By Jack Sumner @Jack_Sumner_
After their heated press conference, weeks of bickering and exchanging profanity-laden insults via social networking sites and media calls, Paulie Malignaggi and Adrien Broner will have to do their talking in the ring when they meet at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center on Saturday night. Malignaggi defends his WBA welterweight title against the current WBC lightweight titleholder Broner, who is jumping two weight classes in an attempt to become a three-division champion at the age of 23.
The unbeaten Broner (26-0, 22 KO’s) is being touted as boxing’s next superstar and perhaps being groomed into the sport’s next Floyd Mayweather, a talented yet polarising individual who you can either love or hate but will always tune in to watch. Broner became a world champion winning a super featherweight crown in late 2011 and won his lightweight title with an eighth round stoppage of Antonio DeMarco in late 2012, kicking off 2013 with a title defence and five round thrashing of Gavin Rees in February.
Despite the Cincinnati native’s meteoric rise and obvious potential however, Broner has come under fire from many who feel he’s yet to be tested by top-level opposition. Moving up two weight classes to challenge the light-hitting Malignaggi (32-4, 7 KO’s) has done little to quash that feeling, with the ‘Magic Man’ seen as the weakest of the welterweight champions and marginally below the true elite of the division.
There’s no doubting Malignaggi’s experience, great jab and his technical ability as one of the best pure boxers in the game, but his serious lack of punching power has cost him dearly in his biggest fights, against his best opposition. Miguel Cotto, Ricky Hatton and Amir Khan are the three biggest names on Malignaggi’s résumé and all three gave the Magic Man a beating en route to one-sided victories.
One thing that Paulie has never lacked however is character inside and outside of the ring, epitomised by arguably his finest performance to date against Vyacheslav Senchenko of the Ukraine. Malignaggi travelled to Donetsk as a heavy underdog in challenging for a welterweight crown in his undefeated opponent’s backyard, but thoroughly dominated Senchenko, closing his left eye and forcing a stoppage in the ninth round. If that didn’t make enough of a statement, Malignaggi tweeted updates to his Twitter followers in the corner between rounds; ostensibly an easy night’s work if ever there was one.
Rather than an easy night this Saturday, Malignaggi faces something of a ‘Problem’ in Broner, but the jury’s still out on whether he’s the elite fighter he’s marketed as and in the same category of fighters that have beaten Paulie. A super featherweight this time last year, could Broner have bitten off more than he can chew to gain weight and take on an experienced champion?
As he actually walks around at a natural weight of about 150lbs when he’s away from the ring and has re-hydrated massively for his bouts in the lower weight classes, the likelihood is that Broner will be comfortable at welterweight, eventually, but not neccessarily for this fight. The weight gain is bound to have an adverse affect on his speed, an attribute already in favour of Malignaggi.
I think the betting outsider from Brooklyn will be able to dart in and out effectively at least throughout the opening rounds and perhaps build up a lead on the scorecards with Broner being tagged often early on as he was with Gavin Rees. The big difference here however is that he won’t be able to return fire so much, due to the exceptional movement of Malignaggi.
Where Broner excels however is with his timing and power and as the rounds go by sooner or later he’s going to start catching Malignaggi with hurtful shots. Once he does time Malignaggi, the fight will swing in Broner’s favour and I can see him closing the distance, amping up the aggression and going for the stoppage in the later rounds.
Whether or not he’ll get it though is another matter, with Paulie resilient and having shown a solid chin in the past and here I think he’ll do enough to stay in the fight. I wouldn’t rule out a late stoppage for Broner but I think it will go the distance and the ‘Problem’ will pick up a unanimous decision. Some may have a problem with the scoring however, with Malignaggi clearly bagging a number of the early rounds.