This wasn't really happening, was it? Everyone was supposed to be in the club, surrounded by a boatload of babes, gin, and juice, big-chain millionaires paying tribute to the champ on yet another major display of his mad skillz. Instead, the Cincy Band Camp was huddled on a forlorn loading dock behind a crummy Texas stadium where the Spurs don't even play anymore, a thousand miles from home. Their leader, the 24-year-old welterweight champion, Adrien "the Problem" Broner, a.k.a. AB, as in "Always Ballin'," "About Big Shit," and "All Benjamins," wasn't basking in the glow of victory but rather lying in an ambulance waiting to go to the hospital, beer splashed onto his shiny robe by jeering fans, the internet already gloating over his defeat, family and friends in shock.
Only hours before, the Band Camp – B. Luck, G2x, 6-4, Dre-Day, E-bunny, Nuke, and the rest – were biding their time in the lobby of the San Antonio Rivercenter hotel. The harsh, monkish months of training were over. All that stood in the way of the expected post-bout blowout was "Madonna," i.e., Marcos René Maidana, the challenger from Argentina's Sante Fe Province, which is a long way from the Band Camp's English Woods and Mount Auburn stomping grounds in the Cincinnati hood.
It wasn't as if the grizzled, jailhouse-tattoo-festooned Maidana was a pushover. He had a well-earned reputation as a dangerous puncher with either hand, scoring 31 knockouts in his 37 fights, with wins over top guys; there was little doubt the Argentinian would be the hardest hitter Broner had ever faced, not that anyone in the Band Camp, least of all AB himself, seemed worried.
"I'm undefeated. Twenty-seven wins. Twenty-two knockouts. Young. Fast. Top five, pound for pound. Three-time champion," Broner declared, mantra-like, the night before the bout as he sat in the hotel restaurant wolfing down a burger and fries. "I'm the one everyone wants to see, the draw," he boasted, referring to the fact that his previous 2013 cable TV outings had attracted more aggregate "eyeballs" than any other fighter. He was already a millionaire, with a future prospectus that was sky's-the-limit.
"I'm the guy who be taking over boxing once Floyd Mayweather retires . . . heir apparent to the best in the world," Broner proclaimed at the fight weigh-in. Maidana was nothing but "a speed bump," "easy work," "a short day at the office." True, Maidana had beat some good fighters, but now he was facing "an elite" fighter. He was in with AB, "one hellacious Athletic Bastard," the Problem that could not be solved.
Asked if he'd watched tapes of Maidana to acquaint himself with the challenger's awkward rhythm and unorthodox chopping right hand, AB seemed insulted. "I'll think about the fight when I get in the ring," he sniffed. "See what he's got, make my adjustments, and then flatline him like I always do." It wasn't that Broner was taking his training lightly. A legendary gym rat, he worked out constantly, sparring as much as 18 straight rounds without a break. Tape-watching, however, was very time-consuming, and the champ was a busy man.
His ring nom de guerre, the Problem, easily the best nickname in the sport, describes only the boxing function of the Broner brand. Along with his homies in the Band Camp, the fighter is the centerpiece of an ever-expanding, rapidly diversifying entertainment complex, his white-leather-wearing, grille-popping AB persona churning out rap videos extolling the virtues of ghetto creature comforts such as Louis Vuitton, Versace, and overpriced booze, replete with requisite bouncing behinds and Masonic symbols. He'd toured with T.I., free-styled with Murda Mook and Meek Mill. In addition, there was the ongoing Web TV presentation About Billions, a bling-a-ding-ding "reality show" documenting the life and times of AB and the Band Camp – stuff like throwing up in the back of a limousine in the middle of a bad MDMA trip.
That was how it was for Adrien Broner before the San Antonio fight: a young man in a hurry, a rising star, living the dream.