NEW YORK — Three thoughts on Adrien Broner’s split decision win over Paulie Malignaggi:
1. Competitive fight, good decision: Coming into the fight, Malignaggi was a significant underdog. He had a title, but his best days are behind him, and even then, he never quite reached an elite level. Broner is on his way there. Malignaggi was the aggressor, throwing a high volume of punches, many of which Broner absorbed into his arms. Broner was surprisingly inactive, preferring to potshot Malignaggi while Malignaggi punched himself out. In the second half of the fight, Malignaggi appeared to slow down. Broner’s power—despite Malignaggi insisting that “girls hit harder than him”—clearly had an impact. Neither fighter appeared in danger of being knocked out, but Broner’s heavy shots were a factor. Maliganggi’s were not.
Malignaggi was upset with the decision, particularly the 117-111 score—the same score SI.com finished with—submitted by judge Tom Schreck. But though Malignaggi put in a pretty good performance and can still be a factor at welterweight, Broner was clearly the better fighter—and the winner.
2. Broner’s rise stalls: No question, Broner won the fight. But did he distinguish himself doing it? Broner fought 30-45 seconds per round, enough to outclass Malignaggi but against some of the top fighters at 140 and 147 pounds, Broner could run into some problems. There is no doubting Broner’s talent. The shoulder-roll defense, perfected by Floyd Mayweather, who watched from ringside, is a major weapon. It’s tough to hit Broner clean, and his superior speed, power and precision make him as dangerous as anyone in or around his weight class. But younger, faster, more elusive fighters will find ways to take advantage of his reluctance to engage as much as he could.
“I’m 32, I don’t think he would have beaten a 25-year-old Paulie Malignaggi,” Malignaggi said. “He’s got some talent, but he’s not a guy with the talent to carry the sport.”
3. A true heel is born: Let’s be honest: Broner can be insufferable. He came to the ring rapping, with his whole team decked out in gold robes. He spent the entire fight talking to Malignaggi, mocking him for not being fast enough to hit him. And after the fight he continued yapping, continued to push the notion that he stole Malignaggi’s girlfriend from him. Broner is young, just 23, but that kind of behavior is a turn-off, evidenced by the cacophony of boos that rained on him during a postfight interview.
“The kid is not an example for anyone to look up to,” Malignaggi said. “He’s not a good person.”
Indeed, Broner’s behavior is unbearable … but it could be smart. No one this side of the WWE likes a heel as much as boxing, and there is plenty of evidence that bad boys—most notably Mayweather—make money. “Being disliked is as powerful a sales tool as being liked … sometimes more,” tweeted promoter and former HBO executive Lou DiBella, and he’s right. Broner’s ratings on HBO were enormous, and he is walking (rapping?) down a Mayweather-like path, where more fans will watch to see him lose than win. But as Mayweather has proven, it doesn’t matter why you watch, as long as you do.
— Chris Mannix