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Shawn Porter vs. Paulie Malignaggi: Preview and Prediction for Title Fight

Briggs SeekinsFeatured ColumnistApril 15, 2014

Shawn Porter vs. Paulie Malignaggi: Preview and Prediction for Title Fight

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    Al Bello/Getty Images

    On Saturday night in the nation's capital, freshly minted IBF welterweight champion Shawn Porter makes his first defense against former belt-holder Paulie Malignaggi.

    Porter rose from relative obscurity last year to capture his title from Devon Alexander in December at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Malignaggi bested Zab Judah on the same card.

    Porter is one of the young lions in the always-packed welterweight division. Malignaggi has been a fixture in the sport for years.

    It will be youth and power versus experience and guile in this one.

Tale of the Tape

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    USA TODAY Sports
    Per BoxRec     Shawn Porter      Paulie Malignaggi
    Record:     23-0-1, 14 KOs      33-5-0, 7 KOs
    Height:     5'7"      5'8"
    Reach:     69.5"      70"
    Weight:     147 lbs      147 lbs
    Age:     26      33
    Stance:     Orthodox      Orthodox
    Hometown:     Akron, Ohio      Brooklyn, N.Y.
    Rounds:     129      310

    Malignaggi has one of the lowest KO percentages of any current top fighter. Porter has 14 fewer fights but twice as many stoppages.

    Malignaggi will have to fully maximize his minor advantages in length to keep the physically powerful Porter at bay.

    Malignaggi is just 33, but it seems like he's been around the scene forever. He's fought nearly 200 more professional rounds than the champion.

Main Storyline

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    Bryan Steffy/Getty Images

    Last December, unbeaten Shawn Porter executed a smart, hard-nosed game plan to rough up Devon Alexander and capture the IBF welterweight title. Porter was not extremely well-known heading into the fight, but the former Manny Pacquiao sparring partner had put in his time in the sport and was ready to cash in when his big break arrived.

    Paulie Malignaggi is currently one of the most recognizable names in boxing. The former two-division world champion has fought some of the biggest stars of his generation and has already established a side career as a broadcaster, appearing regularly on Showtime.

    One of the really interesting angles for this fight will be to compare Porter's performance against Malignaggi with Adrien Broner's, who beat Malignaggi by split decision last June. While I did think Broner deserved to win that fight, Malignaggi exposed Broner as far from ready to step into Floyd Mayweather's shoes.

    Broner has been one of the most hyped fighters in the sport for a few years. Porter, meanwhile, has been just another talented dude grinding away, waiting for his chance. If he can beat the veteran Malignaggi more convincingly than Broner did, it will make a statement.

Strengths

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    Al Bello/Getty Images

    Shawn Porter is a physically powerful volume puncher. He has explosive athleticism and moves in and out of range very well.

    Porter combines a blue-collar, grinding approach to the sport with blue-chip physical gifts. That's an ideal package for a championship fighter. He'll be studied up and well-prepared for his first defense.

    Paulie Malignaggi has an exceptionally high boxing IQ. He is a great defensive boxer and ring general. He controls tempo and range and usually manages to fight on his own terms.

    Malignaggi also has a very durable chin. He's a tough, resilient fighter who stays calm and continues to make smart decisions when pressed in the pocket.

Weaknesses

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Shawn Porter is still developing as a high-level professional. At this point in his career, he is entering unfamiliar territory.

    Porter is an aggressive fighter and overcommits at times, putting himself in vulnerable spots. Malignaggi has the guile to exploit that.

    Paulie Malignaggi has just seven knockout victories in 38 pro fights, giving him an extremely low KO percentage by world-class standards. He's proven he can win big fights in spite of this, but his relative lack of pop leaves him little margin for error.

    The Magic Man is going to need to win the positioning battle with near-perfect footwork, because the rugged, young Porter will not be likely to respect Malignaggi's power in the trenches.

Shawn Porter Will Win If...

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Porter is going to need to impose his will on Malignaggi by cutting off the ring and taking away Malignaggi's room to maneuver. But he needs to avoid being too aggressive. If he overcommits with his attacks, the Magic Man will toy with him.

    This means he absolutely must avoid chasing Malignaggi. Porter's side movement will be more important than his movement forward. As Malignaggi tries to slip away, Porter has to keep the challenger in front of him and eventually force him backward, into a corner or against the ropes.

    Once Porter maneuvers into range to hit Malignaggi, he has to strike in bunches. He has to assume Malignaggi is going to have some success evading him, especially in the early going, so when he does get into position to unload, he has to make the most of it by putting together heavy combinations.

    And Porter has to bang Malignaggi in the body. Malignaggi has a durable chin. Shots to the torso, which will slow Malignaggi down, are a much better investment in the early rounds.

Paulie Malignaggi Will Win If...

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    USA TODAY Sports

    To win, Malignaggi is going to need to control the range of the fight and keep Porter on the outside, where he can pick at the champ with jabs and harass him with quick flurries.

    But he has to be prepared for Porter to close the range. Although Malignaggi needs to keep Porter on the outside, he needs to severely limit his own backward movement. If Malignaggi starts backing up too much against Porter, he will find himself trapped in the corner or against the ropes in short order.

    And he'll lose for sure if he spends much time there.

    Malignaggi is going to need to slip and pivot when Porter moves forward. He's got to encourage the champ's aggression so that he will have space to escape around the outside when Porter throws a big shot.

    To beat Porter, Malignaggi is going to need to use a ton of movement and present a steadily shifting array of looks. He's got to make it a frustrating fight for the younger man.

Prediction

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    USA TODAY Sports

    I've been in a minor slump this month picking fights, and this is a tough one to use to get back into the win column. Both fighters have the ability to win on Saturday.

    Looking at their most recent performances does little to bring clarity. Paulie Malignaggi looked great against Zab Judah last December and gave Adrien Broner trouble last June. But Shawn Porter is a younger, much stronger fighter than Judah and a busier fighter than Broner who takes much less for granted.

    Porter looked terrific when he took the title from Devon Alexander. I'm not sure I'd call Malignaggi a better fighter than Alexander, but he is smarter. He'll be much harder to draw into the kind of war that favors Porter.

    But Malignaggi has a lot less margin for error than the young champion does. If Porter makes a mistake, it won't cost him anywhere near as much as a mistake will cost Malignaggi.

    Malignaggi is a better boxer and more experienced, but Porter is a good boxer and experienced enough to know what needs to be done in this fight. So his power and athleticism should carry the night for him.

    I'm picking Porter to win a unanimous decision. In the second half of the year, I'd love to see him against one of the division's other young stars, such as Keith Thurman or Adrien Broner. I wouldn't even mind seeing him in a rematch with Alexander.

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