Paulie Malignaggi is known for speaking his mind when it comes to boxing politics and assessments of the sport in and out of the ring, and following his narrow loss to Adrien Broner this past weekend in Brooklyn, he's sure of two things: Broner's not as good as he's been hyped, and he doesn't compare to some of Malignaggi's better opponents.
In particular, Malignaggi says Broner is no Miguel Cotto or Amir Khan:
"As far as Miguel and Amir, compared to Broner, come on. You guys saw the difference. AB fought a 32-year-old Paulie Malignaggi. Miguel fought a 25-year-old Paulie Malignaggi and Amir fought a 29-year-old Paulie Malignaggi. You could see the differences in the performances. I think AB's pretty ordinary. I think he's pretty ordinary. And again, it's because he stands right there. He's right there for the return. ... Miguel just hits so hard and he was just, technically, very sound. And Amir's speed, he was just on another level at that time. I feel like Amir has slowed down a little bit for other reasons. Maybe [because] he's been in tough fights. But Amir, when I fought him, was just so fast, I mean so fast. You couldn't even compare the speed from Broner to Amir Khan at that time."
Some might say it's just sour grapes, or that hey, they all won, but look, if you go to a black and white bit of analysis (and I think it's more than that), then here are three things we can say, that I don't think are particularly debatable:
- Malignaggi had way more success against Broner than he did against Cotto and Khan, and he actually fought a pretty good fight with Miguel, too. The difference? Broner didn't do as much. That's on Broner.
- Khan has faster hands, or at least the 2010 Khan had faster hands than the 2013 Broner. If you really think there's a debate there, watch their Malignaggi fights back-to-back. I'm not saying Broner doesn't have fast hands, but I really don't think he compares to that version of Amir Khan.
- Broner has done nothing that stands comparison to prime Miguel Cotto yet.
These aren't meant to be knocks on Broner (27-0, 22 KO) on any sort of personal level, or a, "See! He's not as good as they say!" level, at least not from me. Personally, what I find interesting here is examining what I see as a letdown sort of performance from Broner. You can explain it away as weight if you want to, but I think there's more than that going on in this case. Broner didn't look like any 11-to-1 favorite compared to Malignaggi on Saturday. I thought Broner deserved the win he got, but it was a lot closer than it was supposed to be, simple as that. And Broner knows that, no matter what he says.
So in the end, what's the issue? I would make the argument that Broner's two best opponents have been Malignaggi and Ponce De Leon, both of whom are better fighters than Antonio DeMarco, and while I give Broner full, deserved credit for smoking DeMarco, it is somewhat easy to forget that this is a guy whose main claims to fame beforehand were getting brutalized by Edwin Valero, and valiantly snatching victory from the jaws of defeat against Jorge Linares. DeMarco had previously struggled with the likes of Anges Adjaho and Reyes Sanchez. He's a good fighter, but I would simply rank Ponce De Leon, a two-weight world titlist, and Malignaggi, also a two-weight world titlist, above him.
Those are also two guys against whom Broner has had mighty issues. Ponce and Malignaggi nearly beat him, and on a different night with different judges, who knows? Maybe they sneak out with wins. It's entirely conceivable -- we see worse scoring all the time than two 115-113 Malignaggi cards on Saturday would have been, or a pair of 96-94 Ponce De Leon cards would have been.
All that said, and as much as I believe it's a topic worth discussing at length, and theorizing about, and shooting the shit over, there is one other thing: Broner's 23. It seems hard to believe because we've had him shoved down our throats for the last two years by HBO and now Showtime, but if he's going to be an elite fighter, we haven't seen him get near as good as he's going to get. Is he going to really be the next Floyd Mayweather? Probably not. Floyd Mayweather is pretty goddamn great, though, and I don't expect to see another fighter who truly stands up to his overall ability any time soon, not Broner or anyone else. Broner, though, still has room to grow, to become a better, smarter fighter, to correct some of his flaws, and by all accounts, he's not a half-ass fighter in training or working to be as good as he can be.
We're going to be having this discussion, in some form, for a long time, is what I'm saying.