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 Broner’s 12 round unanimous decision wasn’t as dazzling as the gold shorts he wore in the ring.
But a win’s a win, and Broner’s 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 wasn’t 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 champion’s face. Malignaggi stayed busy to the bell, even though most of his shots landed on his foe’s arms.
Broner began to stalk in the second round, leaving him open for incoming fire, but the fire coming in wasn’t bothering him. Malignaggi wasn’t shying away from exchanges, sending in overhand rights with abandon while also digging to the body. Broner’s 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. Broner’s 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 wasn’t giving it to him.
In round five, Broner was on target with both hands, sending sweat flying from Malignaggi’s 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 weren’t as easy to dismiss, making it the challenger’s biggest round of the fight thus far.
The seventh round featured some crowd-pleasing back and forth exchanges between the two combatants, with Broner’s 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 arm’s 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.
Seth Mitchell may have gotten even with Johnathan Banks in their heavyweight rematch, avenging his November 2012 defeat to the Detroiter, but this was probably not the way he wanted to win, taking a less than scintillating unanimous decision in a 12 rounder that was met with boos from start to finish.
Scores were 115-112, 117-109, and 114-112 in the NABO and WBC International heavyweight title fight.
After the wild-swinging intensity of the previous bout between Sakio Bika and Marco Antonio Periban, the fans at Barclays Center booed the tentative start to the heavyweight bout almost immediately, but neither fighter was willing to take too many chances in that first round no matter what anyone thought.
There was little change to the pace for most of the second round, drawing boos again, but with less than a minute left, Mitchell scored a questionable knockdown from what appeared to be a right to the back of the head. Banks, unhurt, protested and rose quickly, but there would be no change of the call from referee Mike Ortega.
Mitchell got off some good shots in the third, but it was Banks that went back to the corner with the better outlook on the fight after rocking his foe repeatedly in the final minute, with only the bell apparently keeping Mitchell from a trip to the canvas.
Maryland’s Mitchell got himself back in the fight in round four, even taking a couple hard shots well without flinching, but his punch output was doing nothing to deter Banks from moving forward throughout. That changed in the fifth, as Mitchell was able to corner Banks and tee off with a few power shots, drawing oohs from the crowd with each swing. By now, Mitchell seemed to have his legs and his swagger back, even as Banks looked to lower the boom once more.
What was expected to be a war had ultimately turned into a war of nerves in round six, with neither fighter willing to let their hands go, and round seven was no better outside of two right hands landed by Mitchell.
A fight briefly (very briefly) broke out in the eighth, with Banks getting the better of the exchanges as he showed signs of life for the first time in a few rounds. At this point, you had to wonder what Banks’ late great trainer Emanuel Steward would have been telling his charge. Most likely it wouldn’t have been fit for mixed company, but it might have done the trick to get Banks to unleash his shots on Mitchell’s shaky beard.
In round nine, Mitchell pressed the action at close range, and while he wasn’t hurting Banks, he was doing something, likely earning him the round.
Nothing of note occurred in round ten, a sadly recurring theme throughout the bout, and even the boo birds took the frame off before returning in force late in the 11th and 12th rounds. As for the fighters, Mitchell marched forward and jabbed as Banks periodically fired back, landing few meaningful shots, making that the story of one of the most disappointing heavyweight fights of recent years. And that’s saying a lot.
With the win, Mitchell moves to 26-1-1 with 19 KOs; Banks, who knocked Mitchell out in two rounds in their first bout, falls to 29-2-1 with 19 KOs.
The fourth time was the charm for veteran Sakio Bika, as he outlasted Marco Antonio Periban for the vacant WBC super middleweight title, winning a 12 round majority decision to become a world champion after three failed tries against Joe Calzaghe, Lucian Bute, and Andre Ward.
“It means a lot,” said Bika. “He was a very tough guy. I respect him.”
