Whether you love him or hate him, there are very few people who have done so much with so little like Paulie Malignaggi has. The sharp-tongued New Yorker has won titles in two weight classes despite having little punching power and coming into the sport with little fanfare, fought among some of the best fighters of his era and even found a second life as one of boxing’s best announcers with his work on Premier Boxing Champions and Showtime.
Key to his longevity in the sport has been his inability to hold his tongue, often speaking his mind without any fear of repercussion. Whether it is the injustice of state athletic commissions, blasting his future employers (more than once), or standing firm on his opinions about Manny Pacquiao’s alleged use of performance enhancers, he has become a figure for all time.
While he’s earned notoriety and respect, as well as showing a keen mind outside of the ring with his business ventures, Malignaggi has unfinished business in boxing, and is hoping to finally slay his white whale this weekend against Danny Garcia. Malignaggi, at the age of 34 and in his twilight as a fighter, is looking for the signature win of his career.
Early in his career, Malignaggi gave a very spirited effort against Miguel Cotto when they both were Junior Welterweights. The feather-fisted Malignaggi was outgunned by the much heavier Cotto, and suffered a broken orbital bone in the process, but stayed in the fight and made the distance while being competitive the whole way through.
He would eventually win a Junior Welterweight belt against Lovemore N’Dou and successfully defend it to the point where he faced off against the come backing Ricky Hatton, just two fights removed from being knocked out against Floyd Mayweather. Unlike Cotto, Malignaggi was no match for Hatton and took a pretty bad beating until his corner stopped the fight for him. This same scenario unraveled in an even less competitive effort against Amir Khan, who was too fast and too strong for him.
Even then, Malignaggi moved up in weight and captured a Welterweight title only to lose it to Adrien Broner in a closely contested bout. His last fight for a world title came against Shawn Porter last year, which resulted in a beating so vicious that Malignaggi decided to call it a career.
Yet, Malignaggi falls in the same trap as many older fighters do once they realize they see the end of their career and stubbornly pushes on to end things “on their terms.” He decided a comeback was in order after he healed from the injuries inflicted from the Porter fight, and now has another chance against a top star in Garcia, and it might be his best chance for glory.
Though Malignaggi is seen to be little more than a fall guy to Garcia, much like he was to Cotto and Khan, there is a chance that this fight might be closer than many are thinking. Garcia, despite being undefeated and a unified titleholder at Junior Welterweight, has been on the decline since beating Lucas Matthysse back in 2013.
Many thought he lost to Mauricio Herrera in a controversial fight as well as dodging a bullet against Lamont Peterson just a few months back. Though Garcia’s camp has slowly tried moving him up to Welterweight, he has looked flat and mediocre in the process. If Garcia is on the decline, is it so hard to believe that Malignaggi can be competitive?
At this stage of his career, Malignaggi knows better than anybody what he is capable of, and he jumped at the opportunity to fight Garcia. Stylistically speaking, Garcia isn’t nimble like Khan or physically assertive like Hatton or Porter, and has had trouble dealing with speedy fighters in the past. Considering the circumstances and that Malignaggi will come in at 100%, the chances for an upset are better than most people believe.
There is little to be lost should Malignaggi come up short as many are thinking he will against Garcia, but a win would put his whole career in perspective and would force even the most fickle of fans to applaud his accomplishments.
There will be a time, years from now, where we will still talk about his quality of work behind the microphone and probably still comment on the ridiculousness that sometimes shows up on his very active Twitter account. If Malignaggi has his way Saturday night and can come up with the biggest win of his career, it’ll have to be said that he was, above all things, one hell of a fighter.