In anticipation of his June 10 showdown with Miguel Cotto at Madison Square Garden, Paulie Malignaggi and his promoter Lou DiBella met with members of the boxing press via telephone conference call. This is what went down…
LOU DIBELLA, DIBELLA ENTERTAINMENT: It's going to be a big night at Madison Square Garden on June 10th and I think that Paulie's going to shock the boxing world when he becomes the new 140 lb champion. This is a fight that I'm very grateful to Top Rank and to Cotto for giving us the opportunity to participate, and it's a fight that Paulie's wanted his entire career. Since his third pro fight he's been saying, get me Miguel Cotto. My style matches up with him. I want to prove that I'm the best. And the reason we're so happy to get this fight is we do acknowledge how good a fighter and a good a champion Cotto is. And this is Paulie's opportunity to prove that not only does he belong, but he is the best out there and that's what he believes and I think that's what he's going to show on the 10th of June. So I'm just going to turn it over to Paulie Malignaggi. He'll say a couple of words, which he's never at a loss for, and then we'll open it up for questions.
PAUL MALIGNAGGI: Hey, I want to say what's up to everybody and I want to thank everybody for having me. And I'm going to reiterate what Lou said. I plan on shocking everybody. I plan on spoiling the show for a lot of the people that are expecting me to get stopped and a lot of people that think I'm going to be exposed as a fraud. I'm going to expose myself — I'm going to expose — the only thing that's going to be exposed is the fact I'm a world class fighter and everybody is going to realize that on June 10th.
MICHAELS WOODS, TheSweetScience.com: The first question for Paulie. Just got off a session with Cotto in which he said that after this fight, well this fight he's going to knock you out. If you slow down he's going to knock you out, and after this fight he's going to send you back to where you were fighting before, which is the clubs of New York. I'd like your response.
PAULIE MALIGNAGGI: New York is in for a rude awakening on June 10th. Tell him to keep talking. I'm going to break his face on Saturday night.
MICHAELS WOODS: Good response.
PAULIE MALIGNAGGI: He's playing with the wrong guy, believe me.
MICHAELS WOODS: All right. And this one's to Lou. Bob Arum was a little bit feisty in his call and he actually said that he's going to be — this promotion is going to be a little bit something different because he's going to bring back “the fun to boxing.” And he says a lot of the blame for lagging attendance, live attendance at fights as been because of promoters not actually promoting but just sort of playing front man for TV networks.
LOU DIBELLA: He said — well, I don't know about front men for TV networks but there are certainly a lot of promoters that don't promote. And I'll take a little credit here because Paulie's had his share of up and downs, but the kid promotes himself and he has been promoted. And there are a lot of promoters out there that — whose fighters don't get opportunities the way they should and whose events wind up having 40 or 50 people in the arena it looks like on television because they're in the business of just grabbing network money as opposed to working their assess off to garner attention. So I'm not willing to blame it on the network squarely like Bob is, but I will tell you that I do believe there are an awful lot of promoters in this day and age who don't promote.
JOHN ELIGON, NEW YORK TIMES: Hi, this is for both Lou and Paulie. Bob Arum, when he was talking a little bit about, you know, kind of the ethnic targeting of this card. I just wondered, what were you guys' thoughts on the fact that this targeting obviously sort of an ethnic group and how that could benefit support and whatnot.
LOU DIBELLA: Well, you have a Puerto Rican kid fighting in a city with the biggest Puerto Rican population outside of Puerto Rico against an Italian kid from the most Italian neighborhood in Brooklyn fighting in a city with a huge Italian-American population. You have the fastest growing ethnic group in New York, Mexican Americans, and you have Julio Cesar Chavez Junior fighting on this card. There are — John Duddy fighting on this card who’s an incredible draw to the Irish community, sold out the theater at the Garden himself. And you've got African American local kids who sell tickets like it's chocolate, and Curtis Stevens fighting on the card. I mean, it's just — it's a well constructed card with an idea of appealing to the many ethnic groups that are in this melting pot that's New York City. And that's old fashioned promotion and I applaud Arum for that. Paulie, do you want to say anything?
PAULIE MALIGNAGGI: Yes. Also there's Bobby Pacquiaofor the Filipino community fighting Kevin Kelley who is a pretty well known New York fighter back in the day, was a world champion. So I think you got a little something for everybody in terms of ethnicity and in terms of hometown fighters also.
JOHN ELIGON: How much does it mean to you to be a draw to Italian fans? You know, how much does that mean to you?
PAULIE MALIGNAGGI: It means a lot to me because I think boxing has faded a little bit in the Italian community. There's no real Italian fighters that have stepped up to the plate. Arturo Gattihas and he's going into the limelight of his careers. So it seems like somebody really has to take his spot and continue this tradition for Italian fighters because there's not many of us who can — who are carrying the sport for our ethnicity. So I believe I'm the one that has to fill those shoes.
