To the relief of many, a tasteless and offensive promotion came to an end last night when Paulie Malignaggi and Adrien Broner met at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. Broner, having rifled through the skeletons of Malignaggi’s closet, found a bag of bones willing to humiliate herself for fifteen seconds of fame and two minutes of hate, and tried to drum up interest by emasculating Malignaggi via unfavorable sexual reviews of “The Magic Man.” Malignaggi, ever the sanctimonious windbag, played right along, of course, helping turn last night’s “grudge match” into the final act in a vicariously embarrassing drama. Broner won a split decision over Malignaggi in a fight that—rather fittingly—offered little by way of entertainment, but managed to pose a few questions about how Broner might fair against the best fighters at 140 and 147 pounds.
Malignaggi, Brooklyn, New York, began the fight the way he finished it, throwing jabs and flurrying to the body before moving to safety. Yet, for all his activity, Malignaggi was unable to do more than frustrate Broner, who by the middle rounds was mixing in uppercuts to the body and walking Malignaggi down. You can praise a fighter for being busy, and Showtime’s commentators repeatedly applauded Malignaggi’s movement and combinations; but in a prizefight, where the goal is to inflict punishment, his frenetic skirting and inaccurate punching was ineffective. Meanwhile, Broner continued to slog Malignaggi, 146 1/2, with a smattering of punches, catching Malignaggi as he finished his flurries, and getting the jump on him with lead right hands.
Outside of a left hook in the third round that wobbled Malignaggi, and a cracking right hand in the sixth, however, Broner, 146 3/4, was unable to seriously endanger his foe. Malignaggi had been stopped before, by Ricky Hatton and Amir Khan, and he was teetering on the brink at the middling fists of Pablo Cesar Cano, but he suffered no such perilous moments against Broner. What that says about Broner’s prospects at welterweight should be mitigated some by the fact that it was his first fight in the division, and that Malignaggi’s strategy made him abandon his jab and throw one shot at a time. Still, if Broner, Cincinnati, Ohio, is the future of boxing in the eyes of Golden Boy and Showtime, the future is not yet now. Not the pulverizing puncher he was at lightweight, and without a gross size advantage, Broner will have to grow as a fighter if he is to make good on expectations (hyperbolic and otherwise).
But while less destructive on this night, he was virulent enough, and after twelve largely repetitive rounds—marred by a few fouls, and even more talking from two guys being paid to punch—Broner was awarded a split decision victory. The scores read 115-113 and 117-111 for Broner, with a dissenting score of 115-113 for Malignaggi, courtesy of judge Tom Miller, for whom activity seems the supreme virtue.
With his typical cringe-worthy celebration out of the way, Broner, 27-0-1 (22), offered the only intriguing utterance of the entire affair, telling Jim Grey that he would let the fans choose his next opponent. There are a number of attractive opponents available, with that number perhaps increasing in the wake of Broner’s less than dominant performance. Junior welterweight Lucas Matthysse, if a September fight with Danny Garcia fails to materialize, would surely be happy to measure himself against the supposed future of the sport. Amir Khan, heavy-handed Keith Thurman, Ruslan Provodnikov and Floyd Mayweather, Jr. would all receive votes were the brain trust behind Broner actually to allow the consumer to shape the product. That’s not how boxing works however, and these fictional polls would likely close with a shopworn Shane Mosley or some similar threat winning by a mysterious landslide.
Malignaggi would garner a vote or two himself, and could lobby for a rematch on the platform of Miller’s scorecard and the fact that he wasn’t wiped out as anticipated. After the fight, he was up on his soapbox again, the winner of a disputed decision over Juan Cesar Cano wailing on about corruption in boxing because he disliked a scorecard that saw his feathery flurries undeserving of more than three rounds. Relieved of his title, Malignaggi, 32-5 (7), will have to fall back on his vulnerability and mouth to secure meaningful fights in the future. With a budding career as a Showtime analyst, he might consider taking his leave. He has what many fighters do not: options.
Read about the chaotic career of Roger Mayweather on The Living Daylights. From the producers of The Cruelest Sport!