The undefeated, charismatic and incredibly talented Adrien Broner could make history if he beats WBA welterweight titlist Paulie Malignaggi at the Barclays Center tomorrow night on Showtime at 9 pm ET/6 pm PT. With a victory, the 23-year old would become the third man in boxing history to win a world championship in his first fight after jumping over a weight class.
This feat may be even more impressive in Broner's case.
Roy Jones Jr. not only became the first former middleweight champion in 106 years to win a world heavyweight title, but he did so by jumping over the cruiserweight division from light heavyweight. The 34-year old Jones defeated John Ruiz by unanimous decision in March 2003 to win the WBA heavyweight crown.
Not unlike the criticism of the soft-punching Malignaggi as being a relatively "safe" first opponent at welterweight for Broner, the hard-charging and limited Ruiz was viewed as a case of perfect matchmaking for Jones. Furthermore, Jones was 193 pounds when he fought Ruiz so, technically, he was not a full fledged heavyweight at the time. Nevertheless, the 34-year old Jones responded well to the size and power of the 226-pound Ruiz but proved unable to handle flush shots upon his hasty return to light heavyweight, shedding almost 20 pounds of muscle to get back down to 175.
Broner (26-0, 22 KO's), who claims to walk around at 147-150 pounds, is expected to weigh-in at or around the 147 pound welterweight limit for tomorrow night's fight. Given his size, strength and age, he can potentially be considered a legitimate welterweight and may plan to stay at that weight limit to defend the 147-pound title should he be successful against Malignaggi (32-4, 7 KO's).
While there has been a great deal of pre-fight hype and trash talking between the two combatants, the move to welterweight at this time could be a wise and strategic career move for Broner rather than a one shot attempt to generate attention in some type of "side show" attraction as was considered by some to be the case with Jones-Ruiz. Unfortunately for Jones, he was never the same after moving back down to light heavyweight, with his career steadily beginning to spiral out of control at that point. Broner is expected to only get better, whether he stays at 147 or opts to move down to 140.
Robert Guerrero jumped from lightweight to welterweight when he faced a scrappy yet unaccomplished Selcuk Aydin in July 2012, winning the interim WBC welterweight belt by unanimous decision in his first fight at 147 pounds. Broner will be fighting for a full-world title against an experienced and ring savvy boxer in Malignaggi who is expected to give him the biggest test of his career.
Guerrero had previously faced tough opposition during his rise to welterweight, including Michael Katsides, Joel Casamayor and Orlando Salido. Not only is Broner taking a big jump up in weight but also quality of opposition, with the only two notable names on his resume to date being Daniel Ponce De Leon and Antonio DeMarco.
Roberto Duran won the WBC welterweight championship from Sugar Ray Leonard in June 1980 after relinquishing his lightweight title and jumping over the super lightweight division. However, Duran had a number of tune-up fights at heavier weights before stepping into the ring at 145.5 pounds against Leonard.
Love him or hate him, the brash Broner has an opportunity to achieve something that even his idol Floyd Mayweather Jr. has not accomplished over an extraordinary career.
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