Scores were 116-112, 115-113, and 114-114 for Bika, now 32-5-2 with 21 KOs; Periban suffers his first pro defeat, falling to 20-1 with 13 KOs.
Periban was a true ring general in the first round, with a stiff jab, effective movement, and solid defense keeping Bika from getting into any sort of rhythm. The Cameroon native began to get closer in the second round though, and the fact that Periban’s punches were apparently not hurting him didn’t bode well for the Mexican’s future success.
A couple thudding rights from Bika drew a reaction from the crowd in the third, but it didn’t nullify the seemingly endless array of jabs coming back at him from Periban.
An apparent knockdown by Periban in the fourth was wisely waved off by referee Harvey Dock as a slip, but the sequence seemed to light a fire under both men, as the exchanges heated up, with Bika holding a slight edge in the firefights.
Bika saw a knockdown of his own fall by the wayside himself in round five after the two got their feet tangled, but it didn’t deter the Australian, as his workrate increased while Periban’s sagged slightly. Periban got back on track in the sixth though, and he had seemed to find an answer to the riddle of Bika’s wild swinging style, setting the stage for a heated second half to the fight.
A third slip to the mat, this one Periban’s, punctuated a seventh round in which Bika’s late pressure and wild haymakers looked to be bothering the Mexican after he dominated much of the stanza.
The latter part of round eight got the fans roaring, with the aftermath of a stoppage to check a headbutt-induced cut on Periban’s head producing some vicious exchanges that saw Bika land flush repeatedly, only to see Periban still standing and firing back.
In the ninth, the two picked up where they left off in round eight, leaving defense at the door as they swung for the fences. And while Periban’s iron chin was impressive, he was also letting Bika tee off on it too much, allowing the Aussie to make an impression on the judges.
The tenth was a close one, with a late surge by Periban perhaps allowing him to get the nod for it on the scorecards.
Headbutts continued to be an issue in the fight as it wound down, with Bika emerging from a clash of heads in round 11 with a cut over his left eye. It didn’t alter his brawling game plan, but it was Periban’s more disciplined boxing that kept him ahead of his opponent.
With the bout still close, Bika and Periban decided that winning a world title was more important than defense, and both teed off on each other in the final round. With a minute left, the crowd got on their feet, and just when Bika seemed to be surging ahead, Periban would fire back, and then the pattern would repeat in reverse, putting an exclamation mark on a true championship fight.
Three-time United States Olympian Rau’Shee Warren kept his unbeaten slate intact in bantamweight action with an impressive second round TKO of Puerto Rico’s Jovany Fuentes.
What looked to be a competitive bout on paper quickly unraveled when it was revealed that Fuentes couldn’t get out of the way of Warren’s fast and accurate straight left. Two first round knockdowns for Warren resulted, but Fuentes was able to make it to the bell. A third left hand-induced knockdown followed early in round two though, and Fuentes’ corner had seen enough, calling for a stoppage 1:04 into the frame.
Warren ups his record to 13-0 with 3 KOs; Fuentes drops to 5-2 with 4 KOs.
Early on in their junior middleweight bout, former world champion Joachim Alcine looked to be no match for unbeaten young gun Julian Williams. But despite suffering three knockdowns, Alcine gave Williams a tough go before losing an eight round unanimous decision.
Scores were 77-72 across the board for Williams, now 13-0-1 with 7 KOs. Alcine, who has now lost four of his last six, falls to 33-5-1 with 19 KOs.
Dropped in the opening minute by an unrelenting barrage of power shots, Alcine seemed destined not to make it out of the first round, but the veteran survived and even showed signs of life in the second and third stanzas with some good work at close range as Williams took his foot off the gas and fought at a pace that favored the 37-year-old Haiti native.
A left hook on the break with a minute left in the fourth round changed the complexion of the fight, as Alcine hit the deck and then looked dazed as the bout resumed after a short break. A series of shots that began with another left hook – this time a legal one – put Alcine on the canvas again, but he made it through the round.
