Q&A: Paul Malignaggi
Will the “Magic Man” be able to solve “The Problem”? After months of trash talking, WBA welterweight titleholder Paul Malignaggi finally gets his opportunity to burst the considerable bubble of WBC lightweight king Adrien Broner when the two meet in an anticipated Showtime-televised main event at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., on June 22.
The two bombastic talkers got into a very public spat that built up via social media before reaching a crescendo on the day of the Floyd Mayweather-Robert Guerrero fight at a media luncheon officially announcing their fight. Both took turns verbally jibing each other, and at times, the exchanges were nasty.
It’s fair to say there is no love lost between these two. A fired up Malignaggi intends to make good on his comments of exposing his young protagonist.
“There’s an Adrien Broner in every urban gym in the United States, a guy like that exists everywhere,” the 32-year-old two-division titleholder said. “I see them all the time. A lot of them don’t have the help Adrien Broner has. Adrien Broner is (hyped) because of Al Haymon.”
Malignaggi (32-4, 7 knockouts) will be looking to make the second successful defense of the WBA crown that he won last April when he traveled to Ukraine as a big underdog and unseated then-unbeaten beltholder Vyacheslav Senchenko, stopping him on cuts in nine rounds.
The Brooklyn native followed that victory with a close split decision over Pablo Cesar Cano last October. After a slow start, Cano poured on the pressure late in the fight, dropping Malignaggi in the penultimate round. To his credit Malignaggi held off Cano’s gallant attempt to close the show, eking out two scores of 114-113 against a bizarre 118-109 for Cano.
Here’s what the charismatic, articulate Malignaggi had to say when he recently spoke with RingTV.com.
Anson Wainwright: You take on Adrien Broner next Saturday. What are your thoughts on the fight?
Paul Malignaggi: It’s an interesting fight for me at this point in my career. It’s a fight that I need (and) I want, as far as testing myself. It’s a guy a lot of people rate very highly, so I expect that when I win I may finally get some credit for the things that I have accomplished in my career. I’m not quite sure if I will but either way he’s a fighter that when I beat him the win will mean a lot.
AW: You’ve obviously watched tape of him and seen some of his fights. What do you think of him as a fighter?
PM: I don’t think he’s that good. I don’t think much of him. I think there’s some talent there, some natural talent but I think you need more than natural talent to cut it at this level. So when we finally get in the ring, people will see he may be as talented as he wants to be but at the end of the day there’s a lot more than talent to get to the top of the sport and maintain that status.
There’s an Adrien Broner in every urban gym in the United States. A guy like that exists everywhere. I see them all the time. A lot of them don’t have the help Adrien Broner has. Adrien Broner is there because of (manager) Al Haymon. Adrien Broner’s not there because Adrien Broner’s that good. He’s there because Al Haymon has pulled his career and right now in the United States (Haymon is) the guy that you have to be with to be ahead, so it’s a bit of a mirage. It’s a bit of an illusion and you’ll see what I’m talking about.
AW: Broner will be coming all the way up to 147 having only previously fought as high at 135. He walks around pretty big and likely only managed to fight at 130 and 135 due to his youth. Do you feel the weight is a factor?
PM: I think weight classes exist for a reason but whether it becomes a factor or not we’ll see. I have a plan to beat him, whether it effects him or not. (It) doesn’t really matter to me because I have a game plan that’s going to basically expose him for who he really is which is nothing.
AW: The two of you have really gotten into it, both in person and over social media. Things took a turn for the WWE with the announcement that shall we say you have a common “friend?”
PM: Yeah it was sorta WWE style. It was definitely made for a lot of people to talk. It was a press conference where two competitors who are going to reach and do things that will allow ourselves to gain the advantage. I think Adrien Broner is crossing himself up. He’s trying so hard that he’s losing sight of the big picture. He’s trying so hard to get in my head and do all that stuff. I’ve been here a long time, I may get angry, I may react emotionally, I may do all that but at the end of the day I’m a 32-year-old grown man who’s been at this level for a long time but I know promoting a fight is one thing but crossing myself up where I lose focus is something completely different. I think Adrien Broner in his own mind thinks he’s getting in my head, but guys like me, there’s no getting in our heads anymore. When a guy’s been at this level as long as I have there’s really no getting in my head. There’s no getting in the head of any guy who’s been at this level for as long as I have, not just me, any veteran in general. It’s a situation where he’s trying so hard and I don’t know if he’s crossed himself up or not but he’s trying so hard to convince himself he has the advantage, whatever it is. It’s not really going to matter ’cause come fight night there’s performing to do and he’s going to have to perform under the lights, in front of the biggest crowd he’s fought in front of in the biggest stage he’s fought at, fighting the most rounds he’s potentially ever fought against the best fighter he’s ever fought, against the biggest fighter he’s ever fought. So those are the things that come into play fight night. The other stuff, it becomes irrelevant at a certain point if you don’t know how to place it right. There’s a time and place but if you focus too much on that you lose sight of the big picture.
