Undefeated Danny “Swift” Garcia (30-0, 17 KOs) will take on Brooklyn’s Paulie “The Magic Man” Malignaggi (33-6, 7 KOs) at the Barclays Center under Al Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions on ESPN at 8am on Sunday Cambodian time.
The fight is another high-profile matchup under the PBC series.
It’s a more intriguing fight than the fighters’ statistics would lead you to believe.
Danny Garcia compiled an impressive run from 2012-2014 that saw him defeat Erik Morales twice, Amir Khan, Zab Judah and Lucas Matthysse.
After repeatedly being tested and still coming out on top, Garcia appeared to have established himself as one of the sport’s burgeoning elite fighters.
Since then, however, things have stagnated for Garcia.
He was very fortunate to escape with a win against Mauricio Herrera, followed by consecutive non-title fights against Rod Salka, who at the time was not considered a top 10 opponent, and most recently against Lamont Peterson, in a bout where Garcia laboured to an unconvincing victory.
Those fights were non-title fights because the 140-pound junior welterweight limit had been getting harder and harder for Garcia to make, leading to a fight with Peterson at a catch weight of 143 pounds on April 11, also at the Barclays Center.
Paulie Malignaggi is a tough, two-time, two-weight world champion, who captured world titles at 140 and 147lbs using his slick boxing ability.
The Brooklyn native is a talented and crafty boxer, relying on his jab, footwork and ring craft to stay out of trouble.
Fast hands and great timing has made Malignaggi a champion even though he only has seven knockouts from a 33-win career to date.
Many do not believe he can win this fight, but his speed could carry him to an upset.
He has proved to have impeccable timing on his punches over the years and Garcia has struggled against opponents with fast hands.
Although Garcia got a victory by technical knockout over Amir Khan in 2012, Khan was beating Garcia to the punch consistently up until walking onto a heavy punch which signalled the beginning of the end of the fight.
A perceived weakness in Malignaggi is that pressure and all-out aggression from a stronger opponent can force him backwards as he lacks the power to keep that kind of fighter off for sustained periods of time.
With age now against him in this division, this could be his last chance to make a statement on having one last shot at one of the belts.
Written off by many before, he has come back to win a world championship, and so this is familiar territory for Malignaggi.
Many feel his new career with Sky Sports as a boxing expert is a distraction, but Malignaggi seems as focused as ever.
Speaking to the PBC during the pre-fight build-up he said: “You gotta bring the best of what you’ve worked on; I think I have a style that gives people fits.
That’s why they call me the ‘Magic Man’.
There are no excuses here. Saturday night is the best of Paulie Malignaggi.
“I look forward to testing myself against the best Danny Garcia. I’ve always relished the big names and the big opportunities.”
Garcia, however, is still very much in the midst of forging his career.
Malignaggi has the kind of name recognition that will allow Garcia to announce himself at welterweight should he win – but only if he does so impressively.
An uninspired or controversial verdict won’t cut it with Malignaggi at this stage his career.
A Garcia loss would put him into the abyss of a welterweight division that is without question the most competitive division in the sport at the moment.
Considering that Danny Garcia was once in the mix for the biggest fights in boxing, opting to fight the 34-year-old Malignaggi after a string of underwhelming performances means it’s a must-win situation for him.
That said, Malignaggi could have more left in the tank than most are giving him credit for, and perhaps he could be the perfect foil to allow Garcia to emerge from his slump. However, the onus is on Garcia to win and look spectacular in the process.
Now is the time to make a statement in this division.
Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao are in the twilight of their careers, and that represents opportunities, but with the likes of Keith Thurman (26-0-1, 22 KOs) WBA champion, Kell Brook (35-0, 24 KOs) IBF champion and Timothy Bradley (31-1, 12 KOs) WBO champion, and the likes of Andre Berto, Adrien Broner, Diego Chavez, Robert Guerrero, Amir Khan, Marcos Maidana and Shawn Porter, to name just a few, all vying for titles and respect, most of whom are former world champions, this division is unlike any other in a generation.
We will know this weekend if the “Magic Man” can rekindle the magic or if Garcia can catapult himself into the top 10 of this elite division. - Jason Jones