EDDIE GOLDMAN: Paulie, I want to ask you, a lot of the fans probably are more familiar with Cotto since he's been on HBO and national television a number of times. New York fans are familiar with you both from the local shows like Broadway Boxing and we've seen you in person. How are you going to approach him, because we know about his power? He's fought in the Garden before, and you’re somebody — you haven't had as many knockouts recently. How are you going to approach Cotto in this fight?
PAULIE MALIGNAGGI: I'll probably just fight the same way. I put in 100 percent mentally and physically for every opponent. Miguel Cotto, no different; he's nothing special to me. He's the world champion, so you have to give him respect for that, but as far as approaching him any differently, I don't approach him any differently. I come prepared and I bring the best Paul Malignaggi to every fight. And when you bring the best Paulie Malignaggi to every fight, it doesn't matter how good or how strong Miguel Cotto comes.
EDDIE GOLDMAN: How are your hands? You know you're going to get asked that every time you acknowledge that because you have had admittedly hand problems before. But how are they going to be for this fight?
PAULIE MALIGNAGGI: My hands are fine. I'll let you guys worry about the hand injuries. I'm pretty much done with that. I don't have any injuries. I don't have any problems with the hands. The only question mark I will leave up to you guys, if you guys want to ask those questions, because that's for me, it's not a question mark anymore.
EDDIE GOLDMAN: Do you — tell us why you think you're ready for this fight because Cotto is by far the best guy that you're fighting?
PAULIE MALIGNAGGI: I feel I'm ready for this fight for a bunch of reasons. Number one, I’m healthy. I was just waiting to be healthy. I was always felt I was on a world class level. I just needed to be healthy to prove it because to be on a world class level you have to be able to compete at 100 percent. So now that I'm there, there's nothing stopping me. So I'm able to compete on this level. Another reason is also that I feel Cotto is a one dimensional fighter who besides knowing how to punch doesn't know how to fight. So on June 10th I’m going to expose him for what he is.
EDDIE GOLDMAN: OK. And last thing also is everybody knows on June 10th is the other show.
LOU DIBELLA: What show's that?
EDDIE GOLDMAN: (inaudible)
LOU DIBELLA: I didn't know there was another show.
EDDIE GOLDMAN: Tell us why you think the fans should be either at Madison Square Garden live or watching this one on television on Pay Per View?
PAULIE MALIGNAGGI: Because we're carrying the sports of the next generation. This is the future of boxing on June 10th on display. It's two top, up-and-coming 140 lb fighters in the world fighting for a world title.
LOU DIBELLA: Surrounded by young fighters of quality up and down the card. I mean, you know. You have a kid named Tommy Z who's getting national press all over the place because he's a Notre Dame football player and a pretty good one, and Duddy is a sensation. No matter what you think of his ability, he happens to be a great kid, but whatever you think of his ability, he's one of the biggest ticket sellers in the state of New York and one of the biggest ticket sellers in the country. You've got a combined age in Atlantic City of about 80 years old and the past is AC. The future is in New York City.
EDDIE GOLDMAN: Why do you think that HBO didn't decide to telecast this because we all…
LOU DIBELLA: You got to ask them. I have no — you got to ask them.
EDDIE GOLDMAN: OK.
LOU DIBELLA: It's been a long time since I made the decision.
EDDIE GOLDMAN: Well obviously we know you didn't make this decision. OK, we'll see you in the Garden on the 10th.
ROBERT MORALES, LA DAILY NEWS: Hey, Paul, you know, I'm just wondering, and I ask you this question with all do respect. I'm not breaking your balls or anything, but it seems like this is probably your first taste of what I would call the world class limelight, you know, because a lot of people are going to see this. Often times rookies in other sports, when they get there to the big show for the first time they're a little humble, they don't talk a lot of trash. You have kind of done the opposite and I'm just wondering why, if that's just you or if you're trying to maybe make a name for yourself in this first taste of the big show, so to speak?
PAULIE MALIGNAGGI: Being myself is what got me here. Doing all the talking is what got me here. That's become my reputation so now that I'm on the big stage I don't have to change. I'm going to keep doing what I’ve been doing.
LOU DIBELLA: I can tell you that when —
PAULIE MALIGNAGGI: With confidence.
LOU DIBELLA: I can tell you when he sat on my couch when he was zero and zero and hadn't had his pro debut yet, the same smack talk was there. I mean, his attitude has not changed any. I mean, he's been very consistent.
PAULIE MALIGNAGGI: Yes, well put.
ROBERT MORALES: That's kind of what I was looking for and I appreciate that.
PAULIE MALIGNAGGI: No problem.
LOU DIBELLA: Well I just hope, I know a lot of you guys are going to be covering the fight in AC. I hope that many of you will elect to realize that the future is here and certainly those who are closer to the New York area, I hope you'll be at Madison Square Garden. And if you're not, I think you're going to be reading about a really great fight on the morning of the 18th if you're sitting in your hotel room in Atlantic City probably wishing you were at the Garden.
