When Golden Boy first announced that undefeated lightweight champion Adrien Broner (26-0, 22 KO’s) would be moving up two weightclasses to challenge welterweight champion Paulie Malignaggi (32-4, 7KO’s), it was one of the most criticized fights that had been announced in years. Boxing fans and media were not only outraged at the thought, but they were persistent in saying that they would not be watching a lackluster matchup that had no business being made. Well, three months later, and everything has changed.
What started as a boring one sided matchup between a proposed future star and an older veteran fighter has become as highly anticipated as any fight could be. And the reason for this anticipation isn’t because the fight is expected to be a Fight of the Year or that it’s believed to be a 50/50 fight that any man can come out victorious. The reason why this fight has gotten exciting to the fans and media is because of one thing, social media. The twitter war between Broner and Malignaggi that featured cheap shots at each other nearly every day, and a girl named Jessica that apparently both Broner and Malignaggi have had some sort of relationship with, has turned a dull one sided matchup that no one was really interested in into a fight where people can’t wait to see them step into the ring against each other Saturday night at the Barclay’s Center on Showtime. Broner-Malignaggi has, dare it be said, become one of the most anticipated fights of 2013. Now, does this mean the outcome or fight will be any different than everyone expected it to be three months ago when it was made? No, probably not. But between the girl Jessica and the insults that they have traded on twitter for the world to see over the past three months, they sold the fight, and that’s what counts here.
Boxers and promoters should take a lesson from what has happened with Broner and Malignaggi. This sport isn’t just about having the skills to make it to the top anymore. It’s about having the personality to draw a fan base as well. In an era of Twitter and Facebook where the entire world gets to see who you are it’s become important to make people interested in you to sell a product. That doesn’t change in the boxing industry. When you compare Floyd Mayweather to someone like Andre Ward, you see that they both have the same type of style in the ring in terms of putting on masterful one sided performances. They both have cleaned out their divisions and are considered the best boxers in the world today. So why does one make 30 million per fight while the other makes 2 million? Why does one have 5 million twitter followers and the other has 150k? How can one guy sell an average of one million PPV buys per fight while the other can’t even hold his own PPV? The answer, personality.
If you’re not going in there and knocking people out like Mike Tyson, then you need to find a different selling point to the audience. It’s about selling yourself. And for Broner and Malignaggi, they sold their fight to the public by continuously bashing each other every chance they got and made sure everyone could see it. They may or may not have done it on purpose, but Golden Boy Promotions knew that it could, and mostly likely would, take off the way it did considering both fighter’s history. Adrien Broner has already taken a page out of Mayweather’s book, and perhaps enhanced it enough so that people are generating a buzz about him as being the next Floyd even though he is years away from it. He comes to the ring dancing, rapping, and making everyone interested in what this guy is all about. Malignaggi has always sold himself to the public with his continuous smack talk. So it really shouldn’t come to anyone’s surprise that these two went into the trenches to pull out every act they possibly could to not just bash each other in every opportunity that came up, but to sell a fight that no one wanted to see.
Broner and Malignaggi showed that it is possible to make a boring fight exciting outside of the ring. Not everyone has these eccentric personalities. It’s even harder to find in the boxing industry. Guys like Manny Pacquiao, Lucas Matthysse, Gennady Golovkin, and recently Sergey Kovalev generate buzz by knocking people out. They don’t even have to speak English. But other guys, like Mayweather, Broner, and Tyson Fury create buzz another way. They make the public love them or hate them with their mouths. And love them or hate them, you know them and watch them. Broner and Malignaggi did everything right with this fight outside of the ring so much so that even if the fight is a one-sided massacre like most people expect it to be, people who were not going to watch it when the fight was made are going to be sitting in front of their televisions Saturday night to see them fight. And that’s all that matters.