Danny Garcia (30-0, 17 KOs) vs. Paulie Malignaggi (33-6, 7 KOs)
After a successful run at 140 pounds, Danny Garcia makes his welterweight debut against former two-division champion Paulie Malignaggi in Premier Boxing Champions’ latest offering on ESPN. The card takes place Saturday night at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
Garcia makes the move to 147 pounds not only because more lucrative fights await, but because making the welterweight limit was becoming increasingly difficult for the Philadelphia native -- his last two bouts were contested at catch-weights. Garcia will make his first welterweight foray in Malignaggi’s backyard, an intriguing test for a fighter with big aspirations in a new division.
The matchup: Garcia is coming off a closely-contested majority decision triumph over Lamont Peterson on April 11. Multiple belts could have been on the line had the fight taken place at 140 pounds, but since it was a catch-weight affair, no titles were at stake. Going forward, it will be interesting to see how Garcia’s performance improves now that he doesn’t have to endure a draining weight cut.
The 27-year-old boasts triumphs over the likes of Lucas Matthysse, Amir Khan, Zab Judah, Kendall Holt, Erik Morales and Peterson over the course of his professional career. He has a good in-ring IQ and has shown that he can stick to a game plan. In addition to his intelligence, Garcia is a well-rounded fighter who is solid in virtually every area. His chin is notoriously durable and he is especially opportunistic when it comes to capitalizing on an opponent’s mistakes. Offensively, Garcia has a keen sense of timing, decent power and a good sense of when to transition from offense to defense. His left hook is his most dangerous weapon, and he is adept at working both the head and body and creating angles to land his favored offering.
The 34-year-old Malignaggi is returning to the ring for the first time since a devastating fourth-round technical knockout loss to Shawn Porter in April 2014. The Brooklyn native was supposed to make his return against Danny O’Connor on May 29, but the bout was canceled after Malignaggi suffered a cut the week before the fight.
Malignaggi owns a wealth of valuable experience, but he also has plenty of tread on his tires since making his professional debut at 20. Battles like the one against Miguel Cotto in 2006 have gradually taken their toll, and one has to wonder how much Malignaggi has left in the tank at this point. Still, prior to being steamrolled by Porter, the “Magic Man” had established a reputation as a durable and resilient fighter.
As evidenced by his mediocre KO rate, Malignaggi isn’t going to scare anyone with his power. It might have been a different story had numerous hand injuries over the years not robbed him of much of his pop. Despite his shortcomings, Malignaggi has a veteran’s savvy. He has an excellent command of the ring and is solid defensively, both of which are key for a fighter who isn’t likely to change the course of a fight with one blow. He will remain calm when trading in the pocket, but it is key that he controls the range with smart movement and footwork.
The Pick: Garcia can struggle against a foe that fights smart and limits his mistakes, and Malignaggi fits that bill. However, considering his limitations, Malignaggi doesn’t have much margin for error against an adversary with superior power. Malignaggi’s best hope is that he can outbox Garcia for 12 rounds, controlling the distance while moving in and out with quick flurries. Garcia can counteract that with an aggressive approach because if Malignaggi is focused on his defense, it will limit his output. Garcia will have difficulties at times against his veteran foe, but he will eventually find his footing to win a decision.
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