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Malignaggi and Broner ready to settle dispute tonight

By Graham Houston

Trash talking is very much a part of today’s boxing scene and it has been taken to extremes by Adrien Broner and Paulie Malignaggi in the build-up to tonight’s fight on Showtime in which Broner moves up two weight divisions to challenge Malignaggi for the WBA welterweight title at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Broner has mocked Malignaggi’s jab and move style, calling him a “one-armed bandit” and telling the media that Malignaggi is going to wish “there’s another corner he can run to”, while Malignaggi has criticised the calibre of Broner’s opponents and called Broner’s punching power overrated.

A more personal element has been brought into it, though, with Broner now enjoying a close personal relationship with a former flame of Malignaggi’s named Jessica. The impression I get is that Malignaggi has been rattled by the whole “Jessica” business — which is probably just what Broner intended.

Broner is a massive favourite, and I tend to agree with the oddsmakers that Broner will win this fight inside the distance.

Malignaggi is experienced and game, and he has always shown a good chin, so there is obviously a chance that he will be able to keep peppering Broner with quick jabs and hooks and an occasional right hand and get through the 12 rounds.

Broner, though, looks much the stronger man and he is younger and fresher. Malignaggi surprised me with his sharp performance when winning the title from Vyacheslav Senchenko in Ukraine 14 months ago, but in his last fight Paulie looked surprisingly hittable in eking out a split decision win over Pablo Cesar Cano, who knocked him down in the 11th round.

Malignaggi is 32 and he’s been boxing professionally for 12 years. His role as a ringside analyst for the Showtime network must have disrupted his preparations, if only a little bit. I see Paulie as coming to the end of his career. Broner, meanwhile, is one of boxing’s rising stars, with six KO wins in a row. Broner has promised that Malignaggi won’t go the distance, and I believe that Broner will be seeking to get a stoppage win.

Some are wondering whether Broner will be able to carry his punching power up with him from the lightweight division, but he was a big 135-pounder and I think he simply outgrew the weight class and will be hitting with plenty of authority at 147 pounds.

Malignaggi is likely to be competitive in the early rounds but I can picture Broner walking him down — even walking through him — and hurting Malignaggi with combinations.

It’s been a few years since Malignaggi met anyone with Broner’s hand speed — not since Amir Khan wore him down in 11 rounds in May 2010 — and if Pablo Cesar Cano was able to hit Malignaggi it seems logical to assume that Broner will do so, too. It’s possible that the personal nature of the pre-fight verbal exchanges has got Malignaggi more fired-up than is good for him, and in his desire to get Broner’s respect I feel there is a chance that Paulie might stay in front of Broner longer than is prudent.

Even if Malignaggi gets on his bicycle it won’t be easy to elude Broner for the full 12 rounds. Indeed, I don’t see how Malignaggi can keep Broner off him for too many rounds. Broner is a very good body puncher, and his heavy shots downstairs could slow Malignaggi down, and I see Broner’s hand speed and punch-variety as being just too much for Malignaggi.

We know that Paulie, boxing in his hometown, will be courageous, but by about the eighth or ninth round I think that there is a real chance that he will be getting punished to the extent that Malignaggi’s corner or referee Benjy Esteves might be thinking about stopping the fight.

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