For Malignaggi, this is either the gold watch final payday or a last shot at greatness before heading back to his Showtime ringside seat as an excellent boxing commentator.
“I mean it was a fight that was offered to me. I actually liked it when it was offered to me. I thought it was actually too good to be true and so there were other fights I was given as options but I felt like this was the one that paid the most first of all, which, obviously, is always the main key,” said Malignaggi when asked by this reporter during a recent conference call if he had a choice in taking the fight.
While he did have the right of opponent refusal, Malignaggi was denied a request when he requested that the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association (VADA) be used to perform random anti-doping tests on both he and Broner throughout their respective training camps. According to an interview conducted by Ben Thompson of Fighthype.com, Malignaggi claimed Golden Boy told him that either he accept testing with the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) instead of VADA or the fight was off. Malignaggi relented. As of that May 13 interview, when Malignaggi complained no samples had been collected since signing for the fight, he has had several samples taken and tested.
That kind of quiet capitulation, whether anyone admits it or not, is the first sign a fighter will lose. Broner seems to understand that. He has been dismissive with Malignaggi to the point of talking about him as if he is a moot point.
“He’s a very good talker. I mean he’s got some great talent. I mean, he’s a hell of a commentator. Other than that I really - I don’t know. He’s the world champion,” assessed Broner. “I mean, you know, if I was to look at the career and his - I would say he was born to be a commentator. He looks good. He’s got the looks. He can talk. I mean, in boxing, if it isn’t Adrien Broner or Floyd Mayweather, then I don’t really see anybody. He wouldn’t be a world champion if he wasn’t somebody but at the end of the day, he’s fighting Adrien Broner and I will be the ruler of boxing in about a year or two.”
At its core, this fight, pitting an aging beltholder transitioning to commentating (on the very network in which the bout is taking place) against a fighter many have tabbed as the network’s future pay-per-view attraction, is a pre-programmed outcome with a very small chance of failure.
“It’s not about who do I have to beat; it’s how I do my job. It don’t matter who I beat as long as I keep winning in the fashion that I do it. As long as I keep putting on shows, as long as my ratings keep going up, I will be the ruler of boxing,” said Broner.
The fight is so obviously one-sided that it’s fairly easy to root for Malignaggi. For a guy with only seven knockouts and hand problems, he’s stayed in the pocket and fought like he had bombs to drop all career long.
“I think you always want to have big fights, the big moment in your career,” Malignaggi said. “It’s always something that you strive to achieve. You always strive to get to fights like this. That’s what we live for, you know, as fighters. When you’re a kid and you’re in the gym and you’re working so hard, you dream of moments like this, the big crowd, the main event in the big arena, the big fight night. You dream of that moment, so it’s a motivating factor to be a part of something like this and that is really what drives me to train hard and still do this.”
Ever the experienced boxer who believes technique can solve any problem, Malignaggi sees Broner’s easy route to greatness as a plus for his side.
“We’re just training to get sharp. We’re not really training for him because the things that have worked against the ones he fought, it’s hard to really say they’ll work against me or the things that he’s done against the ones that he fought. It’s hard to say he’ll try those same things because really when you fight a bum, really anything will work,” said Malignaggi, assessing Broner’s competition while outlining what he thinks will be important in the bout. “When you’re fighting a world-class fighter, you’re going to have to actually come with a game plan. It’s hard to say. That’s why we didn’t really prepare for him. We just prepared and prepared with some good sparring partners and just be the best we can be because the game plan he may have for me may be altogether different than what he’s been fighting, the one he’s been using and whatnot.
“Like I said, when you fight the corner store dairy clerk every time you’re out there fighting, if you don’t have a new game plan, you’re not going to do it,” Malignaggi continued. “So now he’s fighting somebody real so it wouldn’t surprise me if he comes with a new bag of tricks, I guess some new looks, so that’s why I didn’t really train for anything I saw on video or anything like that. I stopped watching video regularly in camp for that reason.”
