“My life is in a place 19 years later that I never dreamed it could be in. And I have boxing to thank for that. I gave absolutely everything I had to this sport for almost 2 decades, and I will never lose the many, many incredible memories that were created during that time.”
Last Saturday night in London, apart from a massive fight in the heavyweight division that caught our attention, the return of a champion to the ring who had been denied his opportunity to defend his world title in the US AND more talking points than a Trump press conference, we got something special.
It was not the beginning of something but the end of a highly active career; Paulie Malignaggi, 36-8, 7 KO’s.
Malignaggi has been something of a maverick over the years. Many thought his career should have ended some time ago and his loss to an up and coming fighter in Sam Eggington, 20-3, 12 KO’s, shall make more than a few of them nod sagely and say, I told you so, but he was a game man with a massive plan. It should also not obliterate what has been a distinguished career over a 19 year period with some notable triumphs along the way.
The “Magic Man” was certainly no slouch in the ring and when you have gone over 20 fights undefeated at the beginning of your career, against some decent opposition, matchmakers and promoters will be taking a keen interest; against who did he lose his first fight – Miguel Cotto!
He also showed his prowess to British fans as he was in the ring against two of our best; the long since retired and now world champion trainer, Ricky Hatton and the man with no plan or a ring to swing, Amir Khan.
His legacy in the ring included being world champion not once but twice. He was a world champion not at one weight but at two. Malignaggi reigned as the IBF junior welterweight champ and the WBA welterweight king in 2 different decades he didn’t get these because he was some slouch.
One of the things we loved about Malignaggi was that he was almost more New York than even my Publisher, “Bad” Brad Berkwitt. Whilst people were swooning over the likes of the Sopranos, we had the real deal in the ring with Malignaggi; he looked the part, he sounded the part and he played the part.
Of course, his upbringing was the clichéd toughness that led to the clichéd saving form his chosen sport but his career pathway showed why this is such a cliché; it actually happens in real life and not just in the movies.
Having turned pro in 1998 that first defeat after 21 straight wins was in 2006. It was a battle with Cotto and was not to be the first such battle of his long career. His win in 2007 against Lovemore N’Dou brought that IBF light welterweight title and was described by many as a master class of boxing that showed this kid had the skills; in that year he was awarded the Ring Magazine comeback of the year award!
Malignaggi was never afraid to travel and in 2008 his rematch against N’Dou was in Manchester, England. This brought him close to our hearts in the UK as he was an exciting talent gracing our shores. Later in the same year he fought at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas and brought a little bit of Manchester, England back with him. His battle with Ricky Hatton was to be a step too far for him though he has always maintained he lost the fight in his camp. The changes that trainer Buddy McGirt asked for led to a style of fighting, according to Malignaggi, that saw Hatton win every round bar the first and the Ring light welterweight belt were not to be his.
2010 brought us his second battle against a British prospect, Amir Khan, and it is hard to believe that this was almost 7 years ago! He took the British prospect to Madison Square Gardens and he got stopped in the 11th round. It was his last fight at junior welterweight but it was one that heralded Khan’s abilities not just to box but to go abroad and win on big cards. Part of a calculated move at the time to get noticed in the US you can see how this has been working out in Khan’s favor until now.
In 2012, Malignaggi managed to bounce back again with win in Donetsk, deep in the Ukraine to take the WBA welterweight belt. His move up had not only worked, his move abroad to prove himself was clearly the right decision.
There were then some serious fights that cemented Malignaggi’s reputation – in 2013 a highly controversial split decision loss to Adrien Broner; a unanimous decision against Zab Judah also in 2013; a 4th round stoppage by Shawn Porter in 2014; and a 9th round stoppage in 2015 by Danny Garcia.
By now there were calls for him to give it up, put his feet up and enjoy his time behind the microphone. As a summariser, he had few equals. His experience had translated into a very adept and knowledgeable ring commentator. But he had a few twists and turns to come.
He went to Italy, got n 8 round win a month after the Garcia fight, he appeared back in London on the Anthony Joshua – Dillian Whyte undercard and beat Antonio Moscatiello for the EBU welterweight title. Taking advantage of his Sicilian heritage brought him back to us and we cherished it.
It was another European title that he was negotiating for 4th March 2017 that fell apart and led to the Eggington fight. We could not have been more glad to see the glamour coming across with Malignaggi because his name added so much to a card that was already an absolute cracker.
Our love affair with this New Yorker will continue as we hope he comes with mic on his hands and not gloves upon them to talk and tell rather than box and weave. It has been an amazing career and one we can but marvel at but one about which we can enjoy in the rear view mirror but with a clear windscreen and no car crash events planned; Paulie Malignaggi – we salute you!Contact the Feature Writers