Few have doubted Adrien Broner's talent, but the former four-division world titleholder has too often not put himself in the best position to win his biggest fights.
He has had countless issues outside of the ring -- personal and legal, including a misdemeanor sexual battery charge and accompanying civil suit he currently faces -- that have taken his focus and their toll.
He has spent way too much time partying, and he has not always taken training as seriously as he should. That fact is starkly illustrated by the fact that missing weight cost him world titles at junior lightweight and junior welterweight.
Broner has claimed to have turned over a new leaf time and again, but the words have always been hollow. But maybe, just maybe, this time it's true, because he made a radical change. He hired a new trainer, the respected and vastly experienced Kevin Cunningham, to replace longtime head trainer Mike Stafford, and he moved his training camp to Cunningham's gym in West Palm Beach, Florida.
Broner is coming off a rather one-sided decision loss last July to Mikey Garcia, a lightweight world titleholder who moved up in weight for the nontitle bout, and he can hardly afford a second straight defeat. So, in preparation for a 12-round welterweight fight (at a contract weight of 144 pounds) against fellow former titleholder Jessie Vargas on Saturday (Showtime, 9 p.m. ET) at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, Broner sought out Cunningham, whom Broner has known since he was an amateur.
"I felt like it was time to change," Broner said. "I hear people say, 'You are expected to change, but you don't, that's why you end up in the same spots over and over.' So I have to change something to get a different result. That's why I had to step outside of the box and go for it.
"I had to change things. I had to add to my repertoire because I'm getting all that I can do out of what I'm doing, but I keep coming up short for these fights that I'm supposed to be winning. So, it was time for a change."
Broner (33-3, 24 KOs), 28, of Cincinnati, also lost decisions when he faced other quality opponents such as Shawn Porter in 2015 and Marcos Maidana in 2013. He does not want the same thing to happen against Vargas (28-2, 10 KOs), 28, of Las Vegas, another quality opponent, but one who will be fighting for only the second time since losing a one-sided decision and his welterweight title to Manny Pacquiao in November 2016.
"I hope I get credit when I beat Jessie Vargas. I hope I get the credit I deserve. People want me to lose and go away, but guess what? I worked harder than ever for this fight. I'm not losing to Jessie Vargas. I'm a four-time world champion and soon to be five-time world champion this year." Adrien Broner
Vargas, who is on his seventh trainer in a 10-year career -- Roger Mayweather, Robert Alcazar, Ismael Salas, Roy Jones Jr., Erik Morales, Dewey Cooper and now Hall of Famer Mike McCallum -- is the slight favorite.
"I'm not worried about Jessie. This is a very important fight for my career. I know that Jessie trained hard to beat me," Broner said. "This is a win that could take either of us to the next level. When he stepped up and fought Tim Bradley and Manny Pacquiao, he lost. I'm a four-time world champion, so I don't want to hear anything about my losses. Jessie Vargas is not as good as those guys I lost to.
"I hope I get credit when I beat Jessie Vargas. I hope I get the credit I deserve. People want me to lose and go away, but guess what? I worked harder than ever for this fight. I'm not losing to Jessie Vargas. I'm a four-time world champion and soon to be five-time world champion this year."
Broner said Cunningham will be the difference.
"Looking back at all of my defeats, the only real punishment that I've taken in this sport was against Maidana. I got a fractured jaw," Broner said of the fight in which Maidana dropped him twice. "In the Shawn Porter fight, he outwrestled me and in the Mikey fight, he just outworked me. So it's time to add to my team, and that's why I got coach Kevin Cunningham. He's going to bring out the best of Adrien Broner."
Said Vargas: "If Broner feels that he's going to perform better with coach Kevin Cunningham, then good for him. I want to face the best Adrien Broner. I don't want any excuses after this. I'm looking forward to beating the best Broner possible.
"I feel very fortunate that Coach McCallum was able to take on the task of training me, and I'm happy to be in my second fight with him. We feel like we've already accomplished so much in this relatively short amount of time we've been working together."
"If Broner feels that he's going to perform better with coach Kevin Cunningham, then good for him. I want to face the best Adrien Broner. I don't want any excuses after this. I'm looking forward to beating the best Broner possible." Jessie Vargas
Broner said he asked Cunningham to train him because of the respect he has had for him going back to when he was a young amateur and first met him at a tournament in St. Louis.
"I've known coach Cunningham for a long time. He is the real deal He is not going to B.S. me," Broner said. "He's going to keep me on my toes. I need that. There are coaches that change when their fighters get to certain levels. They still coach, but they don't provide the structure the fighter needs. When I was fighting at 130, 135, Coach Mike will be at my door yelling, 'Get your butt up. We have to run. We have to train. Get up! Get up!' But time went by and things changed.
"Coach Mike stopped being a coach and started being more of a friend. I needed him to keep being my coach. I need someone to keep me in line. Don't get me wrong, he'll always be like a father figure, but when it comes to training and my career, I needed a change."
Enter Cunningham, a former St. Louis police officer, known for his no-nonsense attitude, motivational ability and for leading Cory Spinks to the undisputed welterweight world title and Devon Alexander from amateur to two-division world titleholder.
"I've known Adrian Broner for a very long time. I think I've known him since he was like 8 years old and 60 pounds," Cunningham said. "He's always been an extremely talented fighter. When he was a kid, he was one of the most talented kids. He has always had boatloads of talent.
"I think coming over here with me, he's finding a lot more structure in the training aspect. It's a totally different training program that I have him doing. I think that he's ready for some new leadership. He's ready to be a little more disciplined in his profession, and I think it's going to show on (Saturday)."
Broner turned to Cunningham not long after he lost to Garcia. A few weeks after the fight, Broner called him and told him he was thinking about making a trainer change and asked him if he would consider the job.
"He asked me what I thought about that and I said, 'You know what you're getting when you come to me, and if you're going to be serious and focused about this, I'll give you all I've got.' And he said, 'I'm serious,'" Cunningham said. "We started training together before camp started and I just saw a different look in his eyes. Ever since camp started, he's been nothing but hard work, dedication, and focus."
Cunningham never doubted Broner's talent, but he did doubt his focus and discipline, which is what they have worked on.
"This time Broner really has done everything possible to rectify the situations that needed to be straightened out to help him propel his career and get back moving in the right direction, and it's not just his boxing career," Cunningham said. "It's also as a person -- his personal life -- and I'm here to help him out with that. He's really working hard to get it right this time.
"I'm known to be a stern and disciplined trainer, coach, and teacher. I've got a military and police background, so I don't play a lot of games. We're serious and we're about business."
In the co-feature, former junior middleweight titlist Jermall Charlo (26-0, 20 KOs) and Hugo Centeno Jr. (26-1, 14 KOs) will meet for a vacant interim middleweight world title and the right to become one of unified world champion Gennady Golovkin's mandatory challengers. The opener will feature former junior lightweight world titleholder Gervonta "Tank" Davis (19-0, 18 KOs) facing former secondary featherweight titlist Jesus Cuellar (28-2, 21 KOs) for a vacant secondary junior lightweight belt.