When Paulie Malignaggi first won a world title Adrien Broner was serving 14 months in prison and looking at a life in crime.
This Saturday at the Barclays Centre in Brooklyn, which is Malignaggi's hometown, Broner fights the Italian-American for the WBA welterweight title and starts as both a prohibitive favourite and a hated young man.
Broner is 23, unbeaten in 26 fights and is jumping from lightweight, where he is a reigning world champion, to welterweight which is a jump in weight from 9st 10lb to 10st 7lb. It is the type of bold move that fighters made 50 years ago when there were far fewer weight divisions and far fewer options. It is also the type of jump that exceptional fighters make and Broner is an exceptional fighter.
"The weight is not an issue," insisted Broner. "He's bringing pillows, I've got bricks. It will be a knockout and that is why I'm the main attraction – his [Malignaggi's] career is in commentating. This is the end of his boxing career."
The pair launched their fight during a lewd, rude and foul-mouthed conference in Las Vegas where they exchanged insults and shared a phone sex tape of a woman who knew the pair intimately. The tone was set and their phone exchanges since have often gone too far. There are now so many layers of personal insults that it is difficult to point the finger of blame at either boxer specifically.
However, it is Broner's history and his ability to let his life on the streets return too often in incident after incident, many ugly and stupid, that has really started to make people take notice of Saturday's fight.
Broner served 14 months between 2007 and 2008 but has also been arrested since for a variety of offences including traffic violations, menacing, robbery, possessing a concealed weapon, assault and domestic violence. The charges were dismissed or the cases ended in acquittal every time, excluding the mysterious conviction that led to incarceration. "I don't want to talk about that," Broner insisted when asked.
In 2010, he was charged with but not convicted of snatching a purse; it is a story that somehow became a dubious fact online and was salaciously retold with the victim being 66 and the crime leading to his sentencing. She was not, it did not and at the same time it just added to the Broner list of woes.
He is, it has to be said, a fairly unpleasant young man and he seldom tries to hide his obnoxious behaviour with a transparent act of charity; in March, when he was 22, he was detained by the Miami police, who said in their report that he was drunk, after a security guard at a plush local hotel was bitten during a scuffle at 3.30am. It was during the same weekend that he filmed himself flushing $20 bills down the toilet, which is a felony offence in the US; on the same night a friend filmed him performing a sex act on a tattooed stripper at a Miami club. Mike Tyson would have approved, that is for sure.
This Saturday Broner is expected to win and, assuming he does, he will secure his place as one of the best boxers on the scene at the moment. Many of Broner's world title wins at super-featherweight and lightweight have been against good fighters that he reduced to bloodied losers. "I make good fighters look ordinary and I like that," Broner said.
In the ring on Saturday night Malignaggi will be as much as 20lb heavier and he will need the bulk to survive because in Broner he is fighting a man who could become the uncomfortable face of boxing for the next decade. I hope with the fame, money and recognition that Broner changes but history suggests that will not be the case.Reuse content