By Geno McGahee
This Saturday in Brooklyn, New York, WBA welterweight champion, Paulie Malignaggi, 32-4, 7 KO’s, tries to hold onto his title against the “next big thing” in boxing, Adrien Broner, 26-0, 22 KO’s, who is moving up from lightweight to challenge. This is a very compelling matchup with some serious questions posed to both men. The easy pick is Broner, but his reputation hasn’t matched his record, yet.
Malignaggi has been around forever it seems. His feather-fisted, charismatic and talented fighter has had ups and downs throughout his career. In 2006, he took on a prime Miguel Cotto and went 12 rounds, taking a beating early but coming on later in the fight. He didn’t do enough to win, but did enough to prove that he can go 12 rounds with one of the best in the game. His performance was compared to Hector Camacho’s with Julio Cesar Chavez. They both took beatings but made it to the finish line.
After picking up the IBF welterweight title, Paulie would lose to the mauling and powerful Ricky Hatton. It would be the first time that he was stopped. He just couldn’t get a grasp on the Hatton attack and got frustrated and paid the price in the end for it.
The next defeat was at the hands of Juan “Baby Bull” Diaz in Texas and the hometown cooking was in effect. Diaz won by a landslide and most observers felt that Malignaggi clearly won. They would rematch Chicago and Paulie would cruise to an easy unanimous decision, correcting the injustice that occurred in the first bout.
Malignaggi would get stopped by Amir Khan in 2010, but would rebound with five straight victories over very decent opposition, but Broner seems to be well beyond “decent.” Broner has all of the tools to be a mega star in boxing and has targeted Malignaggi as his first conquest in the welterweight division.
The world has accepted Floyd Mayweather, JR., as the best boxer in recent history and the best pound for pound fighter currently in the game. His style inside and outside of the ring has been emulated by many, but very few have gotten it right. Broner is very similar to Mayweather, JR., in both his inside and outside of the ring antics and has turned a lot of heads. Broner has really benefited from Floyd, but Malignaggi put it well on a recent Showtime broadcast. Broner hasn’t beaten anyone of great note. “He beat that guy…” was the comment, noting that “that guy” didn’t have a name in the game, and he was correct.
Broner has beaten some tough customers…most notably, Antonio DeMarco. DeMarco was a warrior with good power, but he couldn’t establish anything meaningful and eventually fell to the supreme skill and power of Broner. It was followed up with a beat down of Gavin Rees and now he looks to Malignaggi.
The move up to welterweight is exciting for boxing. With names like Lucas Matthysse, Marcos Maidana, Manny Pacquiao, Juan Manuel Marquez, Timothy Bradley, Brandon Rios, Amir Khan and Floyd Mayweather JR all lingering around the 147 weight class, there are plenty of matches to be made for Broner should he win in spectacular fashion Saturday night. The biggest question going into this fight is: Is Broner overrated?
Can Broner live up to the expectations that we all have for him? He did pick the right guy to test the waters and will most likely win, but if he struggles, we might get some of the answers we are looking for. Malignaggi, in his last fight, barely eked by the mediocrity that Pablo Cesar Cano by split decision. He just didn’t have it in that fight. Judging by his demeanor going into the Broner bout, we should get the best performance he can give, but what does he have left?
All the questions will be answered Saturday night in Brooklyn on Showtime. The money is on Broner to successfully move up and stop Malignaggi late in the fight, but if the power doesn’t travel up the 12 pounds with him, we may be in for an interesting night.