Last year, Roy Jones was asked on an HBO broadcast how to crack the Philly shell defense. He responded that he didn't get paid to answer that question (if that doesn't tell you why he's the best analyst in the sport, then nothing will). But those looking for ways to take down the Philly shoulder roll should look no further than Paulie Malignaggi's effort against Adrien Broner last night. Malignaggi had the perfect game plan: volume, lateral movement, quick combinations and hitting what was available. In many rounds, he more than doubled Broner's punch output. He wasn't very accurate, but he almost threw his way to a victory. Scores were 115-113 and 117-111 for Broner and 115-113 for Malignaggi. I scored it 116-112 for Broner.
It was a very good version of Malignaggi last night. He looked much spryer against Broner than he did in his last fight against Pablo Cano. Paulie trained hard and gave himself a real opportunity to win the fight. He barely stayed in the pocket long enough for sustained exchanges and he made Broner move around the ring to find him. He had a real game plan about how to succeed against Broner, and within those parameters, he performed very well.
However, the superior shots in the fight were landed by Broner. His straight right hand and right uppercut repeatedly found their mark, and they were damaging blows. When he let his hands go, he practically landed at will. But let's not make this into some sort of celebratory event for Broner; he did just enough to win. That shouldn't be the standard for greatness.
Yes, Broner did an expert job of blocking most of Malignaggi's shots with his body and gloves. But one has to throw punches to win rounds. And Broner seemed uninterested in offense through most of the first third of the fight. Although he had started slowly in the past, he took far too long to get untracked last night.
Broner seemed surprised that Malignaggi refused to be discouraged by his power shots. Perhaps he had gotten into bad habits in his last fights at lightweight, where once he decided to let loose, his opponents wilted. Moving up to welterweight, Broner's power played differently and it wasn't enough to intimidate his opponent.
Through most of the night, Broner coasted. There are two ways to read this: 1. He was very relaxed against a challenging opponent. 2. He underestimated Malignaggi. I kept wondering if Broner actually knew that the fight was close. He certainly didn't fight like it. And while I gave him the last two rounds, he certainly didn't close the show with the type of gusto I would've liked to have seen. If Broner receives truthful advice from his team, he certainly will be told that yesterday wasn't one of his better performances.
Broner has quickly become one of the most polarizing figures in boxing. His lack of respect for his opponents, boundless arrogance and premature sense of his own greatness are off-putting to say the least. He has a plethora of boxing skills, excellent technique and real ring I.Q. but is that enough to become one of the best in the sport? Already cherry-picking his opponents at 23, Broner left the junior lightweight and lightweight divisions without having conquered many of the best fighters in those weight classes. He's looking for a short-circuit path to immortality and fortune in the sport but is he willing to put in the hard time out-of-the-ring to reach boxing's pinnacle? Surely, he will need to do better than last night to inspire talks of greatness. Barely getting by Daniel Ponce de Leon and Paulie Malignaggi does not make a legend.
After Broner escaped with his win over Ponce de Leon (I thought de Leon won that fight rather easily), he went back to the gym and really improved in his subsequent bouts at 130. If he still has the same type of desire to get better, he will take the events of last night and work to become a more complete fighter. He'll need to realize that some judges score on activity and that at this level of boxing, all opponents need to be respected in the ring. If he incorporates these lessons, he will improve; if not, he will become just another great boxing talent who failed to reach his ceiling.
His next move will be very interesting. He could compete at either the 140 or 147-lb. divisions. At 147, he would have to be matched carefully. Tallish volume punchers like Robert Guerrero and Devon Alexander would be difficult opponents for him. At junior welterweight, a fight against Lucas Matthysse seems like a pick-em to me. At a certain point, he's going to have to get in the ring against tough fighters who are still on the make. After last night's match, Golden Boy talked about Marcos Maidana as a potential opponent. That would certainly test Broner's chin at welterweight, but I think that the huge chasm in speed and accuracy between the two would tilt that match strongly in Broner's direction. I wouldn't hate that fight, but Golden Boy and Broner could do better.
For Paulie, he performed ably in defeat and perhaps a matchup against a Maidana or a Thurman would make a lot of sense for him. He showed that he still has the energy and desire to compete in the upper ranks of the welterweight division. He'll have another nice payday or two before he's through with the sport.
Finally, this was one of the most distasteful boxing promotions in recent memory. Much of the buildup surrounded both fighters' sexual history with a particular female. It was base and classless and ultimately detracted from both fighters. Even after the verdict was announced last night, they still had words about the woman. Broner acted like a sore winner and Paulie immediately implied that a judge was corrupt. (Ironically, Paulie got a highly debatable victory in his last fight; he was less verbose on this topic after that bout).
The effects of the nasty promotion could've been dampened had the fight been more memorable. Ultimately, it was a rather pedestrian affair. Paulie boxed safely and strategically. Broner unloaded just enough power shots to turn the fight in his favor. It wasn't inspiring stuff, far from it. Afterwards, I wanted to take a shower.
Adam Abramowitz is the head writer and founder of saturdaynightboxing.com.
He is also a member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board.
Contact Adam at firstname.lastname@example.org
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