I didn’t post a prediction for this past weekend’s important fight between Adrien Broner and Paulie Malignaggi. I would have wanted to, not knowing the unexpected outcome of the fight, and in general, that prediction would have been correct. Everyone knew Malignaggi would lose and that Broner’s star power isn’t limited to the lightweight division. I probably would have predicted a knockout, but whatever my inclination might have been, I’m glad I didn’t make that prediction. People who thought Malignaggi would lose a one-sided fight might be tempted to call their assessments of each fighter accurate, but in reality, I don’t think anyone realized nor accounted for just how delicate Broner’s opposition had been up until Malignaggi. Broner did look strong against a full welterweight, but certainly Malignaggi is at the lower end of the punching-power spectrum, and not at the peak of his career. Broner should have looked strong. He should have looked dominant. While Malignaggi never had a foothold to mount a comeback in the fight, he made close rounds up until the final bell. It wasn’t because Broner was giving him a pass to try for a late-round knockout, and it wasn’t because Malignaggi is a master of defense. It seems analysts are either unaware or unwilling to circulate this information that seems so apparent to me.
We all have to take stock and regain some perspective on Broner’s talent. He looks like a more offense-minded, more physical Floyd Mayweather and misses no opportunity to remind us of the fact, but is he really? Mayweather used to emphasize the more caustic, offensive elements of his “Money” persona, but his most villainous behavior in the ring was probably when he knocked out a careless Victor Ortiz. Broner, on the other hand, likes to play at his well-mannered, too-cool-to-care playboy act. Broner’s in-ring conduct, however, at least with Malignaggi, demonstrated the kind of reckless temper we would more likely expect from Mayweather, using knees and punches to the back of the head in frustration. Fans and analysts used to criticize Mayweather for his tendency to use footwork and holding in the ring to avoid dangerous exchanges, but he’s since proven to be just as adept at trading punches with legitimate welterweights as he is at running circles around them. Actually, Broner was the one unable to get off punches even as he walked down the much more active and much less accurate Malignaggi. No one has tested Broner’s chin yet, but we might find it even more suspect than the public’s perception of Mayweather’s ability to take a punch used to be, when someone finally does. So maybe we do have a developing Mayweather on our hands, but maybe he’s not the Mayweather we always wanted. Maybe he’s the Mayweather we were always afraid we’d get.