By Ivan G. Goldman
This June has been a fine month for fight fans, and the entertaining shows may keep coming as Showtime and archrival HBO press on with their dazzling game of one-upmanship.
Next Saturday, Showtime analyst Paulie Malignaggi slips off his tie and steps back into the Showtime ring, putting his WBA welterweight title on the line against undefeated brag-master and strip club connoisseur Adrien Broner. Broner and his notorious tongue have definitely gotten under the skin of Malignaggi.
Broner, who’s jumping two weight classes to get to Malignaggi, hopes to bring his speed and punching power with him into the 147-pound class. Only sixteen months earlier, on Feb. 25, 2012, he weighed in at 130 against previously undefeated Eloy Perez. In his next outing Broner pulled a fast one, giving up his WBO super featherweight title with a smile the day before the fight. That’s when he stepped on the scale and weighed in at three and a half pounds over the limit before stopping Vicente Escobedo in round five the next night.
He subsequently picked up the WBC lightweight title from Antonio DeMarco and held it for one defense against Gavin Rees before challenging Malignaggi, who will be on home turf in Brooklyn Saturday.
Malignaggi, 32-4 (7 KOs), is the kind of test fighters like to take as they move up in weight. Why? He owns a title yet tends to lose big fights. And the icing on the cake is that he lacks one-punch knockout power. In fact, let’s face it — he lacks power period, having scored only seven stoppages in his 36 outings.
On the undercard, Seth Mitchell will try to avenge a shocking loss when he takes on Jonathan Banks in a heavyweight rematch. Last time they met up Mitchell, who some observers thought might be on his way to shaking up the heavyweight division, couldn’t make it to the end of the second round.
After all that gets settled, HBO takes its turn again June 28 with kayo artist Gennady Golovkin defending his WBA middleweight title against England’s Matthew (Mac the Knife) Macklin in Mashantucket, Conn.
In other action this month, Mikey Garcia thoroughly dismantled Juan Manuel Lopez on HBO last Saturday. And a week before that, Showtime presented Marcos Maidana’s thrilling welterweight victory over Josesito Lopez. Lopez was ahead on two judges’ cards when Maidana got him out of there in the sixth round.
The networks’ struggle for viewers, bragging rights, and cold cash has heated up as never before now that the lines are so clearly drawn, with Bob Arum’s Top Rank sharing a trench with HBO while Oscar De La Hoya and Richard Schaefer’s Golden Boy Promotions down in the same foxhole with Showtime.
ESPN2 hasn’t sat still either. Friday night it carried two exciting back-to-back kayos from West Orange, New Jersey.
Malignaggi makes a good point when he looks at Broner’s record of 26-0 (22 KOs) and asks, where are the big names? Trouble is, Malignaggi, a slippery opponent who’s proved he will fight anybody, hasn’t fared so well against top fighters. He’s been stopped by Englishmen Ricky Hatton and Amir Khan and lost to Miguel Cotto and Floyd Mayweather. He also lost to Juan Diaz, but that was in Texas. He won a unanimous decision in the rematch on neutral ground in Chicago.
A cynic might look at Broner’s jump to welter and note that it conveniently allows him to hurdle past the likes of tough 140-pounders such as Lucas Matthysse, Danny Garcia, and Mike Alvarado. But it’s not unusual for fighters to select the division that holds the biggest financial opportunities, and welterweight just happens to be golden goose Floyd Mayweather’s favorite place to compete.
It’s never easy to plan ahead in a sport like boxing, where a split second of inattention can change everything. But if Mayweather gets past Canelo Alvarez in their Sept. 14 super-match and Broner manages to stay in the spotlight, well, both their careers are steered by microphone-shy manipulator Al Haymon. Broner wouldn’t have to look very hard to find Floyd’s phone number.
Meanwhile, although the intense rivalry between HBO-Top Rank and Showtime-Golden Boy does have its positive side, it won’t look so swell when great fights don’t get fought because the two sides refuse to sit down together and make them happen.
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.