook. Here is how you imagine that combination will play out: He may slip the jab, and block the right, but the hook will land. Here is how that combination will play out in reality, in all likelihood: You jab, then as you turn to throw your right, you eat Adrien Broner's own jab, which is much faster and harder than your own. Stopped in your tracks, you then eat Adrien Broner's straight right hand, which is much faster and harder than your own. Let us hope that he does not then hit with his own left hook, thereby turning your precious combination punching aspirations back on you in ignominious fashion.
And so, as an opponent of Adrien Broner—and, unless you are one of the five or so best fighters in the world, it does not really matter who you are or what your style is or what your "game plan" is for the fight—you will find that A) no matter what you throw, you cannot land a clean punch on him; B) every time you try to attack him, you yourself are counterpunched by his much faster hands; and C) those counterpunches have a ruinous effect on your ability to walk and talk and generally function as a human being. And because Adrien Broner is a very polished and patient fighter, you will find that your body starts to break down as a result of his body shots. Maybe, as Antonio DeMarco did, you try to rush in close to Broner and try to fight him on the inside; this will only lead to your eating his patented short right uppercut, and you will not find him any easier to hit, in the meantime. And as you start to slow, and break down, and feel nauseated and hazy-headed, Adrien Broner will stop counterpunching you and start walking you down, methodically, getting ever closer, cutting off your avenues of escape, backing you into a corner (not in any sort of metaphorical sense, sadly for you), and then, when you have nowhere to move and no way to stop him, he will unleash a barrage of punches that are too fast for you to block and too hard for you to withstand, bringing you to your knees. If you get up, he will do it again, until you quit. If you were lucky, maybe you got knocked out early.
And that is why the problem of Adrien Broner will not be solved by mortal man.
Hamilton Nolan writes for Gawker and writes about boxing for places besides Gawker.