COMMENTARY | The boxing world let out a collective sigh of relief when WBA welterweight titlist, Brooklyn's Paulie Malignaggi (32-4, 7 KOs) nixed his proposed April defense against Shane Mosley.
But now, with Malignaggi-Mosley off the table, Golden Boy's real underlying dilemma has been brought to the forefront-- What the heck are they going to do with Paulie?
By no means would the Mosley bout have been a good fight. It was destined to be mind-numbingly tedious, but not just because the 41-year-old Shane Mosley was going to make up one-half of the contest. Part of the problem is Malignaggi, himself. Mosley, whether fans care to admit it or not, would've brought at least some casual fan interest based off his name, alone. In order to sell Malignaggi vs. anyone as anything other than mid-card filler, a name opponent is needed.
As a fighter, Malignaggi is only entertaining when he's talking and when he's getting beaten up (vs. Cotto, vs. Hatton, vs. Khan)-- and it's certainly in Golden Boy's best interest, at least right now, to not have him battered from ring post to ring post. But therein lies the conundrum when working with Paulie. Match him up against someone actually world class, and he'll lose. Match him up against a lesser opponent and watch him stink up the joint in a coma-inducing twelve round snoozer of a win.
So, if you're Golden Boy, what do you do?
The smart move would be to try some novelty matchmaking. Dig up some fossil who used to be great back when Malignaggi was fighting for gas money and a veal parm at Cipriani's Restaurant in New York. This is what they tried to do by dangling a payday in front of "Sugar" Shane. With that option now out the window, they're back to zero.
To his credit, Malignaggi did a bit of his own matchmaking the other day by bringing up the possibility of a title defense against Argentina's heavy-handed brawler, Marcos Maidana.
Malignaggi-Maidana would actually be a pretty nice bout featuring two fighters with completely different styles squaring off. Neither is an elite-level welterweight, but both are good enough and vulnerable enough to probably put on a compelling show.
Golden Boy, on the other hand, has mentioned former welterweight titlist, Andre Berto, as a possible opponent for Paulie's April date. Berto is coming off a spirited, but decisive loss to Robert Guerrero last November and, despite a 1-2 record in his last three bouts, still has a recognizable name and enough boxing street cred to make for a reasonably legitimate title defense.
Malignaggi-Maidana and Malignaggi-Berto are both win-win propositions for Golden Boy, since they own the rights to all the fighters mentioned. The question is now whether either fight is financially doable. If the decision were solely Golden Boy's, the smart money would be on Berto. Last year, they worked to lure Berto away from former promoter, Lou DiBella and it makes sense that they would want to help rebuild his career to justify their investment. Assuming Berto can beat Malignaggi, he'd take possession of the WBA belt and be in a position to make any number of fights with other Golden Boy welters. Business-wise, there's much more of an up side to a rebuilt Berto than the light-hitting 32-year-old Malignaggi.
To make the Malignaggi conundrum more complicated, the WBA has now stepped up to demand that Paulie face his no. 1 contender, Argentina's Diego Chaves. Failure to meet his mandatory could result in him being stripped of his belt-- something that Golden Boy and Malignaggi have to prevent at all cost. The world is only talking about Malignaggi because he's currently in possession of one of the four recognized world titles, snatched from another paper champion, Vyacheslav Senchenko, last April in the Ukraine. Take the belt from around his waist and he goes back to being the fast-talking, quirky character with the defense-minded ring style and ugly losses to every elite-level fighter he has ever faced.
So, the following weeks should be interesting as Golden Boy decides what to do with their very vulnerable, marginally marketable world titlist. Given the near-loss in his last fight to unspectacular former junior welterweight, Pablo Cesar Cano, they will have to choose carefully for Malignaggi, assuming that his reign could end at any time and perhaps sooner rather than later.
Paul Magno was a licensed official in the state of Michoacan, Mexico and a close follower of the sport for more than thirty years. His work can also be found on Fox Sports and as Editor-in-Chief of The Boxing Tribune. In the past, Paul has done work for Inside Fights, The Queensberry Rules and Eastside Boxing. For breaking news, additional analysis, and assorted crazy commentary, follow him on Facebook, @TheBoxingTribune or on Twitter, @BoxingBTBC.
Hilmar Rojas, Malignaggi vs Chaves Mandatory Ordered By The WBA, Boxingscene
Scott Christ, Malignaggi vs Berto, Maidana vs Matthysse possible for April 27 at Barclays, Badlefthook
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