by Paul Magno
Boxing is coming to The Barclays Center in Brooklyn on October 20th and the co-headlining bouts, Paulie Malignaggi-Pablo Cesar Cano and Danny Garcia-Erik Morales II, aren’t that bad at all– Too bad you can’t say the same about the politics surrounding them.
Billed as the first Brooklyn-set world title bouts to be held in decades and the first of a multi-card deal between Golden Boy and the arena, the card is a history-maker of sorts. And, yeah, it’s technically a night of world championship boxing. Kinda, sorta.
Paulie Malignaggi (31-4, 7 KOs) does own the WBA welterweight title and, so, has to be regarded as a world titlist, although most everyone not working for Golden Boy or Team Malignaggi knows that the fast-talking Brooklyn native would be cannon fodder for any of the real players at 147.
A beneficiary of the “sign with a big promoter and get a world ranking” strategy of career management, Malignaggi would have only one official bout at the welterweight limit, against Jose Cotto, before suddenly finding himself face to face with paper champ, Vyacheslav Senchenko for the WBA strap.
After stopping Senchenko in the ninth round, Team Malignaggi set about on the truly difficult task of finding another rankable challenge their guy could actually beat.
Thankfully, the always accommodating WBA saw fit to green-light Pablo Cesar Cano (25-1-1, 19 KOs) for the shot. Cano, who will be leapfrogging every other contender on the WBA’s rankings, has never actually fought as a full welterweight, but is surely eager to give it a try.
On paper, though, Malignaggi-Cano is actually a pretty good fight without all the BS world title baloney attached to it.
Cano is best known for a RTD 10 loss to Erik Morales for the vacant WBC junior welterweight title in 2011, a bout where it was clear that the then 21-year-old Mexican was too green to deal with such a wily veteran. Morales slowly picked Cano apart, busted him open, and eventually forced the young fighter’s corner to stop the contest between rounds 10 and 11.
Even in defeat, though, it was clear that Cano had something. Maybe a spark of something better to come. Whatever the case, Cano would win his next three contests, stopping marginal opposition, all within nine rounds, and winning the interim WBA World light welterweight title from, “who’s that” fighter, Johan Perez in July.
Malignaggi, while going through a feel-good career rejuvenation of sorts, is prime for the picking. Remember, Paulie is still the fighter who was practically run out of the junior welterweight division after ugly, one-sided beatings to Amir Khan and Ricky Hatton. One has to wonder where the defensive stylist would be, career-wise, without his Golden Boy deal.
But, still, Malignaggi is the titlist and Cano is a young challenger with a real chance at nabbing a shortcut to money bouts in the lucrative welterweight division. The bout is important to both fighters and both are supremely vulnerable. So, things could get interesting.
In the co-feature, WBA/WBC junior welterweight champ, Danny Garcia (24-0, 15 KOs), coming off the biggest win of his young career, steps back into the ring with Erik Morales, a fighter he beat decisively just seven months prior.
After his exciting demolition of WBA champ Amir Khan in July, it’s hard to be too critical of the 24-year-old Philadelphia native, but he’s hardly treading on dangerous ground in his first two-belt defense. Blame this one, however, on Morales, who decided to enforce a rematch clause after smelling a nice payday against the post-Khan KO Garcia.
Back in March, Garcia soundly beat Morales and took the WBC strap in a bout that was not exactly one-sided, but wasn’t really competitive, either. A return bout for the Mexican legend is pure filthy lucre for Morales, but it’s hard to be too critical. Tijuana’s “El Terrible” is such a likable character and has established such a feel-good reserve of positive press that he can skate on the negative talk for this one. Plus, it’s not like he ever comes not ready to put in a solid effort.
Still, a rematch against Garcia is rather pointless. Is there really anything Morales can do now that he couldn’t do seven months ago?
But Garcia is riding high and Morales is always, well, Morales. So, expect something to happen at some point, and it’ll likely be worth watching. As far as cherry-picked “gimme” defenses go, this one could’ve been a helluva lot worse.
All in all, boxing in Brooklyn is getting off to a decent start with an overall solid card.
For fight fans who truly know the sport, the hustle and jive about world titles is simply not necessary.
For those fans who are more casual observers, forget the shiny belts being brought into the ring and all the hype surrounding them. October 20th will offer up a pair of well-made bouts that are definitely worth watching, but neither contest is really a “world class” affair. Just learn to do what most boxing fans do– shut out all the politics and nonsense and just focus on the fighting.