CINCINNATI--Most boxing experts knew that Adrien Broner would have to work hard every step of the way to get past Adrian Granados in his latest homecoming headliner.
The question was whether or not he'd be willing to put in that work.
It didn't always appear to be the case over their fun-filled 10-round affair, but Broner figured out a way to land the more substantive blows in claiming a split decision victory Saturday evening in front of 6,085 fans at Cintas Center on the campus of Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio. Chicago's Granados managed a 97-93 nod on one card but was overruled by scores of 96-94 and 97-93 in favor of Broner, who fought for the first time in 10 months.
The early rounds were a clear indication that a long haul was ahead for the former four-division titlist, who in his time away from the ring saw an active stretch on the other side of the ropes. Legal troubles prevailed, going to jail and then eventually having the charges dropped. Following that came his promotional outfit About Billions Promotions crowning its first two champions in Rau'Shee Warren (who has since lost his belt a week ago) and Robert Easter Jr.
No amount of promotion - self or otherwise - could help out Broner on this evening, as he simply had to bite down and fight. Granados was intent on forcing a torrid pace early on, carrying into the ring both the pride of Chicago with his red and blue trunks in honor of the 2016 World Series champion Chicago Cubs as well as the city's heartbreak reflected in the senseless murder of his good friend and former rising prospect Ed "Bad Boy" Brown last December.
With those tributes came a spirited effort from the visiting hard-luck boxer, who took an early lead at least in the court of public perception. Broner was forced to adjust, doing just that by landing the more telling blows after realizing that he couldn't outwork the 27-year old slugger.
"I knew that Adrian Granados was going to come tough," Broner (33-2, 24KOs) told Showtime's Jim Grey after the fight. "At the end of the day, I was beating him up. This was an easy one for me. I feel good."
There was nothing easy about it, for the boxers or for the three judges assigned to score the contest. Ringside scorers Robert Pope, Phil Rogers and Steve Weisfeld all agreed that Broner won the first round and that Granados won the second. After that, it was apparently anyone's guess, as the judges were split on the remaining eight rounds.
Granados was the far busier boxer, throwing 683 punches over the course of the 10-round affair - though was prepared to go even longer.
"I didn't even know about this 10-round bull**** until fight week," Granados (18-5-2, 12KOs) said during the post-fight press conference. "They had to change the weight, they had to change the scale. It's all f***in' bull***t."
Granados' post-fight reveal came at the tail end of a frustrating promotion that included a change in contracted weight from 142 lbs. to the full 147-pound divisional limit. In addition to allowing Broner the ability to not cut as much weight, it also pushed his opponent out of his prime weight one division below at super lightweight.
"I admit the extra weight made me full a bit sluggish," Granados told FightNights.com afterward. "But more so. it allowed (Broner) to absorb my punches a little better. Like I said, it's bull***t, but what can you do."
What wasn't any bull was the back and forth that took place during a largely inside affair. Broner revealed after the fight that he had injured his left hand in the first round, thus negating his ability to throw his jab like he wanted. Given that Granados wasn't going away anytime soon, Broner had to dig down and fight.
From there came the type of back and forth that had the crowd on its feet for much of the night. Passions ran high between whatever fans Broner has left at home and the sizable support Granados brought from Chicago. Some of that emotion carried into Granados' attack, as he expended a lot of energy with movement and activity, but to the point where Broner was able to pick his spots and land the more attention-grabbing shots that ultimately impressed two of the three judges.
"I'm used to it," Granados told FightNights.com of coming up short once again. Between five losses and true draws, all have been either via split or majority decision. "I don't have that flashy record, my style doesn't catch their eye. It's like I'm the modern day Micky Ward or something."
Granados had managed to put together a nice five-fight win streak heading into Saturday, none bigger than his upset - and shockingly one-sided - knockout win over then-unbeaten Amir Imam in Nov. '15. He'd only managed one fight since then, an eight-round decision over Ariel Vasquez in a rust-shaking tune-up last July.
While falling to 18-5-2 (12KOs) following the loss, Granados' stock not only goes up in defeat but he is also armed with a top promotional outfit (TGB Promotions) for the first time in his career. With that comes hope for a brighter future, no matter the direction of his next step.
"I'd love a rematch with Adrien," Granados bluntly stated of his desired next bout. "'I know he won't give me one. But if he does, we can do it in Chicago. I had a lot of love in the house tonight; we can easily sell out the United Center. If they're worried about hometown judging, we can go to a neutral site. We can go to Texas, Las Vegas... we can even go to Mexico."
As has been the case with Granados' prior conquerors, Broner seems to be of the mindset that once was enough.
"March 4 we got Keith Thurman and Danny Garcia," Broner pointed out during the post-fight press conference. "You know I'd love the winner of that. Man this welterweight division. You have to be built to last to survive this jungle."
It took that much effort from Broner to survive his latest ring adventure, and perhaps more convincing if he is to have a future at the level at which he still believes he resides.