By Lem Satterfield
Over the course of a six part series, former two-division champion Paulie Malignaggi offers mini-previews to BoxingScene.com regarding the next four months of successive 147-pound appearances by Manny Pacquiao, Adrien Broner, Keith Thurman, Shawn Porter, Errol Spence, Mikey Garcia, Terence Crawford, Amir Khan and Danny Garcia.
“I think these are a series of matchups that set the table for some top-level fights in the fall. I think we’re at the point where there’s potential for major, major fights,” said Malignaggi, a 38-year-old Brooklyn, New York-born title-winner at 140 and 147 pounds.
“I think Spence and [Mikey] Garcia is one of the bigger fights because of the name recognition that they have. The others are key matchups where the winners can really set themselves up for a big, big fight and a much greater opportunity in the fall.”
Malignaggi gives a glimpse of his breakdowns below.
The action starts on January 19 as left-handed, eight division title winner Pacquiao (60-7-2, 39 KOs) defends his WBA “regular” crown against four-division champion Broner (33-3-1, 24 KOs) at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on Showtime Pay Per View.
“It’s a very tricky fight. One question with Broner is always about punch output and ‘Is he going to get his shots off?’ said Malignaggi, loser by a split-decision (June 2013) that cost “The Magic Man” his WBA welterweight crown.
“Broner’s had trouble with guys who know how to control range. I think Pacquiao’s become known as that kind of fighter, stepping in and out very well. But Pacquiao just turned 40 years old, so a lot depends on how much of his legs Pacquiao has left.”
“One Time” Thurman (28-0, 22 KOs) will end a 22-month ring absence in pursuit of his eighth defense against third-time title challenger Josesito Lopez (36-7, 19 KOs) on January 26 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, as Premier Boxing Champions returns to FOX (8 p.m. ET/ 5 p.m. PT).
“ I think you’ll see great effort from both fighters. Thurman hasn’t been in ring in a while, so I’m interested in how he comes back, and you’re expecting him to have to shake off some ring rust,” said Malignaggi.
“Josesito Lopez is a guy who comes to fight all of the time, and I think he’ll come in with the intentions of banging it out with Thurman.”
On March 9 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Porter (29-2-1, 17 KOs) makes his initial WBC title defense against 2008 Cuban Olympic bronze medal winner Yordenis Ugas (23-3, 11 KOs) on FOX return (8 p.m. ET/ 5 p.m. PT.).
A fourth-round TKO winner against Malignaggi (April 2014) in an IBF 147-pound title bout, Porter’s coming off a unanimous decision over Danny Garcia in September for the WBC’s then-vacant crown.
“We saw Porter come out boxing in his last fight with Danny Garcia,” said Malignaggi. “But against a guy like Ugas, who is a natural boxer with nice timing, Porter will try to throw that off with his old-style aggression.”
A week later on March 16 on Fox Pay Per View, southpaw “The Truth” Spence Jr. (24-0, 21 KOs) pursues his third defense and 12th straight knockout against four-division champion Mikey Garcia (39-0, 30 KOs) at the Dallas Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
“Both of these guys are phenomenal fighters at their respective weights, and it’s going to be a nice, tactical fight for as long as it lasts,” said Malignaggi.
“But I just tend to believe weight classes matter. I believe that there are welterweights that Mikey Garcia can beat, but I just don’t believe that Errol Spence is one of them.”
On April 20 at New York’s Madison Square Garden on ESPN, switch-hitting three-division champion Crawford (34-0, 25 KOs) could have an April 20 defense against Amir Khan (33-4, 20 KOs), an ex-titleholder he may face on American soil.
Malignaggi lost to then-WBA 140-pound titleholder Khan by 11th-round TKO in May 2010.
“I think a few of years ago, Khan was a real nightmare with his speed for any boxer who relies on timing in the ring,” said Malignaggi. “But I don’t think Amir is that kind of fighter anymore, and Crawford has great timing and boxing abilities.”
Finally, on April 20 at a site to be determined, two-division champion Danny Garcia (34-2, 20 KOs) looks to rebound from the loss to Porter against brawler Adrian Granados (20-6-2, 14 KOs, 1 NC) on FOX (8 p.m. ET/ 5 p.m. PT.) at a site to be determined.
“Danny Garcia got patient punching power, the kind of guy who wants to punch with you and catch you with a good, timing shot,” said Malignaggi of Garcia, who stopped him by ninth-round stoppage (August 2015) in a non-title 147-pound fight.
“But Granados is a stubborn guy who can out-work you, moving around, stepping into range, and then, moving back out…He’s a guy who can make you look bad and win rounds.”
Malignaggi (36-8, 7 KOs) retired in March 2017, has worked as a ringside analyst for Showtime and Sky Sports among others, and was a 2013 recipient of the Boxing Writers’ Association of American Excellence in Broadcasting Journalism Award.
Malignaggi made two defenses of his IBF 140-pound title earned by unanimous decision over Lovemore Ndou (June 2007), and one of the WBA’s welterweight crown after dethroning previously unbeaten Ukrainian Vyacheslav Senchenko (April 2012) by ninth-round stoppage.