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
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
“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.”
SLASH AND BURN?
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. (http://barclayscenterots.com/Special_Offer_Boxing_MM.html).
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
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.
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.
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
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.