Adrien Broner was the bigger talker and the bigger puncher Saturday night, scoring enough hard blows to beat hometown hero Paulie Malignaggi in a 12-round split decision and take Malignaggi’s WBA welterweight title.
Fighting for the first time at 147 pounds after moving up from lightweight, Broner had enough power to overcome a gritty fight by Malignaggi and remain unbeaten in 27 fights. He won his third title in as many weight classes while cementing his reputation as one of the rising stars in boxing.
With Floyd Mayweather Jr. watching from ringside, Broner talked throughout the fight to Malignaggi, who was plenty game but wasn’t able to keep Broner off of him. Broner was unable to knock Malignaggi down, but won round after round to take the decision in the fight at Barclays Center.
Broner had talked plenty before the fight, too, promising to knock Malignaggi out. He wasn’t able to do that, but scored enough with lead right hands and left hooks to dominate the fight from the middle rounds on.
Despite that, one ringside judge had Malignaggi winning 115-113 while Broner was favored 115-113 by a second judge and 117-111 by a third. The Associated Press had Broner winning 117-111.
"He’s a world class fighter," Broner said. "To come to somebody’s hometown and beat them on a split decision, that’s saying something."
Malignaggi did plenty of trash talking before the fight himself, and taunted Broner several times during the fight. But while he landed a lot of punches, none of them seemed to have much effect on Broner, who kept pressing the attack throughout the bout.
"He couldn’t hit me. He couldn’t hit me," Broner said. "He was shadowboxing."
Malignaggi fought bravely and he fought hard, trying desperately to find a way to win before his hometown fans. But even though Broner was moving up two weight classes he was bigger than Malignaggi and, more importantly much stronger.
After allowing Malignaggi to take the first few rounds with his speed and precision, Broner began walking him down and landing some thudding punches. By the middle rounds he was hurting Malignaggi to the body, though after taking a body punch in the sixth round Malignaggi stuck his tongue out at Broner to taunt him.
"He worked for about 30 seconds every round," Malignaggi said. "This was a close fight. I don’t mind if you had him winning close or me winning close, it was that kind of a fight."
Malignaggi, who works as a commentator for Showtime network fights, complained afterward that the loss was due to boxing politics.
"I’m not saying it was fixed, but it’s always the more connected fighter who gets the decision," Malignaggi said.
Ringside punch stats showed Broner landing 246 of 524 punches while Malignaggi landed 214 of 843. But while Malignaggi was the busier fighter, Broner landed punches that seemed to score a lot more heavily.
Broner improved to 27-0 with 22 knockouts while Malignaggi fell to 32-5.
In another fight, heavyweight Seth Mitchell avenged his knockout defeat to Johnathon Banks, though he was far from impressive in doing so.
Mitchell, a former linebacker at Michigan State, knocked Banks down in the second round and did enough to win rounds after that. He ended up taking a unanimous 12-round decision in a fight that was heartily booed by the crowd at Barclays Center for a lack of action.
"I used patience and distance," Mitchell said. "I was ready to go the 12 rounds and use my stamina."
Banks stopped Mitchell in the second round of their first fight last November, but didn’t seem interested in pushing the action in the rematch. Though he hurt Mitchell with a flurry of punches in the third round and scored well in the fourth, he threw only occasional punches in a cautious effort the rest of the way.
"I gave it all I could," Banks said. "I did as much as I could but I wasn’t able to take advantage this time."
Mitchell was fighting just two weeks after his wife gave birth to a stillborn son.