Paulie and Zab Play Respect Card
Malignaggi, Judah show mutual admiration before Brooklyn bout
It was nearly six months ago that Paulie Malignaggi left the Barclays Center ring feeling deeply disrespected.
Not only by the judge who decided a split decision with a controversially lopsided score, but by those who had arranged seating arrangements for the fight and, most notably, by his trash-talking opponent, Adrien “The Problem” Broner.
Malignaggi, a Bensonhurst native with two world championship belts and 37 professional fights on his resume, admitted Tuesday during his pre-fight media workout at Gleason’s Gym that Saturday night’s “Battle for Brooklyn” bout against five-time world champion and Brownsville native Zab “Super” Judah will be strictly about boxing. Rather than the outside-the-ropes fervor surrounding his previous fight on the corners of Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues.
“It means a lot in terms of there’s less tension,” Malignaggi told the Eagle when asked if he appreciated the mutual respect he and Judah have shared in the months leading up to this battle for Brooklyn bragging rights.
“But at the same time there’s so much on the line,” the “Magic Man” added. “You find different things to motivate you in each fight. The last time, the trash-talking was a big motivator. This time, it’s easy to see what the motivation is. Brooklyn bragging rights doesn’t hurt either.”
The matchup with Judah will mark the third consecutive fight for Malignaggi on home turf.
He out-pointed Pablo Cesar Cano in the co-feature during the opening night of championship boxing at the state-of-the-art arena on Oct. 20, 2012.
In June, Malignaggi went toe-to-toe with the undefeated Broner at Barclays, thinking he’d done enough to at least earn a draw in the headline bout. But after the first two judges split on the winner, a third came in with a 117-111 score in favor of Broner, leaving Malignaggi to wonder what fight he’d been watching.
The 33-year-old Brooklynite spent the post-fight press conference ranting against the decision, as well as calling out his opponent for a seemingly endless stream of personal attacks, both inside and outside of the ring. He even hinted that Broner’s supporters had been given preferential treatment in terms of ringside seating for the fight.
None of it prevented him from stepping back into the squared circle Saturday night for an opportunity to prove, both to himself and the record crowd expected to attend, that he will go down as the best Brooklyn-bred boxer of his era.
“It’s exciting every time you’re part of a big promotion,” a rejuvenated Malignaggi said. “It’s not a world championship fight, but it still has that feel and that vibe. On Saturday night it will feel like it’s a championship fight in Barclays Center. We’re both motivated to win, but when you’re at this level anything can get you motivated for a fight like this.
“If you’re not motivated for this, you better check your pulse to make sure you’re alive.”
Judah, who at 36 is nearing the end of a Hall of Fame career, is trying to shake off a loss to undefeated lightweight champion Danny Garcia here in April.
“For me, this fight came about after the Garcia fight. In my preparation for moving forward to do what I do they said Paulie and I said ‘Paulie, nah, Paulie is my homeboy.’
“But I was like, ‘Hey, you know this is an opportunity that you’ve got to take for boxing.’ So I guess we’re here now. Like I said, this is a fight where there’s no animosity or anything like that. It’s just us going in there and representing for our city.”
Just because the combatants share a mutual respect and long history of friendship doesn’t mean they won’t be looking to score an impressive win Saturday night.
Neither fighter can afford a second consecutive loss of this stature if he hopes to resume getting headline bouts on SHOWTIME, which will televise this weekend’s card.
Malignaggi, who already has a prime gig as a ringside analyst for the cable network, knows that once the bell rings for the opening round, Judah will be coming after him without any regard for their special relationship.
“I expect the best Zab Judah, a Zab Judah who is going to be fighting for his boxing career,” Malignaggi said. “I feel the same way. If we saw each other in the gym, we would try to knock each other out. There’s no love taps. With this much on the line you can bet we’re both going to have it out on Saturday.”
Though the two Brooklynites won’t hold back any punches, Malignaggi doesn’t expect that there will be much chatter in the ring.
“I know Zab since I’m 17 years old. It would be weird to trash-talk,” Malignaggi conceded. “If the trash-talking really got animated, I think we would just laugh at each other. We’re keeping it respectful.”
Ring Notes: Malignaggi isn’t getting caught looking past Judah, but did indicate that a win over his Brooklyn rival could launch him back into a title bout. “I want that Broner vs. [Marcos] Maidana winner,” Malignaggi said, referring to next weekend’s WBA Welterweight championship fight in San Antonio. “First things first, I have to get through Saturday night.” … Judah and Malignaggi won’t be the only Brooklynites looking for a big win Saturday night. Sadam “World Kid” Ali will be making his second appearance under the Golden Boy Promotions banner after surviving an eight-round decision in his Golden Boy debut here in September against Jay Krupp. “My last fight was here and I want to keep boxing in Brooklyn alive,” Ali said Tuesday of his return to Barclays Center to face Jesus Selig. “It’s always exciting to fight there. I felt a little rusty in September fighting an awkward fighter, but I feel back to normal now.” … Also, Staten Island light-heavyweight Marcus Browne will go against Kevin Engel in his record fifth Barclays bout. Both Ali and Browne are former U.S. Olympians.
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