Two-weight world champion Paulie Malignaggi has confirmed that there were never any thoughts of hanging up his gloves following his damaging four-round loss to Shawn Porter sixteen months ago.
The 34 year-old faces Danny Garcia this weekend in what was an eyebrow-raising match-up when first announced, but says he relishes being the underdog and aims prove there is still something ‘The Magic Man’ can offer the sport on Saturday night.
“This kind of opportunity just fell into my lap. It was unexpected. But I’m all about competing against the best. As surprised that I was, it was also an opportunity I couldn’t say no to. It’s a chance to, be back in the main spotlight with that kind of a fight, be at the forefront which are the kind of fights that I crave, anyway, and the kind of fights that really get my adrenaline flowing and get me motivated,” said Malignaggi.
“I’m fighting one of the best fighters in the world today at any weight. Like Danny Garcia, it’s a motivation to test myself against the best. I always want to test myself against the best, and so here I am.
“You get to the point when you’re not in the ring for a while (after the Porter fight). It’s going through my mind that maybe I don’t want to fight. But as time went by and I started working out again, I started realizing that it was something I missed. It was something I was still craving. I wanted to be back in there.
“It wasn’t even something I considered. It was just something that I felt like I was going to do, you know. I just felt like, I don’t really want to do this, in the time, the way I felt, where my mind was at. And it was just something I didn’t want to do anymore.
“So I think that’s probably the best thing that happened to me in terms of thinking it like that. Not talking about the loss, but in terms of my mindset in that moment was probably the best thing because if you start to tell yourself you’re going to have a layoff and you’re going to come back, in the back of your mind, you’re never going to take that time off the right way. You’re going to be thinking about you should be back in a gym or when is the right time to get back in the gym.
“So I think the change of my mind was probably a good thing as opposed to just telling myself, “You know what, I’m going to take some time off and then come back.” I really didn’t think I was going to come back. So when I took the time off, it was really like a time that I was legitimately, in my mind, feeling rested and got myself rejuvenated without even realizing it. And then by the time I got back in the gym, it was like to try rebuilding a new me, so to speak.
“I’m 34-years-old. I’m not 24. So I don’t really have that kind of patience anymore. At the same time, when I got the call, I also realized how good I had felt in the gym sparring and how good I’ve been feeling in the gym just getting shaped or whatnot. So I felt like I could just flow right into another training camp, because I hadn’t taken that long a time off after I had been cut for the O’Connor camp. I actually still kept training.
“So my weight was still good. It kind of made sense on a lot of fronts. I didn’t tell myself, “Oh, it’s a big step-up after a layoff.” I didn’t look at it like that. I looked at it from more of a positive perspective.
“So I know as far as round one, it’s a new chapter for me. And so I don’t consider, I don’t think about what’s happened to me in the past, whether it was good or bad. But it’s something that I haven’t thought about in a long time and it doesn’t go through my mind.”
On facing undefeated Garcia, who is moving up from his position as unified champion at 140, Malignaggi stated: Oh, I think he’s a phenomenal fighter. I even told Danny myself, early on, I wasn’t high on him. But, I know when he was in the prospect stages, he was beating some really good names and he was hitting a harder road up and a lot of prospects to do, in terms of a guy he has to fight. And he grew on me. I started realizing I’m not looking at this kid the right way. This kid is actually good on a lot of fronts, both from a physical perspective and from a mental perspective, really strong.
“I’ve always had a lot of respect for him. But in terms of 140, 147, he’s no different than me. I was a junior welterweight champion; I moved into welterweight. So from that front, I don’t even look at myself as a bigger guy or anything. As a matter of fact, he moved up to welterweight at a younger age than when I moved up to welterweight, you know. So his body grew into the division a little sooner than my body grew into the division.
“So I think from that point of view, we both have that in common that we’re both ex-junior welterweight. So from a physical standpoint, I’m not looking at it as having any advantages. It’s just a matter of matching of my skills to his skills.
“I think it’s more must-win for me as far as my own boxing career is concerned. I think there’s no question that from my professional boxing career, not my commentating career; take everything else aside. For the life of my professional boxing career to continue, I feel like this is a must win for sure. I don’t think that there’s much of a must-win for Danny as it is for me.
“At this level, they’re all – you always feel like it’s must win because you’re always in the mix for a bigger fight if you can win. So it’s always must win. But in reality, I feel like the burden falls on me more than Danny for it to be that kind of must-win.
“But it’s also nothing new to me. I’ve been written off before. My career was supposed to end in 2009 when I went to Houston, Texas. I just came off the Ricky Hatton loss and I went to Houston to fight Juan Diaz. And no matter what I said in the press conferences, no matter what I’ve said in interviews, I remember just within one year they just kind of felt like this was going to be the end of my career. And so I had to go in there and prove it myself that it wasn’t yet, you know.
“So I had everybody – if I allowed myself to listen to what everybody says, I would have long gone a long time ago because you figure, you teach everybody their lessons and then it happened again in 2012. I got sent to Ukraine. I hadn’t really had a big fight in a couple of years and people just thought I was again sent to Ukraine as a fight just to make a little bit of money and be done. I was surprised that everybody was thinking about me like that again. I was like, “Wow. These people really don’t learn their lesson, you know.”
“And so I went to Ukraine and I’d come back with the WBA Welterweight title at that time. And I was able to turn things around again from – in my career. And those are really two key situations because losses in those two fights would really have erased me from the sport.
“So I found myself again in this kind of situation. I’m not travelling to anybody’s hometown this time. I’m fighting in my own hometown. But it’s the same situation. It’s kind of the same thing. No matter what I say going into this fight, people are still going to look at it the same way that I’m the opponent and I’m the guy that Danny beats and this is my last fight and I’m just taking this for a payday and all this stuff, so we’ll see August 1st.”
Tickets for the live event, which is promoted by DiBella Entertainment in association with Swift Promotions, are priced at $250, $150, $120, $75 and $45, not including applicable service charges and taxes, and are on sale now. Tickets are available at www.barclayscenter.com, www.ticketmaster.com and at the American Express Box Office at Barclays Center. To charge by phone, call Ticketmaster at (800) 745-3000. For group tickets, please call 855-GROUP-BK.