Adrien Broner considers himself ‘The Problem’ that Shawn Porter can’t solve

Adrien Broner’s talking about what Adrien Broner’s going to do to anyone who gets in the ring with Adrien Broner.

Adrien Broner and Floyd Mayweather Jr.

Adrien Broner trains earlier this week in Las Vegas under the watchful eye of ‘big bro’ Floyd Mayweather Jr.

We say “anyone,” because getting Adrien Broner (30-1, 22 KOs) to speak specifically in strategic terms about an upcoming opponent is almost besides the point—right up there with non-alcoholic beer or a stripper’s fluency in macroeconomics.

It’s not that Broner won’t go there—he’ll answer any questions he’s asked, frequently in the third person, his words like the money in his pocket: there to be spent immodestly.

It’s just that in Broner’s mind, when a fighter gets in the ring with him, they cease to be themselves and their game plan goes right out the window, Birdman-style.

From this perspective, breaking down the scouting report on a given opponent is like attempting to pay your bar tab with Monopoly money: There’s just not a whole lot of practical value involved.

Broner applies this same line of reasoning to his next challenger, fellow Ohioan Shawn Porter (25-1-1, 16 KOs), speaking in terms as unsparing as his demeanor is in the ring.

“Listen, whatever this (word that rhymes with ‘witch’) brings to the table, we’re going to be ready for,” Broner says, shirt off, bravado on, as he holds court in the locker room at the Mayweather Boxing Club in Las Vegas after a recent training session.

“When fighters get in the presence of Adrien Broner, they don’t do what they usually do— just like they thought (John) Molina was going to come forward and do what he usually does to fighters,” he continues, referencing his previous fight, a lopsided decision win over a flummoxed Molina, whose offense was a like a wet match that he could never ignite. “I believe [Porter] is going to be the same way.”

Broner’s trainer, Mike Stafford, a sharp-eyed, genial man who speaks with offhanded gravitas, echoes this sentiment.

“My motto is ‘Let Adrien be Adrien,’” he says. “It’s what we do that’s going to count. It’s not what Shawn’s going to do. They have to adjust to us.”

Still, there is at least one significant adjustment for Broner, as he’ll be moving up in weight to fight the larger Porter at 144 pounds.

Broner’s fought at 147 pounds before, winning a title against Paulie Malignaggi in June 2013 before losing it six months later against Marcos Maidana.

But since then, he’s fought at 140 pounds, winning three fights in a row.

Porter, who campaigned at 154 pounds early in his career and turned pro at 160, has a natural size advantage over Broner, which Stafford says they’re accounting for.

“Obviously we want a stronger Adrien because he’s going up in weight,” Stafford explains. “We’re going to bring more power because we’re fighting the bigger man.”

If Porter is bigger in stature, Broner compensates with outsize personality.

In the Mayweather Boxing Club locker room, he’s a pendulum of emotion, speaking softly and thoughtfully one moment, and then commanding the attention of the room the next, orating with the zeal of a preacher on the pulpit.

He’s surrounded by younger fighters from his camp, who he tends to address in an almost fatherly tone, offering jokes, stories and advice, depending on the moment.

Broner plays up his outspokenness when the cameras are rolling—and it’s no act, the man speaks his mind regardless of any blowback and is nicknamed “The Problem” for reasons not entirely confined to the ring—but behind the scenes, he carries himself as more of a mentor than a megalomaniac.

In this way, he’s like one of his mentors, Floyd Mayweather Jr., who he refers to as “big brother.”

Broner has long considered himself the heir to Mayweather’s perch atop the sport, and the feeling seems to be at least partially mutual: Mayweather drops by Broner’s training sessions the following night, urging him on, pushing him to push himself.

The two are plenty alike: supremely talented athletes who are also supremely polarizing, largely because of their flamboyance and how they seem to revel in all manner of peacockery, whether they’re flaunting their wealth or their preternatural boxing skills.

Their relationship extends further than that, with Mayweather serving as Broner’s confidant, and vice versa.

“He tells me things that he doesn’t talk to a lot of people about,” Broner says. “I respect him for that. I love him for that. And I know he loves me. I know that he’s not going to tell me anything wrong.”

Mayweather’s impending retirement, which may or may not take place after his next fight in September, is figuring into how Broner views his clash with Porter, which airs live Saturday on NBC (8:30 p.m. ET/5:30 p.m. PT).

“It’s the biggest fight of my career because now that my big brother has only 36 minutes left in the game—so he says—every fight from here on out is going to be the biggest fight of my career,” Broner states, turning his attention to Porter. “I can’t take this guy as a joke. I just want him to bring it. I don’t want any excuses. Like big bro says, ‘We’re gonna to see what he bring to the table.’”

And though Broner is generally tight-lipped about his conversations with Mayweather, he does share one piece of advice that Floyd has impressed upon on him.

“He’s always told me, ‘Just be yourself,’” Broner says. “I’d rather have somebody hate me for being me than love me for being somebody that I’m not.”

There. “Problem” solved.

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