Sunday, June 23, 2013

The age old debate continues: The Boxer or The Puncher

They say a picture speaks a thousand words; however, after Saturday nights championship fight between former WBA welterweight champion Paulie 'Magic Man' Malignaggi (pictured @ far left) and new champ Adrien 'The Problem' Broner (pictured @ near right), this photo may speak a thousand, but it still doesn't answer the question. That question being, who really won; the boxer or the puncher?

On this night, the puncher Broner ended up winning a split decision over the boxer Malignanggi, though it wasn't without controversy. In a fight that dealt with a lot of pre-fight hype from both fighters, the verbal sparring continued afterward. So much so that Malignaggi hinted that the outcome may have been fixed; though his exact comment was, "I'm not saying it was fixed, but it's just another example of the connected fighter getting the decision."

In this case the connected fighter was Broner who is managed by boxing's latest power broker Al Haymon. Yet, this is just the latest in the age old debate of who should be favored in such a fight, the boxer or the puncher. Though Malignaggi threw well over 300 more punches than Broner 843 to 524, it was Broner who landed the more telling blows; this can be witnessed in the photo above. He also landed at a better percentage as he connected on 246 of those punches while 'The Magic Man' could only make 214 "reappear."

However, though numbers supposedly don't lie, many people saw Malignaggi winning. I'll be honest, my heart said Malignaggi, but my mind said Broner; and for me that's surprising. That is because I usually am in favor of the busier and more technical fighter when scoring. Yet, while Malignaggi was easily the busier fighter, I felt as though Broner was not just the aggressor and heavier puncher, but the more technical as well. Nonetheless, that argument goes out the window whenever I discuss the greatest example of this debate.

It was 26 years ago on April 6, 1987; it was dubbed 'The Super Fight' before it ever happened and has been called that since. One of the two greatest middleweight champions of all-time Marvelous Marvin Hagler (the other being Sugar Ray Robinson) fought another 'Sugar' in all-time great Sugar Ray Leonard. On this night Hagler played Broner as he walked down Leonard for 12 straight rounds, while Leonard played Malignaggi back pedaling and out boxing Hagler; stealing rounds with flurries of punches throughout.

After the fight was over, it was Leonard who won a controversial split decision; I personally saw Leonard winning as well as I felt he landed the more effective punches. While Hagler was the aggressor throughout, unlike Broner Saturday night, I didn't feel he landed as many punches of significance. Thus in this case, I rewarded the busier and more effective fighter in my eyes, which differs in my opinion of Saturday's bout.

Yet 26 years after the fact, if you ask 100 people their opinion on 'The Super Fight', I'd be willing to bet you'd be close to, if not at 50-50 as to who won. That question has been haunting boxing for as long as it's been around; how should fights be judged, on technique or aggression? The boxer or the puncher, I don't know if it will ever be answered. In truth, it is part of what makes boxing so intriguing and one of the most debated sports. Thus, unless we go back to the days before the Marquis of Queensbury rules were adopted, where fighters fought unlimited rounds until one finally dropped, this age old debate will continue.

Photo credit: Ed Mulholland USA Today Sports

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