Paulie Malignaggi - Adrien Broner
On Saturday night from Brooklyn, N.Y., Barclays Center on Showtime, Oscar de la Hoya’s Golden Boy promotions brings together two of the biggest mouths in the sport and asks them to place their money firmly where their much vaunted vocal weaponry lies. If Adrien Broner [26-0 22 KO] and Brooklyn’s own Paulie Malignaggi can deliver a fight on the same scale as their pound for pound verbal tirades and adult humor infected barbs have, then we might have a potential Fight of the Year candidate.
The reality though, is that while former two weight titlist Broner is leaping two weight classes to fight for Malignaggi’s 147 pound strap, he is an overwhelming favorite in a bout forecast as a surefire rout. It’s not a slight on Malignaggi though - far from it. When it comes to comparing careers, Malignaggi is as seasoned as they come. While they have all been losses, he was faced some the best in the business, often at their primes - namely against Miguel Cotto, Ricky Hatton and Amir Khan. Nor did he look horrendously out of his depth. Malignaggi’s problem has always been that despite his unquestionable skill, he lacks power, with only seven knockouts to his credit.
As for Broner, he’s been universally hailed as the next Floyd Mayweather. Aside from the obvious parallels in stylings and brash demeanour, Broner possesses one the of the most dazzlingly delicious boxing cocktails - speed and power with a generous portion of mercurial talent. While it’s fair to say his level of opposition in the lower divisions has been nothing short of questionable, the manner in which he disposed of the likes of Vicente Escobedo (against whom he blew weight), Eloy Perez, and Vicente Rodriguez was still impressive.
Malignaggi can often jab his opponents to death, with 72% of all of his punches being jabs, the highest of any active fighter but against Broner, who put together his own swirl of powerful combinations it’s likely a foolhardy pursuit. While some may question Broner’s decision to bypass the 140 pound division and pick Malignaggi as the “softer” of his bids for a belt, it will still be an achievement for the youthful Broner to pick up a title in another division. Except on Saturday he might very well do it more convincingly than ever.
Johnathon Banks - Seth Mitchell
If there was ever a better example of how relentlessly yawn worthy American heavyweight boxing has become it’s the rematch of a not too talented but optimistically vaunted heavyweights Banks and Mitchell. Mitchell a former college linebacker was mentioned as a potential opponent for heavyweight supreme Wladimir Klitschko.
Instead, when the two faced off last November, Banks [29-1-1 19 KO] floored Mitchell [25-1-1] three times inside the second round and the bout was over as quickly as it had begun. The next great American heavyweight hope had been beaten by Banks, whose biggest claim to fame up to that point had been the fact that he helps train Klitschko. Both are genial characters in the division and it would be wrong to paint this as a grudge match when there has been an inkling of animosity. But given the stakes - with a shot against a Klitschko on offer in the not too distant future perhaps fans can expect a more rabid spectacle second time around.
Rances Barthelemy - Fahsi Sakkreerin
A nice aperitif to Saturday’s action is Friday’s installment of ESPN’s Friday Night Fights where one of a seemingly endless number of Cuban amateurs continues his professional odyssey. This time it’s Rances Barthelemy. Barthelemy [18-0 11 KO] who will be facing Thailand’s Sakkreerin [39-3-1 29 KO] in Minneapolis for a shot at junior lightweight champion Argenis Mendez. Barthelemy has undoubted skill and poise, even if he was lucky to emerge victorious in his last fight against Arash Usmanee. Expect the Cuban prospect to win, and do so convincingly.
Igor Guryashkin is a freelance journalist whose extensive work on combat sports has been featured in ESPN The Magazine and ESPN.com. He splits his time between New York and Louisville. Follow him on Twitter @IGuryashkinESPN.