by Mitch Abramson
For a fight that has been nearly swallowed up by trash talk, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that even the trainers are getting involved in voicing strong opinions. That’s what happened on Tuesday during a public workout for the welterweight title bout between Paulie Malignaggi and Adrien Broner when Broner’s trainer, Mike Stafford, predicted that Broner would do away with Malignaggi before the final bell on Saturday.
“I don’t see him going over six,” Stafford said of Malignaggi. “He might be lucky. As you know, Adrien’s knockout ratio is among the highest today.”
In response, Malignaggi barely winced.
“Come get it,” Malignaggi said at the same public workout at Gleason’s Gym in Brooklyn.
But when Broner hinted that he was sleeping with a former girlfriend of Malignaggi’s, even calling her on his cell phone during a press conference last month in Las Vegas and putting her on speaker, it seemed to annoy Malignaggi and elevate the trash talking to a new and painful level heading into their fight on Saturday at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn for Malignaggi’s WBA title.
Broner suggested that Malignaggi, who grew up in Brooklyn, had gotten physical with his former flame, a charge that Malignaggi flat out rejected on Tuesday.
“Who goes to Twitter and Facebook instead of the cops when they’ve been physically assaulted?” Malignaggi said. “It was a situation where I’d rather not talk about it and give her any press because that’s what she wanted in the end.”
The personal attack by Broner (26-0, 22 knockouts) and the rabid trash talking between the two has distracted from what is an otherwise interesting match-up between an up-and-coming superstar in Broner who is rising two weight classes and a tough, confident veteran in the 32-year-old Malignaggi (32-4, 7 knockouts) who will attempt to show that he is still worthy of getting big fights in a bout that will be aired on the Showtime network.
The girl in question, who was referred to as “Jessica” by both fighters, had faked a pregnancy earlier this year in an attempt to get closer to Malignaggi, Malignaggi said. It was an ordeal that weighed on him and that he had resolved just weeks before the May 4 press conference when the 23-year-old Broner rekindled those memories with the stunt.
“I didn’t appreciate my personal life being brought out publicly like that,” Malignaggi said on Tuesday, speaking in a section of the gym that was cordoned off from where Broner was earlier. “You can keep it sporty and talk trash. You can tell me you’re going to put me in the hospital. You can tell me all kinds of stuff and after the fight it’s like, ‘Alright, whatever, man. It’s a game face. But don’t bring my personal life into it, dude. My personal life is not for public knowledge especially when I went through an issue like that. That’s what really ticked me off in the end."
"It didn’t bother me for the sake of Jessica, it bothered me for the sake of the situation that I had to deal with for a few months- this is a girl that invented a pregnancy on me,” Malignaggi went on. “She had to get to close to me at all costs. It’s a weird situation that I’d never been through before and I’m sure athletes and actors go through these types of situations but I had never been through that to that extent before.”
Broner, who holds a WBC lightweight title, nearly beamed with joy when asked if it was somewhat dishonorable that he resorted to such tactics to get under an opponent’s skin.
“Hey, AB gets around, you know that,” Broner said, referring to his initials. “I do [stuff] like that. It’s not below the belt. Hey, why not? Why not? It makes the fight bigger. It got her a little camera time.”
Malignaggi said he wasn’t surprised that Broner went to such an extreme to annoy him.
“Because he has no class,” Malignaggi said. “He’s rude; he’s no morals, he has no manners so I wasn’t surprised. But I was surprised that it went that far. If someone told me if Adrian had the opportunity he would do it- do you think he would do it? I’d say yeah. I just didn’t think it would come to that.”
Beyond the personal attacks, the two probably share more in common than they’d like to admit. Both Malignaggi and Broner have been attacked by critics who believe they have been afforded advantages because of their connections and styles. Observers (with Malignaggi leading the way) have disparaged the caliber of opponents that Broner has faced while linking his success to his powerful manager, Al Haymon.
“They always find something bad to say about Adrien Broner,” Broner said. In the same vein, Malignaggi disparaged those who have made him a huge underdog against Broner.
“I don’t respect most historians or writers opinions at all,” Malignaggi said. “They don’t faze me, but I do fight for myself and that’s one thing I told myself I would do after the [Amir] Khan loss because nobody was going to think positively about me after that loss. I’m going to stop trying to make everyone happy and just fight for myself. And I have yet to lose a fight since and there’s a reason for that. I could care less about the critics. I could care less about the odds. I could care less about anything. They’re going to ring the bell on Saturday night and it’s going to be me and Adrien Broner. He says he’s coming to kick my ass. I’m coming to kick his ass.”
Finally, something the two fighters could agree on.
Stafford, Broner’s trainer, dismissed the trash talk as simply a vehicle to get the fight to the masses, going so far as to say that afterward he wouldn’t be surprised if the fighters were the best of friends.
“Anytime Adrien fights somebody and then after the fight they be best of friends,” Stafford said of a scenario that seems very unlikely with each passing day given all the trash talk involved.
Mitch Abramson covers boxing for the New York Daily News and BoxingScene.com.