BROOKLYN, N.Y. – It was not the explosive performance that Adrien Broner had promised. The fireworks never went off. But it certainly was dazzlingly dominant. Broner pounded out a crazy split decision victory over Paulie Malignaggi to win the WBA welterweight title before a crowd of 11,461 at Barclays Center on Saturday night.
Sure there were back and forth exchanges. Sure there were lightning quick combinations and counter punches. Sure there was a lot of smack talk in the ring and even a few over the shoulder-with-the-back-turned punches delivered by Broner. But there were no knockdowns and Malignaggi, though he took a lot of shots, never seemed hurt by a single one of the hundreds of punches he absorbed.
So much for Broner’s power following close behind as he jumped from lightweight to welterweight.
“Paulie fought exactly like I thought he would fight. As soon as he felt my power, he got on his bicycle,” Broner said. “He couldn’t hit me. He was shadow boxing.”
The strangest twist in the fight was the scoring where judge Glenn Feldman scored the fight 115-113 and judge Tom Schreck scored it 117-111 for Broner and judge Tom Miller scored it 115-113 for Malignaggi. RingTV.com scored it 117-111 for Broner.
Malignaggi (32-5, 7 KOs) was not happy about the decision. Just like he did when he lost to Juan Diaz in Houston a few years ago, he railed against the officials that govern the sport. The only difference was that Malignaggi won that fight. He didn’t beat Broner on Saturday night.
“In his spots he was sharp. He worked about 30 seconds of each round. When he worked he was good,’’ Malignaggi said. “I don’t care if you had it close either way (on the scoring). But in my home town as the defending champion, I felt like you have to take the belt from the champion.
“I’m not saying it was fixed. But it’s always the most connected fighter who gets the decision.”
Richard Schaefer, CEO of Golden Boy Promotions, said he didn’t think much of Malignaggi’s post-fight comments.
“I think he was speaking out of frustration,” Schaefer said.
With Floyd Mayweather, Jr. sitting ringside, Broner tried his best to live up to the billing as the next Mayweather by putting on a dazzling boxing performance in a world title match. He had the sizzle, but he couldn’t deliver the steak – the knockout.
“This was a tremendous win for me. Who’s doing it like me?’’ Broner said. “He hit all arms. He couldn’t hit me. He went straight to survival mode. He kept running and I cut him off.’’
Broner (27-0, 22 KOs) had leaped two weight classes in order to grab his third world title in different divisions. It was a tall order, but one that Broner felt like he was more than able to deliver.
There had been so much verbal nastiness going back and forth in the lead up to the fight that you just wanted the two men to get into the ring so that they could stop talking.
That was wishful thinking because Broner kept up a steady dialogue throughout the fight, yelling, “You can’t hit me’’ for 12 rounds.
Malignaggi was fighting before a hometown crowd in Brooklyn and was the champion, but he had been installed as a huge underdog. Broner certainly wasn’t a fan favorite. He was booed when he was introduced before the match. That is the kind of villain treatment that he has invited and that he seems to relish.
Broner and his trainer, Mike Stafford, had vowed that Malignaggi was not going to make it beyond six rounds. They underestimated Malignaggi’s toughness and durability.
Broner seemed content to concede the first round to Malignaggi, who came out looking to land to the body. Broner covered up well and fired out quick jabs that found their mark when he decided to come out of his shell. Midway through the round, Broner got a warning from referee Benjy Esteves for hitting on the break.
Showing total disdain and disrespect for Malignaggi’s power, Broner stood right in front of him and walked forward even as Malignaggi was landing to the body. Every time Malignaggi would land, Broner would shake his head, indicating that the punches didn’t hurt. Late in the second round, while Malignaggi was bowed forward in a clinch, Broner shot his knee up to hit Malignaggi in the chin. He received a stern warning from Esteves for the MMA move.
Broner got down to the business of boxing in the third round. He begin to use his speed and quickness to open up his awry of punches – jabs, straight rights, overhand rights, left hooks – all of them finding their mark on Malignaggi’s face. Malignaggi got in some shots, but they weren’t effective, especially against a boxer who had no respect for his power.
The remainder of the fight settled into a steady drumbeat of Broner’s lightning quick punches thudding off of Malignaggi’s skull and ribcage. It didn’t matter what Malignaggi threw, none of it was having any impact in slowing Broner from pressing forward.
While Malignaggi was getting tagged by Broner, he wasn’t taking the kind of beating that he had suffered at the hands of Miguel Cotto, who fractured an orbital bone in his face, Ricky Hatton or Amir Khan. That suggested that while Broner does have speed and power, he doesn’t have welterweight power – yet.
The fight also made you curious how Broner would fare against some of the heavy hitters at 140 pounds like Lucas Matthysse. That is where the mind wanders when a match drifts into the “what’s-the-point?’’ zone.
Of course Malignaggi thought he won the fight.
Malignaggi said if he doesn’t get a rematch he’s going to quit boxing and concentrate on his broadcasting career with Showtime.
Photos / Al Bello