Whether you love him or hate him, Paulie Malignaggi speaks from the heart both in words and with his fists. The charismatic Brooklyn-ite, says what he means and means what he says, no matter the subject or significance it holds.
That standard, to his credit, has also more often than not been adhered to when mouthguards are inserted and fists become responsible for bringing an argument to its conclusion.
Notorious for his lack of punching power and oft-injured hands, Malignaggi, 27-3 (5), has done nothing but overachieve, winning the IBF light welterweight title and earning a regular spot on the big stage, cable giant HBO.
In what many still consider his signature performance, Malignaggi showed the heart of a champion and guts of a bank robber when he stood up to punishment doled out by a prime Miguel Cotto (he fought the last several rounds with a fractured cheekbone) and dished out some of his own. Malignaggi went on to lose a competitive decision at Madison Square Garden that night, but gained a new respect and admiration from the boxing world.
Last month, at Pound 4 Pound Promotions March Badness card in New Jersey, I had the pleasure of meeting and talking a little shop with the ‘Magic Man.’
With his huge WBA light welterweight championship showdown, once again on HBO and at MSG, on the horizon, the subject quickly turned to his opponent, defending champion Amir Khan, 22-1 (16), of Bolton, UK.
When the fight was first rumored, Malignaggi, who’d been vocal about his suspicion of Manny Pacquiao possibly using performance-enhancing drugs, noted that Khan and Pacquiao shared the same trainer, Freddie Roach, and wondered if Amir could also have been using PEDs.
He’s since backed off from that stance, as evidenced by his signing to fight Khan without any drug-testing beyond what the New York commission calls for. I asked him what it was that made him change his mind about the issue, and what specifically gave him enough confidence, in Khan being a clean fighter, to sign the contract. As noted previously, Paulie was not at a loss for words.
“With Amir, all I ever said was that it crossed my mind,” he responded.
“I was asked and I said that I thought it was a possibility. (Khan and Pacquiao) have the same trainer, and you never know. But I haven’t seen enough of him to make a judgment. He’s been fighting over there in England and I haven’t seen a whole lot of him to be able to compare what he used to look like.”
Malignaggi was not nearly as reticent when the topic turned to Pacquiao.
“With Pacquiao, I have my reasons why I think he’s on something. I know him and I’ve seen him over time. People think I just pull this stuff out of my ass. I’m not a complete idiot that just accuses people of something without having my reasons to believe what it is I’m saying. I’m not hating or taking anything away from him, it’s just how I feel.”
I asked Paulie to specify.
“Just things I’ve seen in him. All the lean muscle he’s put on in such a short amount of time, the size of his head. And how does a guy just jump up from featherweight and he’s just walking through welterweight killers like (Miguel) Cotto? It just doesn’t make any sense.”
Malignaggi would also offer his opinion on a stricter drug-testing policy in boxing.
“I think it’s a great thing and I say why not? I’m all for it. I mean, this isn’t A-Rod swinging a bat or Tiger Woods swinging a golf-club, we’re fighters going into that ring trying to kill each other for a living. You can never be too careful and you’ve got know that you’re fighting a fair fight.”
Rumor has it that the New York State Athletic Commission has been looking into stricter drug-screening, which would include blood testing. The switch to a more thorough procedure could possibly take effect in the not so distant future. The Khan-Malignaggi bout will not be subject to any testing out of the ordinary, however. The fight, May 15 on HBO: Boxing After Dark, will be the first of Khan’s career to be contested in the United States.