Paulie Malignaggi has been written off, counted out and left for dead by the boxing community more times than he can count.
He’s not exciting enough in the ring. He doesn’t have the power to compete with top-level fighters. Whenever he steps up, he loses.
The criticisms have remained remarkably similar throughout the now 33-year-old Malignaggi’s career, but he doesn’t spend any time worrying about them or the—often misinformed in his view—people who put them out there.
“I’ve proved them [the critics] wrong time and again. Ever since my first loss. Every time I’ve had a loss people have been like, this is it. I’ve been written off quite a few times. It’s satisfying to continue to prove people wrong,” Malignaggi told Bleacher Report on Wednesday.
“What’s the use in proving an idiot wrong to begin with? The fact that you continue to prove idiots wrong means that they’re just idiots. There’s no satisfaction in proving to an idiot that he’s an idiot if you already know he’s an idiot.”
The “Magic Man” has never been one to pull his punches, both in or out of the ring, and his trademark candor has made him one of the most entertaining and straightforward characters in boxing history.
What you see is what you get. It doesn’t change.
And a lot of that has to do with his mentality. He knows whom he is—both as a fighter and as a man—and he’s comfortable in his own skin.
“At the end of the day, if you just go chasing, trying to prove people wrong and not worrying about yourself and your own accolades and being the best you can be, you’re going to get lost in the shuffle, lost in the mix,” Malignaggi said.
“You’re going to psych yourself out. I’m just going to focus on myself and being the best I can be.”
The best he can be has been pretty darn good too.
For all the criticisms, Malignaggi is a two-time world champion—at junior welterweight and welterweight—and he’s been in the ring with some of the best fighters of his era.
The critics are quick to point out his failures but slow to acknowledge when he’s succeeded or beaten the odds. That’s something that has always seemed to irk him, and it continues to do so to this day.
“No matter what I accomplish there’s always something being taken away. It was because of this or it was because of that. For example, when I went to Ukraine and beat Vyacheslav Senchenko. It was going to be Senchenko’s crowning achievement. The fight that brought him to America after he beat me. He was going to start making a name for himself,” Malignaggi said.
“And you know, Paulie had never stepped up and actually won a big fight when he stepped up. And Paulie went over there and he won, and then suddenly, Senchenko became nothing. Suddenly, Paulie still hadn’t won any big fights, because now because he won it then it was no longer a big fight.”
Malignaggi captured his second career world title by outboxing and stopping Senchenko in Round 9 of their April 2012 fight in Donetsk, Ukraine, and he held that title until losing a close—some say controversial—split decision to Adrien Broner last June.
He’ll face Shawn Porter on Saturday night at the D.C. Armory in Washington D.C., for a chance to claim his third world championship—second at welterweight—and to once again prove to the world that a brash, undersized, feather-fisted, kid from the Bensonhurst section of Brooklyn, N.Y., belongs at a world-class level.
Porter captured the IBF Welterweight Championship this past December, outpointing Devon Alexander in a minor upset on the Malignaggi vs. Judah undercard at the Barclays Center.
The 26-year-old from Akron, Ohio, made the most of an opportunity that fell his way once Amir Khan decided to pursue a fight with Floyd Mayweather rather than take a guaranteed shot at Alexander.
Khan struck out on both fronts, and it was Porter who was there to take the fight and the belt.
But Malignaggi isn’t willing to concede that Porter was the beneficiary of being in the right place at the right time. To him, there’s more to it than just answering the door when opportunity knocks.
“Porter, to become a champion, had to show that he was a really prepared fighter for the moment, for the opportunity. If he wasn’t prepared for it, he wouldn’t have won that fight,” Malignaggi said.
“Breaks present themselves at various points in life for different people. The people that take advantage of them were the ones who were prepared for them. They were always prepared to get lucky. So in reality, they weren’t lucky, they were dedicated to their craft.”
Malignaggi is definitely dedicated to his craft. He’s sought to constantly refine himself over the past few years, and he’ll need to be on top of his game on Saturday night.
Porter is a grinder. He likes to make his opponent uncomfortable, give them little space to set up their offense and wear them down over the course of the fight.
Malignaggi feels that he understands Porter’s style very well, and even though it may have brought him success in the past—he used it to defeat Alexander and win a world title—it’s full of flaws, at least at this level.
“It’s very amateur-esque. It works in the amateurs very well. It even works to a certain degree against a certain level of pro,” he said.
But, according to the “Magic Man,” it won’t work on him.
He’s just too good.
“You’re starting to step up in class. You’re starting to step up to levels where if you’re forcing things that aren’t there you’ll start to pay more and more. And on Saturday night, it’s going to happen,” he said.
“I know I have a guy who is coming prepared on Saturday night. I just feel that I’m better than him.”
Kevin McRae is a featured boxing columnist for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand from a one-on-one interview.
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