Paulie Malignaggi Farewell Fight – The Barclays Center in Brooklyn, which has superseded the fabled Madison Square Garden as New York’s temple of fistiana, opened for boxing on October 20, 2012. It figured that Paulie Malignaggi would be part of the inaugural show. The Brooklyn-born Malignaggi is the most famous Italian to bubble out of the Bensonhurst section of Brooklyn since the fictional Vinnie Barbarino, the John Travolta character in the hit late-70’s ABC sitcom “Welcome Back Kotter.” Malignaggi returns to the Barclays Center on July 30 to face fellow Brooklynite Gabriel Bracero in a 10-round contest that some in the media are calling Paulie’s farewell fight.
Malignaggi (35-7, 7 KOs) emerged victorious on the first Barclays Center boxing show, edging Pablo Cesar Cano to retain his WBA World welterweight title. He scored one of his most notable wins here when he out-slicked former multi-belt World welterweight champion Zab Judah. But things haven’t been all rosy. He left the ring cursing after losing a disputed 12-round decision to Adrien Broner. And in his last appearance in this building, he suffered a bad beating at the hands of Danny Garcia in a bout that was stopped in the ninth frame.
Since then, Malignaggi has won two straight overseas, most recently a near-shutout over Antonio Moscatiello in a 12-round contest at London’s O2 Arena.
Malignaggi, now 35 years old, has a bright future as a TV boxing analyst. He has excellent chemistry with veteran Showtime sportscaster Al Bernstein. Why he wants to continue fighting is anyone’s guess, but history informs us that a boxer who achieves a measure of fame has trouble saying goodbye and making it stick.
Our best guess – and don’t hold us to it – is that this will be Paulie’s final fight only in the event that he loses. And he’s well-matched. Gabriel Bracero, from the Sunset Park section of Brooklyn, is a dangerous opponent.
Here’s what we know about Bracero: He’s 35-years-old, he brings a record of 24-2, he’s scored only five knockouts, and he’s hungry. The six-year prison stint that interrupted his boxing career (the charge was attempted murder) made him thirsty for the good things in life denied him when he was incarcerated.
Considering that he has scored only five knockouts in 26 ring appearances, one can be forgiven for thinking that Bracero is feather-fisted. Don’t tell that to Danny O’Connor. On October 10 of last year, on a small show in Lowell, Massachusetts, Bracero caught O’Connor flush with a counter right hand and O’Connor was out cold before he hit the canvas. The brutal knockout, which occurred in the opening minute of the fight (the official time was 41 seconds), was named the 2015 Knockout of the Year by several savvy boxing writers including our own Jeff Freeman, a ringside witness.
Malignaggi is 1-0 in “Battles of Brooklyn.” Zab Judah was the victim. But Bracero is also 1-0. On Nov. 9, 2013 he won a lopsided 10-round decision over Brooklyn’s Dmitriy Salita, knocking the former world title challenger into retirement. That makes Malignaggi vs. Bracero a convoluted rubber match of sorts.
The main event on the July 30 show pits Carl “The Jackal” Frampton against Leo Santa Cruz. Northern Ireland’s Frampton, rated #2 in the 122-pound division by the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, is moving up in weight to challenge Santa Cruz in a battle of unbeatens. This bout and two others will be televised on SHOWTIME. The Malignaggi-Bracero bout is slated for Showtime’s companion site, Showtime Extreme.
You will be reading a lot more about this attractive show in the ensuing weeks. Stay tuned.
Paulie Malignaggi Farewell Fight