AW: You trained in Los Angeles for Broner. Can you tell us about your camp? Who have you sparred with?
PM: We’ve had some good sparring partners. When I was in Texas I was working with Benjamin Whitaker and a guy Kenton Sippio-Cook, he’s a good prospect (3-0, 3 KOs). I was in San Antonio for the Canelo Alvarez card and I was working out a bit. Then I got to L.A. I’ve been working with Steve Forbes, Kareem Mayfield, Keandre Gibson all good fighters. Forbes is obviously a veteran. Mayfield and Gibson are both good young fighters, both undefeated. Honestly, I will say it again, Adrien Broner, guys like him exist in gyms all across the country. He just happens to have Al Haymon and that’s been the difference. I assure you I am getting more tested in sparring than I will on fight night.
AW: You beat Pablo Cano in your last bout. Looking back on that fight can you tell us about it? There were a few rough moments.
PM: I think I started the fight pretty well and when I looked at the scorecards and I thought about it, the two judges had me winning the fight. I was scoring it, pretty much the way my corner, my manager and attorney were scoring it ringside. The thing about a fight like this is people will look at ShoStat and CompuBox, which is completely and utterly bulls__t. It’s just a guy playing Nintendo pressing buttons, you know. It’s cool and it’s fun but it’s like a fantasy sport. When you play fantasy baseball, fantasy football in a way it’s cool but it’s far from fact. It really, really irks me when people look at those stats and talk about them like facts. The commentator or the broadcaster will say the guy threw this many punches and landed this many punches. No it’s always according to Compubox and ShoStat that he threw that many punches, it’s not a fact because it’s a guy hitting buttons like Nintendo. It’s something to keep in mind and it’s cool to have something like that but it’s far from fact.
Going back to the fight, a lot of people were scoring for Cano was because of the complete and utter bulls__t of the CompuBox numbers they were seeing. They were complete garbage. If I had been hit with that many I’d have been smoked out cold very early in the fight. I wouldn’t have lasted, so first and foremost there’s that, and then when you look at the first eight rounds, I think I was winning easy. I thought I won eight of the first eight or maybe seven of the first eight and my corner thought the same thing. In the last four rounds things got a little hairy. I got tired a little bit and I may have lost the last four rounds, I may have lost three of the last four rounds, let’s say for the sake of it I lost the last four rounds, you give him one of the first eight you get seven rounds to five minus an extra point for the knock down – what do you get? 114-113… so obviously the one of the judges was effected by the ShoStats. I was very comfortable for eight rounds, my face tells a story. I’m a guy who marks easily and I had no marks after eight rounds. The marks showed after that. What I can tell you about the Cano fight is basically there’s a lot of overreacting on people’s part and I know Cano was the underdog so people say he did more than he did because they want the underdog to win. The one guy who voted for Cano, Glenn Feldman, said it himself at the WBA convention. So you have two guys who scored for me and the other guy says he made a mistake. What’s that tell you? It tells you top listening to CompuBox and ShoStats. Stop taking them for more than they are, which is a bit of fun, with a version of fact but they’re far from fact and if you eliminate that you probably realize Paulie Malignaggi won that fight.
AW: It had been rumored that you were going to fight Shane Mosley earlier this year only for that to fall out. What happened?
PM: Well there were things in the contract I didn’t like. They weren’t being honored. The purse was fine but there was a lot of options in my promotional contract that I wasn’t getting, that I’m owed by my contract that I’m supposed to get, so no I don’t want that. I want my contract honored so we couldn’t come to a deal. They didn’t honor them for the Broner fight but they offered me a lot more money, so I guess it was a trade off. So I took the Broner fight. Rest assured that after beating Adrien Broner I’m going to have a lot to say and if people don’t honor my contract, I have no problem sitting it out and retiring. It becomes a matter of principle at that point.
AW: The welterweight division is packed with talent. Let’s talk about the top 10, according to THE RING magazine. Give us your thoughts on the following guys:
C – Floyd Mayweather – I think Floyd’s the best welterweight in the world. I have a world title but I do think Floyd is obviously the man. He may be the best fighter ever, not just this generation.