A single left hook sent Alcine to the canvas hard early in the fifth, and though the veteran rose, there were calls from the crowd for the fight to be stopped. Alcine would fight back, showing that he still wanted to be there, and he even outworked Williams throughout the rest of the round.
Round six was fought primarily on the inside, with Williams pulling ahead late in the frame after several heated exchanges at close quarters, and the same could be said for the seventh, with a strong Alcine round nullified by some flush power punching by Williams just before the bell.
Based on his performance in the final frame, Alcine probably wished he had another two rounds, as he rocked Williams with a flush shot to the face and again outworked the 23-year-old, garnering a well-earned positive reaction from the crowd as the fight concluded.
Staten Island’s Marcus Browne, a member of the 2012 United States Olympic team, remained unbeaten with a one-sided second round TKO of Mexico’s Ricardo Campillo.
Browne toyed with Campillo from the opening bell, with a straight left sending the Obregon native to the canvas a little over a minute into the first round. In the second, Browne lowered the boom, first hurting Campillo with a body shot and then putting him down with a three punch combination. Campillo gamely rose, but his corner had seen enough, with the fight being called at the 1:00 mark of round two.
Browne ups his record to 5-0 with 5 KOs; Campillo falls to 7-7-1 with 5 KOs.
Brooklynite Juan Dominguez made short work of Brad Patraw in their junior featherweight bout, knocking the Minnesotan out in just 96 seconds.
Patraw came out with an awkward style reminiscent of one of his cornerman, former contender Jason Litzau, but it only too Dominguez around a minute to figure it out, and after hurting Patraw with a left hook to the head, he finished the job moments later with a left hook to the body that produced a ten count from referee Ricky Gonzalez at the 1:36 mark.
With the win, Dominguez improves to 15-0 with 11 KOs; Patraw falls to 9-6 with 5 KOs.
Popular Brooklyn junior middleweight Frank Galarza remained unbeaten, upping his record to 10-0-2 (6 KOs) with a fourth round stoppage of Romon Barber.
Barber (4-5, 3 KOs) gave as good as he got in the first round, and often better than the favored Galarza, and the Kansas product’s success continued into the early part of round two. Yet by the second half of the round, Barber’s conditioning began to betray him and Galarza took advantage with accurate shots to the body and head.
A low blow by Galarza at the midway point of the third brought a brief halt to the action, and when the fight resumed, Barber got a brief second wind. It was Galarza finishing strong though and putting the round in the bank.
Galarza’s patient body attack paid off in the fourth stanza, with a steady barrage of shots downstairs finally forcing Barber to take a knee. Once he did, referee Earl Brown called the fight off, with the end coming at 1:54 of round four.
Toledo, Ohio lightweight Robert Easter Jr. upped his perfect record to 5-0 with five knockouts after a one-sided thrashing of game, but overmatched Antoine Knight.
Easter made every effort to get Knight (2-4, 1 KO) out of there in the first round, and he almost did, sending the Indiana native to the deck with a right hand in the final 40 seconds. Knight made it to his feet, but he only prolonged the inevitable, as the body attack and laser-like right hand of Easter brought on a third round visit to the doctor, who recommended the stoppage of the fight at 1:46 of the round.
2012 United States Olympian Jamel Herring got the night of action at Barclays Center started with a workmanlike four round unanimous decision win over Calvin Smith.
Scores in the lightweight bout were 40-35 and 40-36 twice.
Coram, New York’s Herring took much of the first round to get acclimated to his foe, but by the end of the opening frame he began tagging and rocking Smith with straight lefts. In the second, Herring moved his focus to the body, visibly hurting Smith, but the Pritchard, Alabama product hung tough. In the third, Smith emptied his tank trying to make something happen, but two near knockdowns by Herring continued to add to his lead, and while Smith wasn’t able to turn things around, making it to the final bell was a moral victory of sorts.
With the win, Herring improves to 4-0 with 2 KOs; Smith falls to 2-4.