THE day started with a video of a man locked inside a suitcase as his girlfriend filmed him both struggling to breathe and pleading for help. From behind her phone this woman spoke of teaching the man a lesson. Meanwhile, those watching the video via phones of their own wondered how, without her assistance, the man could possibly set himself free.
Well, as it happened, he never did. Trapped in that case for 11 hours, he died of asphyxiation, which led to the girlfriend being tried for murder and, thanks to social media, millions of people all around the world were able to now watch the clip and pass judgement in the comment section beneath it.
Scrolling down that morning, just to escape, there was next a video featuring Adrien Broner I found no less disturbing. In this video he too appeared to be trapped, only, unlike the man who sadly never came out alive, Broner’s suitcase appeared to be open, meaning he was, in theory, able to either just stand up and get out or be pulled from it by one of the people around him. That Broner chose not to do this, however, and, worse, that nobody decided to do the decent thing on his behalf, made for a rather sad and regrettable spectacle. It also suggested Broner, slurring and clearly inebriated, had climbed into the case of his own volition and effectively asked people around him to sit on it rather than lift the lid and allow him to walk free when the fun was up. By the time that then happened and Broner cut the podcast short, the damage was done.
In truth, given what we know about the former world champion’s demons and recent struggle with sobriety, it should never have been his call to make. Nor, for that matter, should there have been a case, or pod, for him to climb inside in the first place. Instead, and in an ideal world, he wouldn’t have been anywhere near a podcast studio that day.
Yet one could just as easily ask: What is Adrien Broner if he isn’t living his life in public? He has done it since day one, after all, ever since calling himself “The Problem” and then later “About Billions”. He has done it when on top, during the period in which he looked like the next Floyd Mayweather, and he has done it also post-Marcos Maidana, who, on reflection, stole a chunk of Broner’s soul he has never been able to recover the night he humbled him in 2013. Back when he was riding high, we saw Broner flush cash down a toilet in an overt display of wealth and power and now, with both those things dwindling, we see the flushing process in reverse, bringing up with it not cash in 2023 but all the other stuff that is typically flushed down any traditional lavatory.
Which is good news for boxing’s media, of course; or, to be exact, the rubbernecking podcasters and YouTubers and click-baiting news bloggers. These, in particular, are all children of the social media age and therefore follow the same rules of the playground. Which is to say, in order to have their content noticed they tend to scream like children, act out like children, and crave attention like children. In this case, having a drunk and downtrodden Adrien Broner in a hot seat with a tumbler of alcohol in his hand was a guaranteed recipe for clicks and listens and interest for all those involved. With him on, both present and “lit”, he could be offered treats in exchange for spinning around, offering his paw, or rolling onto his belly. He would for as long as they were filming be encouraged to perform rather than, say, protected from himself.
Then again, there’s this common misconception with addicts that when one is in the throes of addiction they are for some reason still surrounded by people who have the power to influence them in a positive way; protect them, maybe, or at least make them understand. The reality is, these people, if indeed they ever existed, tend to be the first to go and in place of them arrive others who are more agreeable, pliable, and less interested in saying the word “no”.
I can’t speak for Broner’s support network, of course, but if he had any decent people around him at the beginning of what is clearly a rollercoaster ride, there is every chance they will have all by now escaped. And rightly so, too. As harsh as it sounds, it is his responsibility and only his responsibility to seek help and sort out this problem, the extent of which not one of us knows.
In fact, rather than castigate Broner as many have chosen to do, or view his recent unravelling as evidence of karma at work, I prefer to just consider him the latest example of what happens when a boxer knows nothing but boxing. Raised, trained, and programmed to be one, and relevant and respected only when he is one, Broner without boxing is essentially Broner walking the tough streets of Cincinnati in a diaper, with a dummy hanging from his mouth. He is, in other words, little more than a child and even now, at the age of 33, it is as though unless he is boxing, the only domain in which Broner is considered remotely intelligent, he is having to not just learn how to be a civilian but also learn how to walk, and talk, and behave, much like a newborn. It’s tragic, certainly, yet it becomes all the more tragic when you realise this cycle, which is precisely the thing of which Broner is a victim, will continue sevenfold due to the amount of children Broner has spawned in the process.
The same could be said for England’s Scott Fitzgerald, by the way, who has encountered similar issues of late and received similar messages; some supportive, others less so. As with Broner, you could tell upon reading these messages which of them had been written by people with experience of addiction and which had been written by those who would watch an addict in a locked suitcase and tell them to stand up and get out. For them, and for Broner’s podcasting friends, it is all just a game, this addiction lark. For these fighters’ loved ones, however, it is anything but.
“Where are they, then, these loved ones?” I hear you cry. Well, unfortunately, whenever you see a person at their rock bottom, it is likely that person is beyond the point of being talked around or comforted by an arm around a shoulder, no matter how familiar this arm may be. That arm, rest assured, will have already been batted away long ago and then thrown up in exasperation. For addicts, after all, do not do relationships; they take hostages. And sadly, by appearing on a podcast out to exploit him at his lowest ebb, Adrien Broner may have got a taste of his own medicine this week.