Paul Malignaggi is counting down to a mini-megafight, a headline feature at Barclays Center on Dec. 7, against fellow Brooklyner Zab Judah. "The Battle of Brooklyn" pits two ultra-savvy pugilists--and they are pugilists, men who work the angles, and use guile and finesse and movement and countering--in a faceoff, with the winner moving on toward more meaningful and lucrative bouts, and the loser, depending on how they perform, dropping back a step or two on the ladder.
The Bensonhurst-bred hitter was in a fine mood when we chatted. We chatted about his recent appearance in the NY Post, on Page Six; a tipster spotted him in the downtown NY pizza shop Portobello's. I jokingly asked Paulie if he was going to have scale trouble for the Judah fight. "Nah," he said, chuckling, "the slice was wheat crust, gluten free!"
I did wonder if fans of trash talk might get a little taste ahead of the Judah clash; both men have been known to bring it and sling it when the need arises. "It would feel weird trash talking with Zab," he told me. "I think we're both waiting on each other. We've known each other since we were teens." The vocal interplay could still get a little spicy, he said, but he's certain the fight will be fan-friendly. "You get in there with a guy, and he hits you, and you get mad, and you want to get him back," he said. "I have no doubt it will be entertaining."
I also asked him about his fight with Miguel Cotto, back in 2006, because I recalled his right cheek getting swollen during the bout, and looking not unlike Magomed Abdusalamov's during his fateful bout against Mike Perez Nov. 2. As you likely know, Mago has been in an induced coma since Nov. 4. "Yes, it was a similar sitaution but here's the difference, Mago was complaining, he was clearly worried about what was happening," Malignaggi told me. "I feel maybe he sensed something was wrong but that communication only happens in the corner. The New York Commission can't be faulted because what they see is Mago fighting back." Malignaggi, who by the way had a broken orbital bone, and was sent by the Commission to the hospital in an ambulance post-fight, said in the Cotto bout he could feel swelling but didn't sense he was in danger from that.
The boxer smartly points out that in such tragic situations, everyone has 20/20 hindsight, of course. My main takeaways, I suppose, with that perfect hindsight, are that we always need to keep in mind that the ultimate price paid for fighting is death, and monitor fights and fighters accordingly, that it is always better to stop a fight too early than too late, and it is better to be safe than sorry with fighters, and it's wise to be over-cautious, and send them to the hospital for observation after a rugged outing. Then again, I do believe four doctors checked out Mago post-fight, including an esteemed neurologist, so it can be argued that due caution was exercised by the overseers.
The fighters usually have oversized hearts, and want to continue at all costs. Those around them are there to intercede on their behalf, step in and save them from themselves. Not sure if Paulie remembers, but he didn't want to go to the hospital on a stretcher, out of pride...
The fighter said the Mago situation does pop into his head, but "you can't think about negativity when you're getting int he ring or you won't be successful. It does make me realize that life is delicate and each trip into the ring can't be taken for granted."