By Thomas Gerbasi
BROOKLYN - Paulie Malignaggi was a Problem for Adrien Broner, that much was made clear over the course of their WBA welterweight championship bout Saturday night at Barclays Center. Not enough of a problem to beat the Cincinnati phenom, but enough that Broners 12 round unanimous decision wasnt as dazzling as the gold shorts he wore in the ring.
But a wins a win, and Broners was a clear one, despite the split verdict of 117-111, 115-113, and 113-115, as he added the 147-pound title to his championships at 130 and 135 pounds, making it another big night for the 23-year-old, despite the fact that the underrated Malignaggi was a prohibitive underdog heading into the fight.
Malignaggi wasnt going to lose big in his hometown of Brooklyn though, and he may have silenced a few critics in the process, presenting a style Broner had yet to see in the ring.
The Paulie chants started as soon as the bell rang, but Broner met them stone-faced as Malignaggi tried to work his jab. Content to stand in the pocket and potshot, it was Broner who was on target first with two stiff lefts that reddened the champions face. Malignaggi stayed busy to the bell, even though most of his shots landed on his foes arms.
Broner began to stalk in the second round, leaving him open for incoming fire, but the fire coming in wasnt bothering him. Malignaggi wasnt shying away from exchanges, sending in overhand rights with abandon while also digging to the body. Broners response came in the form of some trash talking and a couple rights of his own, but his frustration with Malignaggi became evident when the two tied up and Broner kneed the Brooklynite, drawing a stern warning from referee Benjy Esteves.
Keeping his offensive output to his fists, Broner tagged Malignaggi hard in the opening minute of the third round, but the champion shook the shots off and showboated before getting off the ropes and back to his busy body attack. Broners harder and more accurate shots were starting to add up as the round progressed though, giving him the frame.
Malignaggi continued to set a fast pace in the fourth, throwing punches in bunches that were point scorers, even if not intended to end the fight. Broner, on the other hand, was looking for a finisher. Malignaggi just wasnt giving it to him.
In round five, Broner was on target with both hands, sending sweat flying from Malignaggis head as the crowd tried to rally their hero. And it worked, as Malignaggi fired back in the final minute and again made Broner lose his cool, as the Cincinnati native teed off with an elbow. It was The Problem with the last word though, thanks to a big right hand just before the bell.
Midway through the sixth, Broner scored with a thudding shot to the body, but Malignaggi shook it off. The series of right hands that followed werent as easy to dismiss, making it the challengers biggest round of the fight thus far.
The seventh round featured some crowd-pleasing back and forth exchanges between the two combatants, with Broners harder shots giving him the edge, but Malignaggi unwilling to give ground.
Starting busier than he had previously, Broner stepped on the gas in the eighth and ninth, seemingly looking to close the show. And though the Ohio native won the rounds, again it was Malignaggi staying in the fight and continuing to fire back, even though his lack of power was keeping victory at arms length.
Malignaggi outworked Broner in the 10th round, bringing the crowd back into the fight, and he stayed busy in the championship rounds, even though the harder, flush blows were delivered by Broner, who picked up another title belt for his collection, but not without getting a fight in the process.
With the win, Broner improves to 27-0 with 22 KOs and 1 NC; Malignaggi falls to 32-5 with 7 KOs.