Paul Malignaggi’s final magic act
With Paulie Malignaggi’s ninth round stoppage loss at the hands of undefeated Philly star Danny Garcia last Saturday night at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY., there is a good chance we have seen the “Magic Man” in the ring for the last time. He is 1-3 in his last four bouts, approaching age 35 and is probably looking to work on the business end outside the ropes from here on out. With a 33-7 (7) record, two world titles and a roster that proves he faced some of the best of his era, if Malignaggi is indeed done, he can certainly exit with his head held high.
Malignaggi will leave boxing with an outstanding resume that includes ring time with Miguel Cotto, Edner Cherry, Lovemore Ndou, Herman Ngoudjo, Ricky Hatton, Juan Diaz, Amir Khan, Adrien Broner, Zab Judah, Shawn Porter and Garcia, an impressive list to say the least.
What Malignaggi lacked in power (only seven KOs in 40 bouts), he certainly made up for in speed, skill and guts. Yes, he was a showman with a lot of flair but don’t let the crazy haircuts and fancy boxing trunks fool you. When that bell rang, Paulie would dog it out with anyone and never took a backward step. Elusive boxing skills were his strength but he would take it to the streets and war with anyone if that’s what what it took. Knowing he wasn’t a “game-changing” puncher made the trenches even more dangerous for Malignaggi but that never dissuaded him. Opponents may have been able to bang harder than him but they weren’t going to out-tough him.
Malignaggi turned pro in the summer of 2001. By the summer of 2006 he was 21-0 and had earned a shot at Miguel Cotto for the WBO junior welterweight title. He would suffer his first loss via unanimous decision but he showed a ton of heart, a characteristic that would define him throughout his career. Just two fights later, in the summer of 2007, he decisioned Lovemore Ndou to win the IBF junior welterweight title. Paulie made two defenses of his title against Herman Ngoudjo and in a rematch with Ndou before losing to British star Ricky Hatton in a bid for the “Hitman’s” RING and IBO junior welterweight titles in Nov. of 2008.
Paulie kicked off 2009 with a win over Christopher Fernandez before splitting two bouts with former lightweight champion Juan Diaz. In April of 2010, Malignaggi showed a the will of a warrior before being stopped by hugely popular Brit Amir Khan in 11 rounds in a bid for Khan’s WBA junior welterweight title. Paulie would return with three straight wins and, in April of 2012, he would stop Vyacheslav Senchenko in nine rounds to win the WBA welterweight title, picking up his second world title strap. Malignaggi defended the title against Pablo Cesar Cano in Oct. of 2012 before losing it to then-rising star Adrien Broner in June of 2013 in a controversial, split decision loss in a fight many fans felt he won. Paulie would close out the year in December with a unanimous decision win over fellow Brooklynite Zab Judah (picking up the vacant NABF title in the process).
Paulie would return in April of 2014 to challenge then-undefeated Shawn “Showtime” Porter for the latter’s IBF welterweight title and would be stopped in four brutal rounds. After the Porter loss, Malignaggi had contemplated retirement but decided he still had the boxing bug and returned last Saturday in his hometown. He was primed to challenge tough, Philadelphia slugger and current RING junior welterweight champion Danny Garcia, who was making his way into the welterweight division after dominating the 140-pound division for years. Paulie, as always, was tough and game but was stopped in the ninth round by a younger, stronger Garcia.
Having being stopped in his last two fights and with a great career as a Showtime network commentator up and running, the smart money says we’ve seen the final curtain call on a great career.
Paulie said after the fight, “Danny made little adjustments in there. He started jabbing at my shoulder and chest and he disrupted my timing. He made my shoulder real sore. It was a really good adjustment. In spots, I could grasp control but not enough to take over the fight. At first, I was mad about the stoppage but, in hindsight, I’m alright. I’ve got a really good job commentating and watching great fighters fight ringside. I hope to sit around ringside for a long time. I felt like if I couldn’t put up a great performance tonight, then it would be my last. I was trying to hang tough as much as I could. I remember, when I was taking big shots, I just kept thinking, ‘Don’t give in. This is your last night if you give in. Don’t show that you’re going to give in. If you can show that you’re still hungry for it, then you’ll convince yourself that this isn’t the end.’ I wanted to keep showing that I want it. Little by little, he broke me down and I have no problem with the stoppage.”
Over the last few years, Malignaggi has made the transition to the safe side of the ropes as an outstanding analyst for Showtime. His insight and experience have made him one of the best ringside voices in a long time and it appears he still has a great future ahead of him in that field.
“I’m probably not fighting again,” Malignaggi said, post-fight. “You hate to make an emotional decision. My career started in Brooklyn 14 years ago. If it ends in Brooklyn tonight, then at least I ended it at home where I’m from and in front of the greatest fans in the world.”
It was a great career, Paulie. You did boxing – and Brooklyn – proud!