Paulie Malignaggi is one of my favorite boxers to watch. He’s not well known in the mainstream. He’s got almost no power in his brittle hands. He’s a pure boxer in an age when the mainstream fan doesn’t normally like to watch purveyors of the sweet science.
Yes, I can see why you would hate him.
He’s obnoxious while promoting a fight. He wears deplorable dreadlocks in the ring. He sported ridiculous trunks last Saturday. He’s brash and outspoken and there’s almost no chance of a knockout if you happen to catch him on TV.
But I love him. I’ve never not been entertained watching Malignaggi fight. He’s an underdog whenever he takes on a top-flight opponent, and because he has very little punching power, he has to be perfect in each round to win it. Especially when he’s fighting a Miguel Cotto or a Ricky Hatton – neither of whom could dispose of him before the 10th round in their victories against him.
Last weekend, Malignaggi traveled to Houston to face hometown hero Juan Diaz, a very good boxer in his own right. Malignaggi could foresee what was to happen. He was fighting a boxer in the opponent’s hometown in front of a Texas referee (Laurence Cole) while two Texas judges (Gale Van Hoy and Raul Caiz Sr.) and an Oklahoma judge (David Sutherland) scored it. Malignaggi is a 140-pound fighter, and he struggles to make that weight. This bout was contracted at 138 1/2 pounds. It was contested in a small ring, another strike against a mover and shaker like Malignaggi.
In an interview with HBO analyst Max Kellerman before the fight, Malignaggi said the deck was stacked against him, that he fought against having Van Hoy and Caiz at ringside, that the original contract with a neutral judge had not been honored. He knew, because he’s no knockout artist, that he was in trouble. The old boxing axiom about a fighter needing to knock out his opponent to get a draw from the hometown judges certainly applied here.
Then, Malignaggi went out and fought one of the best fights of his life. And you know what? He lost. Unanimously. In the judgment of two Texans and an official from the next state over. This is why boxing sucks sometimes.
I scored the fight for Malignaggi 115-113, as did HBO’s unofficial ringside observer Harold Lederman. It was close either way, and Caiz thought so too with his 115-113 scorecard victory for Diaz. Sutherland had it 116-112. Van Hoy had it an almost unbelievable 118-110.
When he heard the decision, Malignaggi nodded, because it’s what he expected. It’s what I expected as well. The hometown fighter with the hometown judges usually gets the victory, deserved or not. Malignaggi was upset after the fight – deservedly so – and he acted like an uncensored baby in the postfight interview. The Houston crowd booed every second of his tirade.
But that’s OK. I enjoy watching him fight, I laugh when he talks trash and I hope he gets another chance on a major TV card. He’s a pure boxer, and that’s what I enjoy the most. He lost to a pretty good fighter on Saturday, yet Malignaggi continued to prove he’s world class inside the ring. But he’s a boxer, and this is what happens sometimes.
“Boxing is full of shit, man,” he yelled after the fight. “I used to love this sport. Boxing is full of shit every fucking fight.”
Yep. Sometimes, it seems that way.