Adrien Broner beat Paulie Malignaggi in Brooklyn on Saturday in a closer than expected welterweight fight that showcased the loser’s toughness more than the winner’s skills. Broner at times appeared like an oncoming train and Paulie a man standing on the tracks, but the manicured 32-year-old somehow managed to move and jab his way into a close fight on Showtime.
After two of the worst ring walks in boxing history (Broner’s tone-deaf intro by French Montana deserves special mention), Malignaggi (32-5, 7 KO) went to work immediately. He pumped his jab and flurried to Broner’s midsection, but his work didn’t seem to do much apart from draw a trademark sneer from the Cincinnati fighter. Broner’s punches, especially his lead right hands, were more eye catching through the early rounds but they simply couldn’t compete with Malignaggi’s volume.
Far from the fight being a whitewash, it was increasingly clear that Malignaggi’s poking jab had Broner (27-0, 22 KO) frustrated. At the end of the 2nd, Broner even tried to knee Malignaggi in a clinch.
From the 3rd round on, Broner slowly increased his volume and found his range, dialling in right uppercuts and left hooks to the head and body to go with his lead right. Malignaggi never gave in, though, and never appeared particularly hurt by Broner, who had fight ending power at lightweight.
Malignaggi has always shown tremendous heart, and did so again here. Through the middle rounds it appeared he was headed for a sustained beating, but he rallied to somehow to win the 10th. When Broner occasionally put together a four or five punch combination, Malignaggi would always answer with 10.
Against a certain level of opponent, the light-punching Malignaggi will always struggle. It’s very hard to win fights when there’s no possibility of hurting your adversary. It’s interesting to speculate what this fight (and Malignaggi’s entire career, for that matter) would have been like if Malignaggi had any power at all.
Broner swept the championship rounds, putting Malignaggi on the ropes in the 11th and dominating the 12th. To TQBR it was a clear Broner victory, albeit one in which Malignaggi showed enormous heart and, perhaps, a blueprint for how a stronger fighter could solve “The Problem”.
Still, there was something enjoyable about seeing Broner sweat the split decision. One judge had it 115-113 for Malignaggi, while the scores for Broner were 115-113 and 117-111. In his post-fight interview Broner showed a shocking lack of class by telling the gracious Malignaggi that he “left with his belt and his girl”
Malignaggi, worked up by the time came for his own interview, went with his old schtick about boxing being corrupt. He was incredibly articulate for an apoplectically angry guy who’d just been punched in the head for 45 minutes, but it probably wasn’t the time or the place.
Broner told Brooklyn fans that they could vote for his next opponent, an interesting offer that I’ll believe when I see it in practice. Malignaggi has his commentating job at Showtime to fall back on and I’d love to see him there full time. Frankly, he’s given us enough.
On the undercard, Seth Mitchell (26-1-1, 19 KO) won a very strange, very boring heavyweight rematch over Johnathon Banks (29-2-1, 19 KO). A tentative first round immediately brought out the boo birds, but things soon heated up, at least for a few rounds. Mitchell knocked down Banks with a short left uppercut followed by a right handed push to the back of the head, but the Detroit fighter was never particularly hurt. With a minute left to go in the 3rd Banks landed an enormous right hand counter, putting Mitchell on queer street. The former Michigan State linebacker failed to tie up and was lucky to stay up under a sustained assault from Banks.
Mitchell wasn’t fully recovered at the start of the 4th, but Banks gave him breathing space, looking for all intents and purposes like he was at a sparring session. Mitchell even began to score a little and the boos were audible once more from round 6 on. “The fight does not have a lot of action,” said heavyweight champion, Banks friend and notoriously tentative fighter Wlad Klitschko to Showtime’s Jim Gray , in a candidate for understatement of the year.
Things suddenly heated up again in round 8, with Banks hurting Mitchell with a left hook, followed by looping right and another left hook. But again he allowed Mitchell to recover and even smother him along the ropes. That was the story through round 9, despite a mouse growing under Mitchell’s right eye. Nothing really happened in the championship rounds. In fact, it may have been the least urgent final round I’ve ever seen. The scores came in as 115-112, 117-109 and 114-112, all for Mitchell.
To start the night, long time super middleweight contender Sakio Bika (32-5-2, 21 KO) edged prospect and Mexican olympian Marco Antonio Periban (20-1, 13 KO) on the scorecards. Bika came out swinging in round 1 and Periban decided to follow his lead. The two traded hard rights in the 2nd, with the Cameroonian’s head down, overhand punches doing more damage. After a furious exchange to start the 4th, Periban demonstrated some huge stones in standing dead in front of Bika and exchanging. He might even have stolen the round with a series of snazzy one-twos at the bell.
After eating some painful heel-of-the-hand punches in round 5, Periban began to move a little – a smart strategy. The Mexican’s counter right uppercut became a weapon in the middle rounds, but Bika hardly seemed fazed by the hard shots. Typically for a Bika fight, an accidental clash of heads in round 8 opened a cut on Periban’s hairline, leaving his chest spattered in blood. After the doctor gave Periban the all clear to continue, Bika rushed towards him and the two exchanged wildly, forcing the referee to separate them at the bell. Things quickly got spectacular in the next round, with both men dropping their hands and swinging for the fences as if they were in a tough man competition.
As the fight moved into the championship rounds, things got even more wild. Periban seemed to have a little more steam than Bika, and even appeared to relish the violence. A violent and sloppy 12th capped encapsulated the fight, with both men winging shots with nary a thought for technique. When the final bell sounded and the cards where filled out Bika got the majority nod by scores of 114-114, 115-113 and 116-112. The fight would have been incredibly difficult to score, but Periban howled that it was an incredible injustice nevertheless.