It has become a narrative in which most boxing fans roll their eyes at upon hearing: This time, once and for all, Adrien Broner is ready to take his career seriously.
Despite being a four-division titleholder, Broner (33-2, 24 KOs) has seemed to take pride in becoming boxing's clown prince and has spent more time making negative headlines on TMZ or the police blotter than finding out how good he can be in the ring.
But the past 12 months, in particular, have been extra sobering for Broner. Not only did he go through a very public battle with depression (threatening to take his own life on social media), he served jail time following multiple arrests and escaped a shooting attempt by speeding away from a Cincinnati bar with eight bullets holes in the side of his rented SUV.
Through it all, Broner has more or less laughed it off publicly, which hasn't helped fuel any confidence that Saturday's junior welterweight showdown against unbeaten three-division titlist Mikey Garcia at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York (Showtime, 9 p.m. ET), will reveal a fully matured Broner ready to fulfill his potential.
Broner, for what it's worth, has been saying all the right things in the buildup to the fight. Sure, he's still slinging jokes and having fun playing a character -- known at different times as "The Problem," "AB" and "The Can Man"-- but he pointed to a recent conversation with "big bro" Floyd Mayweather that ultimately changed him.
No, this wasn't the first time Mayweather has done his best to impart wisdom on Broner, who turns 28 the day before the Garcia fight. But Broner admits this time it stuck and the result was him finally agreeing to move from his native Cincinnati to South Florida. Broner also decided to train for the fight in seclusion, in the mountains of Colorado.
"It's like Floyd once told me, 'You've got to move out of Cincinnati to reach your full potential. You've already did all you can do there. It's time for you to move out and expand,'" Broner told CBS Sports during a June appearance on the "In This Corner" podcast.
"I finally got it after these last few incidents that I've been in and it's time to move on. … You've just got to have positive people around you, positive energy and just try your best to block [the negativity] out."
While Broner's many skeptics and critics will need much more than a few soundbites to be convinced, it's fair to question whether Saturday's fight doubly serves as Broner's last chance at becoming all he was once touted to be.
Yes, there's plenty of mileage remaining on his unquestioned ability to draw ratings (his February win over Adrian Granados remains one of the most watched fights on cable in the last few years). But considering how dangerous a fighter Garcia (36-0, 30 KOs) is -- a pound-for-pound talent moving up in weight to chase stardom -- this might be Broner's last shot at legitimacy.
"Honestly, I think I'll be the next megastar in boxing," Broner said. "There is only one person that could fill that void of Floyd Mayweather and I think that's me."
It's too easy to write off Broner completely when you simply look at his can't-miss talent. The combination of speed, power and technique is there. So are some of the intangibles like a strong chin and recuperative toughness that you simply can't teach.
But determining Broner's chances at winning ahead of each fight is painfully reminiscent of Zab Judah's run a decade before. While Judah's talent was always world class, his performances seemed to alternate between disappointing and a stark reminder of what he's still capable of when focused. In many ways, Judah had nine lives over his career, which is where the Broner comparison best comes into play.
Broner's issues with tapping into his best on a consistent basis seem to be a bit different than Judah, however. Inside the ring, Broner's stubborn refusal to rely on his boxing ability has largely been his downfall, as has his love affair with his own power -- which hasn't carried all that well above 135 pounds.
While Broner is an excellent counter puncher, he relies too much on that, which lowers his output and allows slick boxers to steal rounds (see the Paulie Malignaggi fight). Other times, like in his loss to Shawn Porter, he has acted disinterested when the challenge gets tough.
Most of Broner's issues, however, simply come down to a lack of focus and preparation. It certainly seems true when considering his constant issues making 140 pounds, a weight which Broner, a former 147-pound titleholder, said he had no problem agreeing to against Garcia.
"In my previous fights, I really didn't have a reason to make 140 pounds," Broner said. "Now, I've really got a reason to make 140 pounds. Not only because it's a big name and they are going to hopefully give me my credit for this one. But I've got a lot at stake if I don't make weight. I ain't trying to pay a guy to put hands on him."
Broner remains young enough that, if he can stay properly motivated, he still has a shot at becoming the PPV star he always talked about becoming. Very few fighters have been able to market themselves (both positively and negatively) or are gifted with as much wit as Broner.
But it all comes down to how bad he wants it and what kind of effort he puts forth against Garcia that will convince future customers he's for real this time. Garcia is not only the right opponent to bring that out of him, he's dangerous enough to finish both the fight and Broner's chances at ever becoming anything more than a cautionary tale.
"I told somebody this, I think I've shown about 65 percent [of what I'm capable of]," Broner said. "I know I can do a lot but sometimes when I'm in fights and I make my adjustments and I see what's working, I just stick to that and I just win. But I think Mikey Garcia is going to bring out the other side that other people haven't seen of Adrien Broner.
"[Saturday] is going to be a special night. You always need that fighter to bring the best out of you. I think Mikey got what it take to bring the best Adrien Broner out of me. 'The Problem' will be 100 percent."
It's not lost on Broner how many people will hear his words and laugh, unwilling to be fooled again at being seduced by his shtick. That's why he said it's no longer about words.
"It's all about action. Now it's time to just start showing it and showing action," Broner said. "It's time to put my hands where my mouth is and put my hands where other people's mouth is. It's time to perform like I was in my early stages in putting on these great shows. And it's time to really focus and take that next step in my great career.
"I've changed a lot. That gets me through the day, my changes. I go through everyday things just like everyone else and I'm just taking it one day at a time."