Paulie Comes Home
By Steve Kim, MaxBoxing (Oct 18, 2012) Doghouse Boxing (Photo © Rich Kane - Hoganphotos/Golden Boy Promotions)
Paulie Malignaggi
It's not as if Paulie Malignaggi has never fought in Brooklyn - which he will this Saturday night at the new Barclays Center versus Pablo Cesar Cano (Showtime, 8 p.m., ET/PT) . In fact, he made his pro debut against Thadeus Parker at the KeySpan Park back in July of 2001. And he's certainly no stranger to fighting in the Big Apple (where he’s fought many times including his high-profile bout with Miguel Cotto in 2006 at Madison Square Garden and then four years later in their small room with Amir Khan) but this appearance just feels different for some reason.
Maybe it's because this time around, he isn't the B-side but a champion defending his belt (in this case, the WBA welterweight strap) on his home turf. Regardless, it's just...different.
“It's a lot different,” confirmed Malignaggi a couple of weeks ago as he was getting his hands wrapped by trainer Eric Brown at the Wild Card Boxing Club. “I mean, it's exciting when I fight on the East Coast close to home but just the fact that the fight is in the address at Brooklyn, New York. Well, that makes it all the more exciting for me. I've said it before to a lot of people asking me how excited I am; you can't really put it into words because I don't think words can describe or words can do it justice. But I'm very excited and on the inside, I'm pretty giddy. I'm focused and I want to put on the best show possible. I'm from less than five miles from the hospital; it's in the same neighborhood. It’s Long Island College Hospital and it's a few miles away.
“It's crazy; almost 32 years ago I was born just a few miles away and I'm definitely a world champion right there.”
Part of the reason Malignaggi signed a promotional pact with Golden Boy a few years ago was their exclusive deal with the Barclays Center, which will serve as the home of the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets.
“They started signing a lot of New York talent and they tried to make a concerted effort to grab people and I was one of the guys,” explained Malignaggi, who now splits his time between New York and Los Angeles. “Obviously, there was a rebuilding process to go through, so they took a chance on me and I'm glad they did and they did a great job. Everybody did their job; they did their job. I did my job and here we are. It's pretty amazing, surreal at times, but all at once, it's exciting too.”
In many ways, the “Magic Man” is the quintessential brash, talkative New Yorker. It can be argued very easily that his personality is more entertaining than most of his prizefights. He has parlayed this personality into marquee fights because of his ability to sell himself and the fights just as much as his boxing acumen. Not only does he have the gift of jab but the gift of gab (which is one of the reasons why Showtime has used him recently as a color analyst).
But in the end, you still have to win significant fights. And in late April, he was shipped off to Russia (without much fanfare or love) to face Vyacheslav Senchenko for the WBA title. Malignaggi admits this was a must-win situation for him. Bottom line is he wasn't going back to fighting for a pittance at the Hammerstein Ballroom. “Yeah, there's certain moments in your career that are do-or-die; you get them here and there. There's obviously always big fights and sometimes it's a fight where you can become a regular star to a superstar and those do-or-die fights where you want to remain at a high level. You have to win or you will fall off to the wayside completely and people won’t care about you,” he stated.
Winning a title would make Malignaggi - a former titleholder at junior welterweight - a viable name at 147 pounds.
“This was one of those fights where if I wanted to remain relevant at the high level of boxing, I needed to win this fight. And it was a lot of pressure on me because being away from home and what happens to American fighters when we travel,” said Malignaggi, who made sure there would be no debating the outcome of this fight by dominating the Russian on the strength of his piston-like jab that befuddled Senchenko from the very beginning. Stunningly, he stopped him (just his seventh knockout in 35 pro outings). Brown, who has trained Malignaggi since he came out west, remarked, “We knew going in that we had to do that. We had to go in there and dominate this guy. We had to go in there and take him totally out of his game. We had to either cut him up or stop him or knock him out. And Paulie doesn't have a big knockout ratio, so we knew we had to do something to stop the fight or really sway the judges in our favor. So going after him, working behind that solid jab and outbox him, we knew Senchenko had never fought anyone like Paulie and that was going to be to our advantage. Paulie took command and never relinquished it.”
Having this belt means Malignaggi is coveted as an opponent by the marquee names in the sport. Months ago, there was speculation that the comebacking Ricky Hatton was targeting him in 2013. Regardless, it keeps him relevant. One thing Malignaggi will never do is play out the string on his career as just a shell of himself. Once you play Broadway, it's hard to go backward.
“I want to do it at a high level; I don't have to do it at a low level,” he says. “I've got money and I've got investments and I'm doing pretty well. So if I didn't do it at the level I want to, I don't want to do it. It's not like something that I just do to do. At this point, it's become my job. It's something I enjoy a lot. I love competing and if I can better my life, I'll continue to do it. If I continue to enjoy competing, which I always think I will, I will do it. But it has to be that combination of things. If I fall off the wayside, if I'm not at a high level, there's no reason to stay and do this. One thing I've always wanted to accomplish - just as an Italian because I have a double-passport - is win the EBU title during my career. So maybe at the end of my career, I'll chase that but that's something so small, that's later on maybe.”
Brown says his 31-year-old pupil still has an incredible passion for the sport.
“Most definitely, that's what's got us undefeated as a welterweight the last two years. We've done nothing but get stronger and stronger and that's because of work ethic and his passion for it. He doesn't just want to be one of these veterans that's hanging around taking a payday here or there. He wants to be the very best. He wants to be on top of the game and he wants to fight the best out there,” said the trainer, who will also be leading Peter Quillin into his battle on Saturday night. “A lot of guys don't want to fight him unless they can stack the deck against him and that's one of the things we have to deal with. Paulie trains as hard as any of these young guys coming up or anybody else. He trains just as hard - if not harder - than any of them and he brings a lot of experience to the table as well.”
No, Cano, a tough hombre from Mexico coming up from 140 pounds, may not be the fight Malignaggi yearns for but this is exactly the type of event he thrives in, a headlining spot in his hometown on a national stage. And yes, he was being hounded for tickets weeks before the fight. Malignaggi went back to New York earlier than usual to help promote this card and participate in events like the Columbus Day Parade. It's all part of the deal - and it's something he's used to.
“I've fought at home before and even though it was in Manhattan, there can be [distractions]. I think because of the experience that I have fighting at home, the trick is, when you have leave the locker room, to just pretend you're in any arena,” he explained. “Pretend you're fighting in Vegas or fighting anywhere because, honestly, from the locker room to the ring and the fight in the ring, that can happen anywhere in the world. It's the same thing. So I already plan on telling myself when I leave the locker room, ‘You're not fighting in Brooklyn; you're fighting in a boxing ring. You could be fighting anywhere in the world.’ Because at that moment, it's not like you're interacting with anyone anyways. You're fighting, I mean, from the moment you leave the locker room to the time you come back to the locker room. That happens all over the world.

