Paulie Malignaggi was due to fulifill a lifelong ambition this weekend when the Italian-American challenged Gianluca Branco for the European welterweight title.
Late on Monday evening, Malignaggi then learned that Branco had pulled out of the O2 Arena contest without a valid reason other than to avoid a clash with the two-weight world champion.
After previously admitting to WBN that preparations for his recent return to Europe in September weren’t the best, Malignaggi is in top shape this time around and ready to put on a better performance for the UK fans.
Knockout losses to Shawn Porter and Danny Garcia had put the New York-based fighter’s career in doubt, although Malignaggi got back in the win column via a unanimous victory over Laszlo Fazekas to set up what he thought would be a coveted shot at the European belt.
Despite losing out on his EBU dream, Malignaggi will still feature on the Anthony Joshua v Dillian Whyte bill and is looking forward to fighting in front of his adoring British fans for the first time in seven years.
In 2008, as a fight with Britain’s Ricky Hatton loomed, Malignaggi headed to Manchester for a rematch with Lovemore Ndou, although problems with his new dreadlock hairstyle, coupled with a broken hand early in the fight – scuppered plans to impress in England and Malignaggi aims to correct that this weekend.
“I’ve been training and sparring, so this is probably the best camp I’ve had all year,” Malignaggi exclusively told World Boxing News.
“In the Garcia camp I couldn’t spar as I had just came back from a really bad cut in the O’Connor camp. I accepted the Garcia fight literally just a few weeks later, so I could barely spar. I think I did 25 rounds of sparring for Garica and my average is around 125 rounds.
“I’m a reflex fighter and I rely heavily on a lot of sparring, so I haven’t got the sparring I wanted all year. For this particular fight, I have sparring quite a lot. I was in Tokyo sparring Kamegai and I came back to the States and sparred with Sadam Ali as he was tentatively getting ready for a fight that fell apart, and then recently Erick Bone.
“I have gotten some high quality and consistent sparring, so I really believe that I will be at my best for this fight, but now that Branco has pussied out it’s not for the European belt which is what I wanted. He’s always been envious of me. Branco has done this on purpose in my view as and in the end he just didn’t want to give me the shot as there was no injury.
“I’m now fighting Antonio Moscatiello and they are trying to make it for the EU title, but in reality that’s not much of a consolation for me.
“Branco knew that he couldn’t beat me – even on my worst day and I’m at a better level than him regardless.
“At least I’ll be able to put in a performance worthy of my name. Even though I won my last fight with Fazekas, it don’t think it was a performance worthy of my name.”
Asked whether his career will continue after fight, the Showtime and Fox commentator was unsure what the future holds and just wants to concentrate on giving a good account of himself – first and foremost.
“From there we will see where I go or if I can translate a win into an opportunity in America. I don’t know. But the EBU title was another thing on my bucket list and it’s a shame to miss out,” said Malignaggi.
“Fighting the UK against a non-Brit is also something I wanted to do. I never put on the performance I wanted against Ndou between the problems with my hair and breaking my right hand, so this is a goal of mine as I get a lot of love from the UK fans.
“I look forward to fighting in front of a British crowd and just hearing them singing, cheering and applauding. It gives them the reputation they have of being a festive and action-packed crowd so I look forward to that,” he added.