By Oscar Pick

THE wasted potential of Adrien Broner, a fighter once destined for greatness, will dominate discussions within boxing circles when he faces Blair Cobbs this Friday.

This will be Broner’s first outing in nearly a year, headlining a Don King-promoted pay-per-view show at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, Florida.

While it seems harsh to critique the three-weight world champion’s career, ‘The Problem’ – a name that more accurately reflects his antics outside of the ring – has, in many ways, brought it upon himself.

This last-ditch effort to regain the attention of fans, to prolong the dwindling years he has left in the sport and, more importantly, to maximise his earning potential is, from a certain perspective, admirable.

However, with the talented slickster now entering his mid-30s, one can’t help but suspect that this resurgence has come far too late.

Jimmy Cannon once labelled boxing the red light district of professional sports and, in this context, it only seems right to quote the legendary writer.

Broner’s situation – largely self-inflicted by a tendency to balloon up in weight between fights – is specific to him.

But the story of a fighter failing to reach their full potential is one that has been told a thousand times over.

To piggyback on Cannon’s words, it is the job of a fighter to navigate the wild west that is boxing, a world where many will survive but only few will conquer.

In other words, there are varying reasons why these next four fighters were unable to achieve what was expected of them and, like with Broner, it seems harsh to undermine their careers which were, nonetheless, highly decorated.

Dmitry Pirog – retired in 2012, 20-0 (15 KOs)

Nicknamed ‘The Grandmaster’, Dmitry Pirog was a feared WBO middleweight champion for as long as his near two-year reign lasted.

He secured the title in 2010 following a masterful performance against Daniel Jacobs, displaying an array of elusive defensive manoeuvres before executing a spiteful fifth-round finish. 

As a boxer, Pirog was beautiful to watch. His fluid upper body movement and educated footwork made it seem that everything – from the rotation in his hips to the swerve of his shoulders – was all perfectly connected.

After defending his belt three times, Pirog was stripped of the title when he refused to face mandatory challenger Hassan N’Dam.

Instead, the Russian was set to challenge another boogeyman at 160 lbs, Gennady Golovkin, for the WBA strap until he suffered a debilitating back injury that forced him out of the contest.

Retiring undefeated, Pirog has since become a member of the State Duma. Yet, after discussing his scintillating fighter skills, it is fair to say that, regarding his political career in Russia, there is a vastly different conversation to be had.

Zou Shiming – retired in 2017, 9-2 (2 KOs)

After winning gold medals at both the Beijing and London Olympic Games, Zou Shiming turned professional in 2013 with the weight of a nation on his shoulders.

During this time, many predicted that China would become what Saudi Arabia is for boxing now, with event organisers investing astronomical sums of money into the sport.

Zou, whose star power made him a valuable commodity within this region, forged a stage for himself in Macau, where he appeared on the undercard of Manny Pacquiao’s showdowns against Chris Algieri and Brandon Rios at the Venetian Casino.

He was on his way to becoming the poster boy for professional boxing in China until a points loss in 2015, followed by an 11th-round stoppage defeat in 2017, saw him exit the sport after just 11 bouts.

In that final outing, the WBO world flyweight champion – making the first defence of his title – sustained a nasty eye injury that not only derailed his own career but also scuppered some big plans for boxing in China.

Luke Campbell – retired in 2021, 20-4 (16 KOs)

Again, it is difficult to brand these fighters as “underachievers,” but in a way, this demonstrates just how good they were.

Coming off winning a gold medal at London 2012, Luke Campbell was catapulted into the limelight when, before making his professional debut, he came away with a slightly less impressive third-place finish after reaching the final of Dancing on Ice.

Replacing his skates with a more familiar pair of boots was not the hard part, though. Campbell found himself competing in a shark-infested lightweight division, narrowly losing his first world title fight against pound-for-pound Venezuelan star Jorge Linares.

Things never got any easier for the Yorkshireman, who was outpointed by three-weight world champion Vasyl Lomachenko just under two years later before retiring after a seventh-round stoppage defeat to Ryan Garcia.

Unfortunately for Campbell, this elite era of champions at 135 lbs kept the belts just beyond his reach.

Luke Campbell

Mike Perez – currently active, 29-3-1 (20 KOs)

The only active fighter on this list is Mike Perez, who defected from Cuba and made his professional debut in 2008.

It is no secret that Cubans are among the most skilful fighters on the planet, yet Fidel Castro’s 60-year ban on professional boxing was not lifted until 2022.  

Regardless, Perez was on an upward trajectory towards becoming the next South American star before his career took a turn for the worse.

When his former opponent, Magomed Abdusalamov, suffered a brain injury following their fight, Perez was overwhelmed by the tragic news and developed a drinking habit, which, in turn, halted his rise.

In an attempt to rebuild, Perez dropped down to cruiserweight, but now, at the age of 38, it is difficult to see a path that will lead him to another world title shot. 

Mike Perez boxing