by Cliff Rold
The cultivation of a star can develop many different ways. Supporting casts play a big part. To date, Adrien Broner has built nicely in a down period for both the Jr. Lightweight and Lightweight classes. A decade ago, those were the domains of Joel Casamayor, Acelino Freitas, Diego Corrales, Jose Luis Castillo, and a young Floyd Mayweather.
Broner won belts against Vicente Rodriguez and Antonio DeMarco.
While Rodriguez was the sort of anonymous pick-a-foe that often gets matched with developing names for vacant straps, DeMarco was regarded as possibly the tops of the Lightweight class. Broner can’t fight ghosts of yesteryear and, given his youth and number of fights, he’s actually been developed fairly well, and wisely, to the point he’s at today.
Much like Canelo Alvarez a year ago, Broner is on the cusp of facing the opponents who can begin to define him. 140 lbs. is absurdly loaded. 147 lbs. is top heavy, but the ceiling is strong and there is room to absorb the best of the class below. Broner has a good solid veteran on tap this weekend to get his feet wet in one of history’s great classes.
Can the veteran prove the ingénue is still wet behind the ears?
Let’s go to the report cards.
Title: WBA Welterweight (2012-Present, 1 Defense)
Previous Titles: IBF Light Welterweight (2007-08, 2 Defenses)
Height: 5’8 ½
Weight: 146.4 lbs.
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 147.05 lbs.
Hails from: Brooklyn, New York
Record: 32-4, 7 KO, 2 KOBY
Rankings: #4 (Ring), #5 (ESPN), #8 (BoxingScene), #10 (TBRB)
Record in Major Title Fights: 5-3, 1 KO, 2 KOBY
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Defeated: 6 (Miguel Cotto L12; Lovemore N’Dou UD12, SD12; Ricky Hatton TKO by 11; Juan Diaz L12, UD12; Amir Khan TKO by 11; Vyacheslav Senchenko TKO9)
Title: WBC Lightweight (2012-Present, 1 Defense)
Previous Titles: WBO Super Featherweight (2011-Present, 1 Defense)
Weight: 146.8 lbs.
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 132.1 lbs.
Hails from: Cincinnati, Ohio
Record: 26-0, 22 KO
Rankings (at 135): #1 (TBRB, Boxingscene, ESPN, BoxRec, Ring)
Record in Major Title Fights: 4-0, 4 KO
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Defeated: 3 (Daniel Ponce De Leon UD10; Antonio DeMarco TKO8; Gavin Rees RTD5)
Pre-Fight: Speed – Malignaggi B+; Broner A
Pre-Fight: Power – Malignaggi C-; Broner A
Pre-Fight: Defense – Malignaggi B; Broner B
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Malignaggi B+; Broner A
To his credit, Malignaggi’s two finest performances came in title winning efforts. Defeating N’Dou for his first strap at 140 and Senchenko at 147, Malignaggi showed off why he has been so hard on all but the elite. He’s also shown tremendous heart in his three real losses (his loss in the first fight with Juan Diaz is largely held in disregard), battling through tremendous punishment and never really quitting.
Both of his stoppage losses were about saving him from himself.
Broner is coming up two weight divisions for this fight. Does that mean Malignaggi, who often appears to bring knives to gunfights, finally has the heavy artillery?
Let’s not get carried away. Anyone who saw the weigh-in Friday saw a Broner who looks like what he’s been inside the ring for a while now. Sure, he’s been making lower weights on Friday, but he’s been a Welterweight on Saturday’s for a minute. In that sense, Broner is finally where his body more naturally belongs and at a point where his game seems to have sharpened.
While his defense is still a work in progress, and probably his most overrated asset, Broner showed against DeMarco and Gavin Rees just how potent his offense can be. Unlike both those foes, Malignaggi won’t be the sort of compliant, stationary pocket targets those two were.
That could make this fight a stinker in spots. Malignaggi does everything off the jab and he’s willing to use his legs. He’s not going to lead so Broner will have to hunt. Broner has no problems coming forward but it may take a few rounds to line a moving target up.
If he can, Broner is the quicker man, he’ll be the heavier handed man, and it would be no shock if he were the bigger man in the ring either.
This fight is some of the best proof available of just how little merit there really is in so many of boxing's belts. Malignaggi’s win over Senchenko was nice, but Senchenko was regarded as being middle of the pack, at best, at Welterweight and Malignaggi is about the same. He’s arguably the best fighter Broner has been in the ring with, an example of why many are still reluctant to embrace the Cincinnati native. Malignaggi has always been a solid pro and he will be again. If he has the majority of the world with egg on their faces Sunday morning, good for him.
The feeling though is this is not his show and he is not the better fighter. Broner, who has shown great potential in two terribly shallow divisions, is taking a very careful step up here against a guy who has never shown power and this has the look of a walk. Broner’s possible big tests are out there. They have names like Matthysse, Garcia, and maybe even Mayweather.
Malignaggi is a step in that direction. The pick is Broner by stoppage sometime before the 11th round.
Report Card Picks 2013: 26-15
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene and a member of the Transanational Boxing Ratings Board, the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel, and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]