Adrien Broner: I hesitate to call a 15-1 favorite who barely emerged victorious a big winner but the fact is he took a major title from a good fighter – Paulie Malignaggi – in his first fight at welterweight Saturday in Brooklyn, N.Y. He deserves some credit. Broner (27-0, 22 knockouts) was outworked from beginning to end, which allowed Malignaggi (32-5, 7 KOs) to make what appeared to be a one-sided matchup competitive, but his punches were much harder than those of the light-punching New Yorker. That might explain the disparity in the scores: 115-113 for Malignaggi and 115-113 and 117-111 for Broner. I scored it 116-112 for Broner but I thought at least one or two more rounds could’ve gone to the hometown fighter. And Broner’s power? He might’ve dazed Malignaggi a few times but never hurt him even though he landed dozens of solid blows. Obviously, this wasn’t the show Broner wanted to stage. A superstar, a moniker few beyond his inner circle would give him, doesn’t win a split decision against an opponent who can’t punch. We’ll see what happens when he runs into a good boxer with a little pop behind his shots.
Adrien Broner: Most observers will point to Broner’s post-fight comments – reminding Malignaggi that “I left with his belt and his girl,” a reference to their nasty pre-fight exchanges – as his latest ignominious moment. That was a time for sportsmanship, not arrogance. Indeed, that was Broner at his most unlikeable. However, I thought his worst moment came in the second round. He was entangled with Malignaggi when he appeared to try – and might’ve succeeded – to kick him in the groin, which should’ve cost him a point. Who kicks an opponent in boxing? A fighter with questionable character. I don’t know what the future holds for Broner, who is as obnoxious as he is talented. He might mature as time goes on. It happens. Floyd Mayweather Jr. seems to have mellowed since his short stint in jail. I don’t see that happening with Broner, though. I won’t be the least bit surprised if he self destructs and disappears in the near future.
Paulie Malignaggi: Should we have been so surprised? Malignaggi, 32, is a fine, experienced fighter facing a young opponent who is very talented but still developing and moving up two weight classes. Perhaps he was dismissed in part because of his performance in his last fight, a split-decision victory over Pablo Cesar Cano. Malignaggi said he overtrained. And most of us thought Broner would hurt him, which didn’t happen because of his toughness and solid chin. Instead, he gave a gifted fighter on some pound-for-pound lists all he could handle for 12 rounds, which probably constitutes one the best performances of his solid career. And he was at his most outspoken afterward, blaming politics in part for his loss. He was asked whether the fight was fixed. “I’m not saying it was fixed. But it’s always the politically more connected fighters that get the close decisions. And this was no different. That’s what I’m saying. It always happens.” There’s a lot to love about Malignaggi.
The ring used on Saturday: How does the New York State Athletic Commission end up with a substandard ring for a card of this magnitude? The Showtime announcers noticed problems during the undercard fights, referring to a ridge in the middle of the canvas. And referee Benjy Esteves asked Melvina Lathan, chairwoman of the New York State Athletic Commission, for the world to hear what he should do about the issues moments before the Broner-Malignaggi fight was due to begin. Their solution? Do nothing. I would’ve had one idea: Put the brakes on the main event long enough to at least examine the ring to assess the danger and determine whether anything could be done. I’ve seen cards delayed because of faulty rings. The result was that the fighters were put at unnecessary risk. Fortunately the problem didn’t appear to impact the fight but it could have. The powers that be in New York boxing should be ashamed of themselves.
Seth Mitchell: The third round of his rematch with Johnathon Banks (29-2-1, 19 KOs) provided a déjà vu moment. Banks, who stopped Mitchell (26-1-1, 19 KOs) in the second round when they met in November, had him hurt again late in the third on the Broner-Malignaggi card. I thought, “Uh oh, there goes Mitchell’s career.” I figured he’d fall at that moment or sometime soon. And then he surprised me. He held onto the Banks to survive the final moments of the round and was never in serious trouble again. He outworked Banks the rest of the way to win a unanimous decision and get back into the hunt for a big-money fight. I don’t think he’s a threat to the Klitschkos but he is a player. Banks? I’m scratching my head. He went AWOL after the knockdown, throwing too few punches to give himself a chance to win the fight. His cornerman used the appropriate term to describe him at his worst: “zombie.” I don’t get it.
Bika-Periban: There was no science in the sweet fight Sakio Bika (32-5-2, 21 KOs) and Marco Antonio Periban (20-1, 13 KOs) gave the fans on the Broner-Malignaggi card. Bika is supposed to have improved boxing skills but you wouldn’t have known it on Saturday, as he winged wild – and hard – punches throughout the fight. And Periban, hoping to become the first Mexican to win a 168-pound title, largely forsook his solid ability in favor of fighting toe to toe. The result was fun to watch. The 12th round was epic, with a wild final exchange between dead-tired warriors bringing the fans at Barclays Center to their feet. Bika won the fight by a majority decision and the vacant WBC title after three failed attempts to win a major belt. Kudos to him. But both fighters were winners in the hearts of the fans.
WBC cruiserweight titleholder Krzysztof Wlodarcyzk (48-2-1, 34 KOs) passed a stiff test on Friday in Moscow, rebounding from a slow start to stop one-time amateur star Rakhim Chakhkiev (16-1, 12 KOs) in eight rounds. The Pole has now made six successful title defenses. … Miami-based Cuban Rances Barthelemy(19-0, 12 KOs) looked sharp on Friday in Minneapolis, stopping Thai veteran Fahsai Sakkreerin (39-4-1, 21 KOs) in two rounds in an IBF junior lightweight title eliminator. … Three-division titleholder Fernando Montiel (50-4-2, 38 KOs) continues to roll along against inferior opposition in Mexico. He stopped novice Jaderes Padua (8-3-1, 5 KOs) in three rounds on Saturday. … Juan Carlos Reveco (31-1-1, 17), who fights in the shadows of bigger-name Argentines, successfully defended his WBA flyweight title a second time by stopping Ulises Lara (13-14-2, 7 KOs) in eight rounds Saturday in Mendoza, Argentina.