Malignaggi vs. Broner: What's Next for 'The Problem' After Split-Decision Win?

Lyle FitzsimmonsFeatured ColumnistJune 23, 2013

In his welterweight debut, Adrien Broner punished an accomplished two-division champion in Paulie Malignaggi.
In his welterweight debut, Adrien Broner punished an accomplished two-division champion in Paulie Malignaggi.Al Bello/Getty Images

He came. He saw. He conquered.

And within just a few minutes afterward, he infuriated.

Still, no matter how far newly crowned champion Adrien Broner might have nudged the classless needle with his remarks after defeating tough-as-nails hometowner Paulie Malignaggi, the reality of his exiting the Barclays Center with the WBA’s welterweight title belt doesn’t change.

“It’s a tremendous accomplishment,” a self-congratulatory Broner said to Showtime’s Jim Gray in a post-fight interview. “I’m 23 years old. I’m 27-0 with 22 knockouts."

“There’s no one in the game who’s doing it like me.”

And as the saying goes, to the victor—even an unpopular one—go the spoils.

Like him or loathe him, the new titleholder did indeed join some pretty heady company—not the least of which goes by the names Mayweather and Pacquiao—by adding a welterweight strap to a mantle that already included championship hardware at 130 and 135 pounds.

The win also gave him an instant decision to make on whether to maintain an existing grasp on the WBC’s title at lightweight or the shiny trinket he copped with the split nod in Brooklyn. Thanks to draconian sanctioning rules that forbid multiple weight-class defenses, he can’t keep both.

Assuming, then, that he favors new jewelry to old, his choices at 147 could be plentiful and lucrative, even compared to the $1.5 million he reportedly pocketed Saturday.

And thanks to his bombast between the final bell and Showtime’s TV sign-off—including a jab at a beaten Malignaggi in which he said, “I left with his belt and his girl”—there will be neither a shortage of opponents for him to pick from, nor a dearth of fans hoping the newly earned reign is short.

Broner upped the antihero ante even further with Gray, saying, because he’s long been accused of handpicking soft opponents, that he’ll allow the masses to decide his next foe.

Of course, given promotional rivalries and other charms unique to boxing, such a popular mandate might not be practical. But Showtime, which has a preferred relationship with Broner’s handler—Golden Boy Promotions—did make an effort to steer the conversation via Twitter, asking fans if they’d like to see him meet Marcos Maidana, Victor Ortiz or someone else.

Maidana is coming off a Fight of the Year-worthy stoppage of Josesito Lopez earlier this month, while Ortiz has been inactive since suffering a broken jaw in a TKO loss to Lopez last year.

Also among the plethora available to Golden Boy in the 140- to 147-pound corridor is a rematch with Malignaggi or showdowns with recent Mayweather challenger Robert Guerrero, ex-champion Andre Berto, junior welterweight kingpin Danny Garcia or hard-hitting Argentine Lucas Matthysse.

All are intriguing for a fighter who deserves heavy praise alongside the enmity.

And none, at least on the surface, seem too big a mountain to climb after Saturday.

Though he’d never fought for a title above 135 pounds and never weighed in for a fight above 140, Broner appeared perfectly content and viable at 147 pounds and was consistently able to rock the rugged Malignaggi, who’d won five straight and scored two stoppages since making the jump himself.

He also took any pinging shots the “Magic Man” did land with no issue and appeared both unmarked and barely winded upon completing the 12-round route for the first time in a five-year pro career. It was an especially impressive feat, considering he’d seen the 10th round just once in 26 fights and had gone as many as eight rounds just twice before.

“You can’t hit me,” Broner said to Gray afterward, “I’m good.”

For the one and only time Saturday, it might have actually been an understatement. Because, outside of a mentor named “Money,” he might already be the best of the rest.