Paulie Malignaggi – His Achievements Are Catching Up To His Mouth

Matthew Hurley: “I’ve looked at tapes of Sugar Ray Robinson and I believe he over-commits a lot. He falls in a lot.” Such blasphemy is, quite frankly, never heard in regards to the man who the title “pound for pound” was created. Robinson is the fighter every fighter who came before him and after him is compared to. And when those words come from the mouth of a young upstart with little punching power and a mouth as outrageous as his hairdos and boxing trunks old school boxing fans not only cringe they begin to harbor animosity..

paulie malignaggi Paulie Malignaggi does that to people. The young braggart with the fast hands and feet whose boxing heroes include Hector Camacho and Prince Naseem Hamed can’t seem to keep his trap shut. He loves to talk and oftentimes words spill out of his mouth before his brain has even had the chance to edit his thought process. But despite that bit of lunacy in his character there is something endearing about the fighter.

It came to the forefront in his loss to Miguel Cotto in front of a sold out Madison Square Garden. The “Magic Man” entered the ring on June 10th, 2006 fully expecting to box circles around what he called a “plodding, one dimensional” fighter. Instead the WBO junior welterweight champion did what he always does – he walked his man down and ultimately leveled a severe beating on the brash boxer from Brooklyn. But something happened in those twelve rounds. Malignaggi backed up his tough talk and took everything Cotto could dish out and in the end won over the pro-Cotto audience in attendance and many of his critics.

“I lost fair and square,” he commented after the fight, “but I proved I belonged in there. Now I’d like to fight him again because I’m better and I really do think I can beat him.”

He’ll have to wait in line for Cotto who fights Sugar Shane Mosley at the Garden on November 10th but after recovering from the injuries he suffered in the ring, including a fractured orbital bone, he entered the ring against Edner Cherry, winning a unanimous decision and then took on Lovemore N’dou for the IBF junior welterweight crown. Malignaggi boxed circles around the tough veteran but managed to be entertaining at the same time despite his lack of one punch power, even knocking his opponent to the canvas in the ninth round.

“I try to mix up the boxing, which is my strong point, with staying in the pocket, firing shots and getting out because I want to entertain the crowd. If you’re not entertaining the fans just won’t care about you. I talk a lot so it’s important that I try to back it up. I don’t want to be remembered as just a good fighter. I want the fans to remember me as a fighter who gave them what they want.”

Still, his attitude can rub people the wrong way. That comment about Ray Robinson not withstanding his cockiness can become a little tedious but not quite on the level of Hector Camacho or Prince Naseem Hamed. Hamed’s ring entrances alone, some as long as 15 minutes were enough to make many fans wish someone in the audience would punch him in the mouth. Malignaggi’s attitude secures its foundation in exuberance and the sheer delight of finding himself at center stage. If he could only temper his ego a little bit he might not turn off as many people as he does, but it’s that very ego that allowed him stay upright against Cotto and keep punching until the final bell. He discovered the fighter in himself that night and it was a hurdle he needed to clear in order to truly realize he’s got what it takes to get in there with the elite of the division.

Now he will take on Herman Ngoudjo on January 5th in New York. After all the dust has settled between Cotto and Mosley, Malignaggi’s future will be a little clearer. He wanted to fight Ricky Hatton but Floyd Mayweather got to him first. Mayweather is another of Malignaggi’s heroes and he opined that, “I believe Floyd Mayweather, and I know people are going to hate me for this, is the best fighter ever.” Once again the old school contingent cringe at such remarks but Paulie just shrugs his shoulders and smiles. It’s that impish quality that his fans have come to expect and appreciate, along with his skills and toughness and it’s that very same quality that fuels his detractors into hoping the smart-ass gets his butt whipped, and soon.

In the end all it does is sell tickets.

Article posted on 20.10.2007

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