For the Golden Boy-promoted/Haymon-advised Broner, the future is now. Once the self-proclaimed “Mr. HBO,” Broner now follows his idol, Floyd Mayweather Jr. over to Showtime to get ready for his time and place at the center of the boxing universe.
“And if he gets it done, he will join Roberto Duran, Roy Jones Jr. and Robert Guerrero as the only fighters to win a world championship in their first fight after jumping over a weight class, so pretty impressive company if he’s able to get it done,” noted former COO of Golden Boy Promotions David Itskowitch.
This is historically true but again, it’s promoter-speak. By jumping up to face the feather-fisted Malignaggi, 32, a recognizable name but the least dangerous of the experienced fighters at 147, Broner skipped over the 140-pound division. That division is arguably the best in boxing today. With punchers like Lucas Matthysse, Ruslan Provodnikov and Danny Garcia lurking with Zab Judah and Lamont Peterson not far behind, many would skip 140 too. And those are just fighters available to the Golden/Haymon stable. Statistically, yes, Adrien Broner will be treading in territory reserved only for three other men. Who he is doing it against and when are whole other matters. The world of boxing has become an impatient place. Records of achievement must be accrued in timely fashion. It doesn’t seem to matter anymore who and how these “records” are being broken. For instance, Saul Alvarez supplanting Fernando Vargas as the youngest junior middleweight champion ever while doing it in a catch weight fight against a career welterweight he came in over the limit against.
Looking at all the factors, it’s hard not to look at this fight as nothing more than scripted greatness. What is an accomplishment if all systems appear set up so you can make history in the easiest fashion possible? We should be careful how we use “great” on Saturday night.
For any pro, the homecoming fight is one a fighter dare not fantasize of for fear of jinxing it.
“It’s the main event,” said Malignaggi. “I’m the world champion in the city where my family moved to. I came here and my family came here. When I got in the country, I didn’t speak English, so it’s the city where my life changed, kind of. Right now, I get to be on the big stage in the same city as world champion in the main event in a big arena. It’s the kind of things that you say people dream about but really, I could have never dreamt it before so these kind of fights are what stand out, not necessarily opponent. It could have been any opponent. I just wanted a big opponent and a name opponent that makes the fight this much bigger.”
But this isn’t Malignaggi’s night. On this night, he is part of a larger plan, one that doesn’t involve the little guy, the Italian immigrant, the independent fighter taking on the big machine and winning against all odds. To hear Broner tell it, the story we will see on Saturday has almost nothing to do with Paulie Malignaggi.
“Nothing is personal. Nothing is personal,” Broner proclaimed after Malignaggi and he exchanged heated words over the phone to the point where Malignaggi had to be muted. “At the end of the day, we still got to fight June 22nd. He could bring his siblings in the ring with him. It’s not going to help him. What I have to say is you know he needs to, like, stop all the cussing and all the other stuff he’s doing because at the end of the day, he really has a nine-to-five and I really want him to keep his job on Showtime because after June 22nd, like, boxing is really not going to be his biggest job he has. Like, the commentary job is going to be the biggest job for him after June 22nd so he’s a role model. Really, he’s a good commentator and people like seeing him on Showtime talking, so getting on the phone with me and talking crazy like that - if Showtime heard that, that do him no good.”
Call him crazy or unpredictable. Declare him a bad rapper or decry his off-kilter tweets and stripper incident video. But Adrien Broner knows what time it is and what time it is about to be.
“Okay, basically, I’m going to do me, regardless,” declared the future “Mr. Showtime.” “I’m going to come in dancing; I’m going to leave out dancing and I’m going to be victorious. I will be 23-year-old, three-time champion in three weight classes. I will make history on June 22nd. I heard there’s only two guys that have already done it and I will be the third. It’s going to be a hell of a fight, however long it lasts. And I’m going to get this money and my checks are bigger than his and at the end of the day, he better keep practicing his lines. And hopefully, the referee don’t stop the fight before it get too bad and he miss out on some jobs because after the fight, if the ref let it go on too long, he probably will miss out on a fight and then he will have to be at work with glasses on and I don’t know how good that be to his career.”
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