On paper, it is easy to dismiss this weekend’s fight between Danny Garcia and Paulie Malignaggi, which will headline a Premier Boxing Champions card on ESPN.
Garcia should be too big, too strong and too fresh for Malignaggi, who is on the back nine of his career and is a year removed from a four round beating against Shawn Porter that made him retire from the sport. All in all, it looks to be a short night and a devastating knockout that should pump some life in the stagnating career of the once red-hot Garcia.
Yet it doesn’t take a nuclear powered microscope to see that this fight may have more to it than many are lead to believe. Garcia has gradually moved up to Welterweight over the course of his last two fights, but has not looked any better despite the repeated claims that he’s stronger than ever at whatever weight he finds himself at. Malignaggi knows he’s the fall guy, but styles make fights, and he isn’t going to jump head first into an opportunity to get battered again.
Paper burns, after all. So who’s left standing when it’s all said and done?
Malignaggi is coming into the fight off of a loss and a year’s worth of inactivity, but what he’s bringing to the ring is an advantage in ring IQ and speed. Though he’s come up short when matched up against the very best throughout his career, the types of fighters who have actually beaten him up have been the fighters with an aggressive technique.
Ricky Hatton, Amir Khan and Porter imposed their athleticism and size on him, and since Malignaggi has no relative punching power to speak of, he was unable to do much else besides get beaten up. To his advantage in this fight, Garcia is a notoriously slow starter and lands his best shots from counters.
We’ve seen Garcia fall behind early before, only for his punching power to even up the odds once he’s figured out his plan of attack. This was evident in his first fight with Erik Morales and his star-making performance against Khan, and it’s not out of the question that Garcia could give up some of those early rounds to Malignaggi in an attempt to get him to open up once he feels comfortable.
What may end up happening would be that Malignaggi will work behind a steady jab and work rate to bank some of those early rounds, and perhaps dodge a few of Garcia’s shots to come up with a lead after the first third of the fight, but things won’t look so good from that point forward. Short of the ghost of Pernell Whittaker possessing him, Malignaggi is going to have to impress the judges by getting off his bike and produce some offense.
There is no chance that Malignaggi, he of seven knockouts through his career, will get the best of any exchanges he’ll have with Garcia. His 34-year-old legs aren’t going to be able to duck, dodge, slip and punch for 12 whole rounds, especially once Garcia starts timing him with his big left hook he’ll aim to the body at first, then later for the killing shot towards the end.
Garcia’s cerebral approach to his fights has kept him fresh in the later rounds, and he has decent hand speed and very good pop in both hands. All he’ll have to do is wait for Malignaggi to slow his activity down, which he’ll help facilitate by walking him down and taking shots to his body, and back him right into a corner.
Unless Garcia shows a shocking lack of strength like he did late in his fights with Zab Judah and his most recent fight with Lamont Peterson, all the heart and drive Malignaggi has isn’t going to be enough to withstand that firepower. It might, however, keep him standing to take yet another beating that should leave him no doubt that un-retiring wasn’t a good idea.
Though many won’t walk away thinking Garcia is anywhere near the superstar-to-be form he had in 2012-2013, he’ll make his overdue splash at Welterweight by grinding Malignaggi down en route to a unanimous decision victory.
On the undercard, Daniel Jacobs will defend his WBA trinket against former Junior Middleweight champion Sergio Mora in a fight that will do little to both entertain and establish Jacobs as a true player in the shallow Middleweight division. Mora saw his best chance to win a Middleweight title go up in smoke when Jermain Taylor lost his mind prior to their fight earlier this year and is simply too limited to represent a threat to Jacobs. Expect Jacobs to easily outpoint Mora and set up a fight with stablemate Peter Quillin some time in 2016.