Adrien Broner (right) defeated Gavin Rees to retain the WBC lightweight belt in February. (AP)
LAS VEGAS -- The smack talk between Paulie Malignaggi and Adrien Broner has already gone digital, with two of the most social media savvy fighters in boxing spending the last month engaged in a Twitter and Instagram street fight. But last weekend, at a press conference to promote their June 22 welterweight title fight, Broner took it to the next level. Sporting a white t-shirt with the words “Hey Paulette” emblazoned in red letters on the front, Broner stepped to a podium and declared that Malignaggi’s ex-girlfriend, Jessica, was now his “sweetheart.” He then proceeded to call Jessica, and have a conversation with her on speakerphone.
From there it got uglier, with Broner suggesting that Malignaggi used to hit his ex, and Malignaggi -- who doubles as a Showtime boxing analyst -- degrading her and Broner with a variety of slurs, all in front of an audience sprinkled with women and children.
The two will settle their differences in June in the ring, where Broner, 23, has yet to be beaten. Many have tabbed Broner (26-0) as boxing’s next big thing, a Floyd Mayweather-like talent with sharp defensive skills and blistering power in both hands. Last year, Broner moved from super featherweight (130-pounds) to lightweight (135-pounds), pounding Antonio DeMarco over eight lopsided rounds to win the WBC belt. In March, Broner defended the title, knocking out former titleholder Gavin Rees in five rounds.
As a lightweight, Broner’s options were limited. An anticipated unification fight with Ricky Burns never materialized. And when Broner looked up to the 140-pound division -- perhaps the deepest in boxing -- all of the top contenders had fights already scheduled. So Broner looked to welterweight (147-pounds) and Malignaggi (32-4), the WBA titleholder, who quickly accepted the fight.
“I was disappointed we didn’t get the Burns fight because the media and the fans wanted it,” said Broner’s trainer, Mike Stafford. “I was happy for Ricky because Ricky was smart enough to know that he couldn’t beat Adrien, and his team protected his business. Other than that, we have to move on. That’s one of the reasons we are fighting Paulie. We have not been getting the notoriety for who he was beating. People still saying we haven’t fought anybody. Paulie was the name that we felt when we beat, people will to start realize that this kid is for real. Because lot of people still think this kid is a joke.”
Stafford says he has no concerns jumping two weight classes with Broner, who often comes to camp in the high 140’s and routinely spars with 150 and 160 pounders.
“Adrien will be much stronger,” Stafford said. “Paulie is not a full-fledged 147-pounder, anyway. It would be different if we were fighting a 147-pounder who has been that weight for years. Paulie just got to 147. When he was an amateur, he was a little guy. His speed got him where he is today. But we have speed and power. Paulie is really not a full-fledged 147. Most 147-pounders walk around 160, 165, then they come down. Both these guys are light guys.”
As for the criticisms of Broner -- both in the ring and out -- Stafford urges people to get to know him before passing judgment.
“He is still young and most don’t know anything about him,” Stafford said. “They don’t know where he comes from. When Floyd or Oscar [De La Hoya] does something [crazy], they wave it off. With this kid, it’s something different. The world doesn’t know."
-- Chris Mannix