By Ivan G. Goldman
When I saw Adrien Broner interviewed on Showtime after winning a split decision over Paul Malignaggi I was reminded of Abu Sakkar, the Syrian rebel commander who last month cut the heart out of a dead enemy soldier and ate some of it on camera.
Photo: Tom Casino/Showtime
The Broner video probably won’t get the same number of Internet hits as Sakkar’s, but camera-happy Broner, unlike his like-minded Syrian psychopath, was constrained by the legal framework of Brooklyn, New York.
Broner, like Sakkar, clearly believed winning wasn’t nearly enough. He had to turn the event into something much uglier than that. Thus he smiled into the camera and bragged, “I left with his belt and his girl.”
It was particularly odious because Malignaggi appeared to have, in sportsmanlike fashion, privately congratulated the victor only moments earlier. By reading their facial expressions, it seemed pretty clear that once the savage battle was over, Malignaggi felt a kinship with the man who’d just gone twelve tough rounds with him and was willing to put all the ugly back-and-forth verbal exchanges to rest. But Broner would have none of it. After getting the knife into his rival, he couldn’t refrain from giving it one last twist.
This time there was no blaming interviewer Jim Gray. Gray asked no improper questions. His problem was having to deal with an improper interview subject. In fact, interviewing Abu Sakkar looks like it wouldn’t be a whole lot different than interviewing Broner. Broner might even consider inviting Sakkar on his team for his next fight, though I foresee possible visa problems. Immigration authorities might frown on heart-eating applicants.
I don’t know the precise nature of the relationship history Paulie and Adrien might or might not have shared with the woman whose reputation was so cruelly abused by “The Problem” from Cincinnati. Whatever it was, it didn’t belong on international TV. The infuriated Malignaggi, rather than go into it, shouted a furious rant about judges’ decisions that so often are tilted in favor of the connected fighter.
Allow me to make this clear. I don’t think Broner is a particularly good guy. In fact, I think I could present plenty of evidence to show that he’s a downright creep. However, he’s only 23 and still has time to grow up. Also, he’s a heck of a fighter, and he won that fight. If he really scored it the way he saw it, Tom Miller, the judge who had it for Malignaggi, has lots to learn. His score was indefensible.
Paulie, for the most part, doesn’t throw punches properly. Broner almost always does. Repeatedly tapping your opponent across the belly is of little value. That’s what Malignaggi was doing. Slamming the head with sufficient force to snap it back is, however, what the sport is all about. Yes, it’s a cruel sport, but that’s the way it is.
Little pitty-pat punches are easy to get off because the thrower doesn’t put his weight behind them. He doesn’t swing his hips or his shoulders. This gives the thrower velocity without force. Throwing a punch correctly and getting it on target, then retrieving the glove so it can strike again or block a counterpunch is much, much harder, and much more prized on the scoring sheet of someone who knows how to score.
After the contest a fighter who throws punches the way Malignaggi throws them can complain all he wants. It’s a free country. But he’s not doing what he’s supposed to do in there. He is doing some of it. Paulie’s jab is tough to deal with, and it always takes tremendous courage for a fighter with limited punching power to get in there against a fighter like Broner who has both power and speed. Malignaggi has excellent footwork and speed and can really take a punch, but that won’t be enough against a more complete fighter, which is what Broner is. Broner is easier to hit than his idol Floyd Mayweather because he’s more willing to mix it up than Floyd is. That makes him exciting.
Good guys don’t always win and bad guys don’t always lose. Broner, 27-0 (22 KOs), now owns a piece of the welterweight title, and he’s still very young. If he doesn’t go off the rails he could become a force in this sport for years to come. All of us, including me, better get used to it.
Sick Justice: Inside the American Gulag, by New York Times best-selling author Ivan G. Goldman, is due out this month. It can be pre-purchased here.