ROBERT MORALES: Paulie, I was wondering since I know so little about you other than the fact that you're from New York City, which I love even though I’m an LA guy. Can you tell me a little bit about your life growing up, where you grew up at and what kind of a life you had? Just a little bit about your background.
PAULIE MALIGNAGGI: Well, I was born in Brooklyn, New York. I lived in Italy. I moved back. My family moved back to Italy when I was an infant. I lived there till I was six years old. I came back to Brooklyn. I was in Jersey for a few years and then I went back to Brooklyn when I was 15. I got into boxing because I was having some problems as a young teenager so I chose boxing. My family chose boxing to take me to the gym and keep me out of trouble. In a nutshell that's what got me up to this point so far.
LOU DIBELLA: Paulie's dad moved back to Italy. Paulie was living with his mom and stepfather, and he and his stepfather didn't see eye to eye that often. And then also, I mean, he was sort of — he had just gotten over here. He was getting into some trouble, not going to school. When he sat on my couch for the first time he said to me, “I’m living on my grandmother's couch. I need an apartment.” And I'm like, “Paul, you just won the national championships. You’ve only been fighting for three years. You’re sure you don't want to stick it out, go to the Olympics?” He goes, and he basically said, “I can't. I'm living on my grandmother's couch and I need to start my life.” And I figured that any kid that could have 36 amateur fights and win the US nationals had to be something of a prodigy and I kept getting calls from guys like Johnnie Bos and other old-timers in the business saying that Hank Kaplan, guys like that saying, hey I saw this kid. This kid's something special. This kid's got unusual speed. And he's Italian-American. You got to sign him. So that pretty much sealed the deal.
You know, Paulie, Paulie hasn't had the easiest rap and one of the things I admire about him is like, you know, I'm a — my parents were first generation Americans. Paulie is really a first generation American. His parents were Italian and his dad is back living in Sicily right now. So he's really, you know, he has the — he knows the immigrant experience and he came over here when he was six years old, and he came back here, he was fluent in Italian knowing basically no English. And now listen to his mouth, so.
PAULIE MALIGNAGGI: It's been a long time since then.
ROBERT MORALES: Hey, Paulie, how old were you when you started your amateur career?
PAULIE MALIGNAGGI: I was 16 years old when I started boxing. I was 17 when I had my first fight.
LOU DIBELLA: And at 19 he won the US amateurs.
ROBERT MORALES: Paul, what do you attribute that to? Obviously I know you're very fast and everything, but do you feel like you have a lot of what they call, you know, that God-given ability?
PAULIE MALIGNAGGI: I feel like I have a lot of God-given ability. I think that's a good point but I'm also very disciplined and I'm very hungry for what I want. And I put my mind to something and a lot of people have doubts about me and say that I can't do it. I'm going to do it and a lot of the drive comes from people doubting me. A lot of people say I can't do this and a big example is beating Miguel Cotto on June 10th. A lot of people say I can't do it and I'm in over my head and all that. A lot of people have those doubts about me so it's something. When you put those doubts out there and I know I can do something, I'm going to do it and I’m going to do it just to prove people wrong.
ROBERTO COLON, PRIMERA HORA: Yes. This is a question for Paulie. Paul, obviously, you know, everything's sort of been planned like to do this big festivity for Miguel Cotto on the Sunday after the card in the Puerto Rican national parade. So a victory of yours will really bring in surprise, but at the same time, you know, it's going to make a big dent in the plans of all of Puerto Rican people that are going to be celebrating and stuff. So I guess that also — you're using that as probably motivation for this fight.
PAULIE MALIGNAGGI: I'm not sure I'm using it as motivation. I have a lot of my friends are Puerto Rican at 20, and I’m not going to be spoiling their parade because they going to be rooting for me. I will go to the parade if I got invited. I don't know if I would be welcome there after beating Miguel Cotto, but it's motivation just because I think the whole show is surrounded around Miguel Cotto. Not necessarily the parade, just everything is basically revolves around Cotto, so and I’m like this, just a guy who just happens to be here. So that's the motivation. As far as the parade, like I said, I've got a lot of Puerto Rican friends.
ROBERTO COLON: OK. One more question. You mentioned that Cotto's a one dimensional fighter. The past fight, you know, he's been hurt on some occasions. You know, he went down against Ricardo Torres, (inaudible) also knocked him down. Have you seen those fights, you know, to analyze what went wrong in those fights for Cotto even though he won, to try to go use that angle to get the victory?
PAULIE MALIGNAGGI: Cotto fights the same way every fight. The guys that had him in some trouble are just the guys that knew how to fight him and maybe fought him a little differently. When Cotto looks good it's not because he looks good it's just his opponent was so poor and didn't know what to do with him. When Cotto looks bad, Cotto fought the exact same way as when we looked good, it's just the opponent knew what he was doing. So Miguel Cotto looks the same every fight. He's a one-dimensional fighter. He knows to do nothing but the same thing every time out. He's like a mummy.