“It can happen anywhere; it has nothing to do with where you are.”
It looks like the Barclays Center is offering a 20 percent discount to this weekend’s show, which marks championship boxing’s return to Brooklyn after 82 years. ( All four price ranges are discounted and this offer is good till this Friday. I'm told up to four tickets can be purchased at one time. Last week as I tweeted this, I received this email a short time later from a disgruntled fan...

Just last night I finalized a trip for me and 4 buddies to head up to New York, from DC, to attend Cotto vs Trout. Less than 24 hours later I read your tweet about the October 20th card offering discounted tickets. I should be excited about this trip, but now I feel like I could have saved money waiting.
It wasn't easy getting 5 people spread around 3 states on the same page as quickly as I did to make this trip and now I feel like my diligence was wasted. 5 $100 tickets, hotel rooms, as well as either a rental vehicle or bus tickets. I'm sure we will also pile up the food, beverage, party, etc expenses as well.
Without ranting for too long, I can tell you I've spent my last dollar on attending Golden Boy events until this trend of discounted and complimentary tickets ends.
Maybe they need a business analyst or a new business anaylst, if they already have one. But someone should be in place to properly judge the markets and set ticket prices. I would have been better off simply booking a room and waiting until a week before this fight. I can only hope that Cotto/Trout tickets are actually moving so I can feel better about booking everything early.


Mr. Morgan, I feel your frustration. Here's the bottom line: while discounts are great, the problem is that what you’re really doing is punishing those who bought tickets right off the bat (this emailer told me later he had plans to attend the November 17th fight in Atlantic City between Adrien Broner and Antonio DeMarco but changed his mind after hearing about this discount last week). First of all, I don't know who was responsible for pricing these tickets for this weekend’s show (usually it's the promoter in conjunction with the venue) but did they really think $300 for ringside for this card was appropriate? I've learned one thing throughout the years; if you go above $200 for a ringside ticket in a non-casino environment (where a certain amount of purchased seats are not guaranteed by the host casino), it's a very, very tough sell and you better have yourself a fight card that is in great demand.

Because if not...well, you do discounts and giveaways.

I wonder if everyone involved just simply overestimated the anticipation of a fight card at the Barclays Center. Yeah, this card may feature two fighters with Brooklyn ties in Malignaggi and Quillin; however, the main event features a Mexican from the West Coast in Erik Morales versus a fighter in Danny Garcia who's based out of Philly (and whose previous five fights took place in San Diego, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Houston and back to Las Vegas). The formula to do a successful gate is not that complicated; you need these three things: the right fight, geographic logic in placing the event and appropriate pricing of tickets.

Now, none of this will hurt the fighters involved. In fact, if you look at the listed purses, they are making out just fine, financially. In an era when television license fees from the premium cable networks pay the freight for many of these big cards, there isn't all that much risk to the fighter or even promoter. But there is one group paramount to the present and future of boxing that is hurt by stuff like this - the fans. Yeah, the suckers who are still willing to pay full price for tickets early on.

Golden Boy has taken over the crown (in terms of papering the house) from Don King in recent years with their discount packages, freebies and announced sell-outs (where rows of tickets can still be had on the internet). Perhaps it doesn't matter anymore in the era of TV packagers who can find refuge in Indian casinos and the safety net of monopolies on networks but make no doubt about it; you can contaminate a market with these tactics.

And by the way, Brooklyn is now a market given that Golden Boy has an exclusive deal with the Barclays Center.

But is it too much to ask that more realistic and reasonable price-points are set early on so such shenanigans don't need to take place? It's tough enough to create a new generation of fans if you're alienating the remaining ones who are willing to still fork out their hard-earned money for your events.


According to the CSAC, the recent fight between Brandon Rios and Mike Alvarado sold 6,203 tickets with 752 comped for a gate of $406,668...I'm told that tickets for the November 17th clash at the L.A. Sports Arena between flyweight champions Brian Viloria and Hernan Marquez will go on sale on Friday. Prices will range from $25 to $150...Star Boxing announced the re-signing of Delvin Rodriguez on Wednesday...Next week’s edition of HBO’s “Real Sports” will have segments on Michael Strahan and the Sabols of NFL Films fame. Like Bart Scott: can't wait!...I heard even the Garduno's in East L.A. off Whittier Blvd near Montebello High School dropped its endorsement deal with Lance Armstrong...At least Paul Ryan didn't address Colt McCoy as Brian Sipe or Bernie Kosar...

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