Malignaggi is ready for his greatest challenge
Paulie Primed to Pull Major Upset in Barclays Bout Against Unbeaten Garcia
Paulie Malignaggi is no stranger to the role of underdog.
The 34-year-old Bensonhurst native has defied the odds on numerous occasions during his 14 years in the squared circle, and he’s doubtlessly hoping to pull off one more major upset on his way out of the sport.
“I plan on being the best me possible,” Malignaggi said earlier this week in advance of Saturday night’s headline bout with unbeaten Danny Garcia at Downtown’s Barclays Center.
“I plan on being the sharpest me possible,” he added. “And right now, in training, I feel really good. The plan is to flow this training camp into a sharp night on August 1st.”
Malignaggi, who has won two world titles and emerged victorious in 33 of 39 career bouts, readily admits that he wasn’t sure he would ever lace up the gloves again following his fourth round TKO loss to Shawn Porter nearly 16 months ago.
“You get to the point when you’re not in the ring for a while. It’s going through my mind that maybe I don’t want to fight,” revealed Malignaggi, who has emerged as one of boxing’s premier analysts with SHOWTIME, a career that should serve him well once he finally decides to stop fighting.
“But as time went by and I started working out again, I started realizing that it was something I missed,” he added. “It was something I was still craving. I wanted to be back in there.”
For Malignaggi, a victory against Garcia, one of boxing’s brightest stars who will be fighting at the welterweight level for the first time after dominating the lightweight division, would give him a legitimate shot at Hall of Fame status.
It also could spell the end of a pro career that began way back on July 7, 2001 on Coney Island in his debut bout at MCU Park, then called KeySpan Park.
Either way, Malignaggi is eager to prove that a year-plus out of the ring won’t be an excuse for what happens Saturday night in his fourth career bout at the arena he, along with Garcia, helped open back in Oct. 2012.
“If we’re going to talk about the layoff, people are going to talk about the fact that, I haven’t fought for a long time,” Malignaggi ceded. “But in reality, I actually haven’t trained this consistently in a decade, literally a decade.”
Malignaggi has certainly been here before.
After losing his first major title bout to Miguel Cotto at Madison Square Garden in 2006, the Brooklyn brawler found a way to score a unanimous decision victory over Lovemore N’Dou in 12 months later to grab the IBF Light Welterweight crown.
But Malignaggi lost three of his next seven fights, and was consistently questioned about his lack of punching power following TKO defeats at the hands of Britain’s Ricky Hatton (2008) and Amir Khan (2010).
However, the “Magic Man” bounced back to reel off five consecutive victories following the loss to Khan at MSG, including a stunning ninth-round KO of Vyacheslav Senchenko in 2012 that gave him the WBA Welterweight title.
He helped crack the seal on the Barclays with a split-decision victory over Juan Pablo Cano on Oct. 20, 2012, but was out-pointed by trash-talking Adrien Broner here in Brooklyn on June 22, 2013.
Again, Malignaggi appeared ready to embrace his life as a ring analyst rather than a pro boxer.
But he climbed back between the ropes on Dec. 7, 2013 at Barclays and posted a stirring unanimous decision victory over fellow Brooklynite Zab Judah to breath some life back into his ring career.
Then came the loss to Porter, and an assumption by most of the boxing world that Malignaggi’s career had finally come to a close.
Earlier this year, Malignaggi was slated to fight Danny O’Connor at Barclays in what many signaled as a farewell bout.
Malignaggi suffered a cut during training and had to bow out, leaving the door open for what presented itself as a golden opportunity against Garcia, a fighter whom many think will write the final chapter in the local boxer’s career Saturday night.
“I’m not really concerned about Paulie, at this point in my career if I’m 110% percent ready, I feel like I can adapt to anything and find a way to win,” insisted Garcia, who boasts a perfect 30-0 record with 17 knockouts, including four triumphs in Downtown Brooklyn thus far.
“It feels great to be at 147 [pounds],” he added. “For the first time in a long time, I could worry about training to get better and not training to lose weight. I’ve been fighting at 140 my whole career.”
Malignaggi’s doubters aren’t alone in wondering if he still has what it takes to challenge a fighter of the 27-year-old Garcia’s youth and acumen for 12 rounds Saturday night.
But the Brooklyn born-and-bred pugilist is willing to step in the ring and give it at least one more try.
“I can’t really tell you exactly how I’m going to play it out until I’m in the ring myself,” Malignaggi admitted. “I’m not looking at it as having any advantages. It’s just a matter of matching of my skills to his skills.”
Also fighting Saturday night at Barclays is crowd favorite Danny “The Miracle Man” Jacobs of Brooklyn, who will defend his middleweight crown against Sergio “The Latin Snake” Mora in the co-feature leading up to the Malignaggi-Garcia fight.
“It’ll be against the most experienced guy I’ve faced thus far,” noted Jacobs, who overcame a life-threatening form of bone cancer to win the WBA title against Jarrod Fletcher at Barclays last year.
“I’m looking forward to testing my challenge against this slick, crafty veteran in Sergio Mora.”
Saturday’s bouts will be televised live from Barclays via ESPN as part of the Premier Boxing Champions Series.
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