1 – Juan Manuel Marquez – He’s solid. Again you can’t say too much but based on his win over Pacquiao you have to rate him pretty high.
2 – Manny Pacquiao – I think Manny is good. I don’t know the exact order. Rating them is really up to personal perception and personal opinion.
3 – Kell Brook – I think Kell’s a good fighter but I don’t think he’s proven a lot yet though. He got challenged by Carson Jones. Considering Kell’s not fought anyone in the top 10, it’s tough to rank him at No. 3.
4 – Paulie Malignaggi – Like most guys I’ve earned my right. There’s been ups and downs in my career. I do think I should be ahead of Kell Brook!
5 – Tim Bradley – I think Tim’s done a lot. I think Tim’s a very good fighter. He’s proven his mettle as well.
6 – Devon Alexander – Again the same thing Devon. He has been in with a murderers row of opponents and only got one loss to show for it despite being in with the top guys.
7 – Robert Guerrero – Robert’s a good fighter. Obviously he had a little set back with Floyd Mayweather but I think he can certainly rebound and certainly impose himself at welterweight and become a force again. There’s no shame losing to Floyd Mayweather. Again I think he’s the best fighter to ever put on a pair of gloves.
8 – Victor Ortiz – Ortiz is a fun guy to watch. You never know what you’ll get with Victor. He’s a guy that can really excite you, he’s a guy that can get your juices flowing when you watch him, but at the same time guys like that, you expect so much from them ’cause they’re so talented and they can disappoint you. Victor has disappointed you at times and he’s been exciting at times and made people proud. What I think what makes him must watch TV is you never know which Victor is going to show up. On his best night he’s a very, very good fighter and he’s earned his way into the top 10.
9 – Keith Thurman – I think he’s a good fighter. I don’t know if he’s a top 10 welterweight, but I think Keith Thurman’s a good fighter. He showed some excitement, I like his enthusiasm. You can tell he loves boxing. I know I had the little fiasco with him at his last fight. I understand I’m an older guy so I understand what he’s doing. At the end of the day, young guys want to fight for titles. I’ve been there as well. I have no problem what he did. I just didn’t like the tone of voice he did it in. I think he’s a solid fighter with potentially a bright future and he could do good things. Having Al Haymon is an advantage but I think he’s a good enough fighter to make it even without Al. He’s a lot like Kell Brook. He hasn’t fought anyone that makes you say wow he has a win over that guy. As a matter of fact at least he’s in the second tier (of the top 10). Kell Brook’s at No. 3 and I don’t know why. Nothing against Kell Brook as a talent, but until you’ve proved yourself at a high level you can’t be rated that high. Honestly, a guy like Luis Collazo to me deserves to be in the top 10 more than Keith Thurman.
10 – Luis Abregu – Abregu is a solid guy. He’s another guy that doesn’t have a win that stands out. (Thomas) Dulorme was a good prospect but does a win over a touted prospect get you that much recognition? Antonin Decarie (Abrgu’s last opponent) lost to Souleyman M’Baye a couple of years ago and Souleyman M’Baye has been shot for years. So what did he do to deserve being in the top 10? He’s a good fighter, absolutely. His loss to Tim Bradley was his only loss. But again I think a guy like Luis Collazo deserves to be in the top 10 more than Abregu. As a matter of fact if Collazo was to fight Thurman and Abregu, I think he beats them both.
AW: You’re working a lot with Showtime as an announcer. The role seems to fit you perfectly. Can you tell us about this?
PM – It’s a fun job. I enjoy the camaraderie with my co-workers. I’m a boxing fan as well as a fighter so it’s something I like to do. It’s something I look forward to when fights are coming up. I get to sit ringside and call the action. It’s really cool. It’s something I would like to keep doing for a long time even after I’m done fighting. A lot of times I’m working but I’m enjoying it. When you’re working and enjoying it, it doesn’t feel like work.
AW: In closing do you have a message for Adrien Broner?
PM: Your world is going to change on June 22. Everything you think you know, everything everyone has made you believe is going to change. Everything is going to change. He’s going to be very mad at his camp for making this fight when it’s all said and done. He’s going to cry and he’s going to be mad at his people at the end of this fight. they didn’t have to make this fight. There’s a saying “Let sleeping dogs lie.” They should have left me alone.
Photos / Jeff Botarri-Golden Boy, Al Bello-Golden Boy