On Saturday night in Brooklyn, all the talking finally stops, and the fighting, at last, gets underway, as the WBA welterweight champion Paulie Malignaggi (32-4, 7 KO's) defends his belts against undefeated rising phenom Adrien Broner (26-0, 22 KO's).
Few fights in recent memory have seen a promotional buildup as trash-talk infused and contentious as this one. The two have swapped insults over social media and in person at every opportunity.
Malignaggi has long been among the sport's biggest talkers, and Broner has been nothing less than brash and cocky every step of the way during his young career. So boxing fans have hardly been surprised to see the pre-fight hype resemble a professional wrestling promo.
Broner has promised to knock Malignaggi out. Malignaggi has vowed to expose Broner as an over-hyped prospect. In the Barclay Center on Saturday, we will finally see who can do the better job of backing up his trash-talk in the ring.
When a fighter has the kind of explosive power that Broner has regularly displayed at 130 and 135 pounds, it makes it a whole lot easier to back up his swagger. With the lone exception of Daniel Ponce De Leon in 2011, Broner has pounded down everybody he's faced. He's simply been able to bully and overwhelm.
But fighting a world champion at 147 pounds is an entirely new order of business for Broner. When I interviewed Broner at one point last year, he told me he expected to remain dominant all the way up to 147, maybe even 154 pounds.
Saturday night will be his chance to start proving that is the case, against world champion Paulie Malignaggi. "The Magic Man" may be a relatively light hitter, but he's an extremely slick, defensive fighter, with a good chin.
Malignaggi is not huge for a welterweight; he will be, by far, the biggest fighter Broner has ever faced. Malignaggi might not be a big slugger, but nobody's ever completely steamrolled him.
The only two times Malignaggi has been stopped in his career, it was by late-round TKO, against Amir Khan and Ricky Hatton. It will say a lot about Broner's power if he can end up putting Malignaggi away quicker.
Malignaggi has made it clear that he doesn't expect Broner's power to be anything he hasn't felt before. In all of his interviews promoting this fight, Malignaggi has been consistent in his message: Broner is a talented prospect who has been wildly over-hyped, due to his connections.
The best line Malignaggi has had in all of this came out of his RingTV interview last week, when he asserted that “there's a guy like Adrien Broner in every urban gym in America.”
The image that Malignaggi has painted of Broner is of a puppet-king, who has bought into his own hype. “Everything you think you know, everything everyone has made you believe, is going to change,” Malignaggi said, addressing Broner in the same RingTV interview.
In a subtle way, Malignaggi is trash-talking the entire boxing media and establishment, as much as he is Broner. It's not just Broner who thinks Broner is great. The Ring already has Broner ranked No. 6 on their pound-for-pound list.
The Ring is owned by Broner's promoter, Golden Boy, but they aren't exactly out a limb by themselves in valuing Broner as an emerging superstar. I've got Broner at 12 in my own most recent rankings.
Malignaggi is correct when he points out that Broner has been hyped due to his relationship with Al Haymon. But Haymon has a pretty good track record of picking elite prize fighters to form relationships with.
So when Malignaggi says that he's going to show Broner, he's really saying that he's going to show the entire boxing world, from the small-time scribes like me, to the big-time power brokers like Golden Boy and Al Haymon.
I'll say this much, Malignaggi's analytical explanations of how he is going to expose Broner have made me much more interested and excited for this fight than I was when it was originally signed. I've often found Malignaggi insightful as a commentator, so if it's his honest opinion that Broner is over-hyped, I am anxious to see him prove it.
But ultimately, when I think about Malignaggi as a fighter, I think about a very talented guy who couldn't quite stand up to Miguel Cotto, Ricky Hatton or Amir Khan at 140 pounds, when he was a younger fighter.
I'm not sold on Broner as the next big thing yet. But I think he's got at least the talent of a Cotto or a Hatton. I saw that much in what he did to Antonio DeMarco, even if it was only at 135 pounds.
At the same time, I believe Broner is going to find that walking over Paulie Malignaggi is an entirely different matter than walking over Eloy Perez or Gavin Rees, or even DeMarco. To me, it seems unlikely that Broner will be able to smash Malignaggi with the ease he has predicted.
I think Malignaggi will have some very good rounds during this fight, and if he can use those rounds to get inside of Broner's head, than Malignaggi might be able to turn this into a real scrap.
In a sense, Malignaggi doesn't even have to win to back up his trash-talk. He merely needs to make it into a relatively competitive fight. If he can just manage to win a couple of rounds outright, and make several more competitive, there will be fans all over Facebook and Twitter, swearing up and down that “Paulie was robbed!”
I personally believe Broner will win this fight decisively, probably by a late-round stoppage. But I think Malignaggi will have his moments during the fight, especially early on.
In the end, neither will live up to his trash-talk, exactly, but the fight will have been exciting enough, and both men will have spent so much, nobody but the worst cynics will really care.
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