It's not very often fighters jump up two weights to make their divisional debut against a legitimate, experienced alphabet titleholder. What happens less often still is for the man skipping an entire class - at least for the time being - to then be installed as short as a 20-1 betting favourite.
Such is the impact that Adrien Broner (26-0, 22 KOs) has had over the past two years, in spite of - it must be said - beating some fairly modest opposition along the way, though, that it's hard to be truly surprised, even if all logic points to the price being overly prohibitive. Simple mathematics tells us that, at that -2000 tag (currently offered by British bookmaker Stan James - Broner ranges from a market-best -1000 to -1800 elsewhere), the career super-featherweight-recently-turned-lightweight is over 95% likely to beat Paulie Malignaggi (32-4, 7 KOs), a man well used to fighting the elite at 140, and one plenty good enough to keep himself in the mix a division above. Factor in the always-possible draw to that percentage mix and the dwindling number that remains tells you exactly what the layers make of Paulie's chances here.
For perspective, Broner was available at anything from 33-1-on to 50-1-on for the procession against an overmatched, but game, Gavin Rees last time out, yet marked up as as big as 7/1-on (-700) in his challenge for Antonio DeMarco's strap at 135. It's that fight, then, that would appear to have been Broner's coming-out party, as it were, with the oddsmakers. Clearly, in terms of pure ability, the disparity between DeMarco and Malignaggi is, at worst for Paulie, neglible, and yet this is seen as a gimme for Broner, despite the weight change.
Really, it's hard to argue that Malignaggi (+800) doesn't represent at least some modicum of value, as unappealing as backing him here may sound. But how does he win? The Brookyln man is so frustratingly inconsistent - see his tame showing against Pablo Cesar Cano back in October for proof of that - that it's hard to say with any real uncertainty what kind of Paulie turns up, and what kind of resistance Broner will really have to overcome. At his best, Malignaggi is a flashy, well-paced, resilient, slippery boxer; at his worst, he cuts a moody, innocuous, famously light-hitting figure - always competent, but far from always a real actual threat. Let's not kid ourselves here: it's the latter of the two, plus the morsel of name value that Malignaggi still holds at the very top level, that is the reason Adrien Broner has been put into this fight.
The Broner detractors - and ability aside, there's always going to be enough of those around when his out-of-ring attitude is so (mostly intentionally, I think) abrasive - will tell you that, for a Mayweather-lite (again, their words), the Cincinnati man is much too easy to hit. Malignaggi has a little more sting at welterweight than he ever did in the divisions below, surprisingly, but 7 KOs in 32 wins tells what's already a fairly well-trodden story. Assigning a puncher's chance to Malignaggi is stretching the commonly-accepted definition of the term, and the 25-1 (+2500) that Paulie ends things, on his terms, inside the distance is as appealing as the prospect of an inevitable rematch and the boorish trash talk that'd accompany it.
That five-round mauling of Rees marked the 21st time in 22 KOs that a Broner fight ending inside the distance has failed to see the seventh round or beyond - only DeMarco bucked the trend - and so it's no surprise to see another efficient Broner stoppage at firm odds-on. It's a general -200 that Malignaggi doesn't make it to the scorecards, while statistically the +260 that Broner makes it 22/23 and finishes the fight anywhere in the first half has to hold some appeal. Malignaggi, though, is nothing if not persistent. Stopped twice in four losses, it took both Ricky Hatton and Amir Khan most of the duration to inflict 11th round TKOs on the New Yorker, and so while a blowout here would continue a similar theme, it's certainly debatable as to whether Broner can force it, or indeed will go looking for it.
It's the Ponce de Leon fight that many will still look at the most obvious glimpse of where Broner will struggle, and the way he laboured to a contentious against a stylistically-awkward opponent will give those looking to side with the decision much encouragement. A judge's scorecard in an Adrien Broner is one of those lesser-spotted beasts, but it's a best-priced +225 that he'll need the full distance to get it done here, with Malignaggi a +1200 shot to pull the upset on points.
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