Paulie Malignaggi: ĎAmir deserves credit for coming to New York and taking me oní
by Geoffrey Ciani - Last December, Paulie Malignaggi avenged his controversial loss against Juan Diaz in impressive fashion. Malignaggi controlled the fight by effectively using the ring which prevented Diaz from mounting any meaningful attacks on offense. This victory helped reestablish Malignaggi as a major player in the junior welterweight division. He was duly rewarded for his efforts by landing a title shot against reigning WBA champion Amir Khan. I was recently afforded the opportunity to have a nice chat with Paulie and here is what he had to say:
Q: Paulie, on May 15 you are challenging Amir Khan for the WBA junior welterweight championship of the world. How do you think you match up against Khan?
A: I think itís a solid match-up, I think we have similar strengths. I think my level of opposition has been higher than his but I really think level of opposition sometimes can be overrated. If you can fight, you can fight no matter who youíve fought so I donít really count Amirís level of opposition against him. Iíve seen him on video, and yeahóhe can fight. So Iím going have to come prepared on May 15, but having said that, I believe weíre putting a good game plan in place and weíll be ready for whatever they got..
Q: A lot of observers in the boxing community have noted that the reason Khan chose you as an opponent is because of your lack of punching power. If this, indeed, is their mindset do you think theyíre making a mistake?
A: Yeah. Oh, obviously I would have to think that if thatís the mindset, yeah, that would be a mistake because obviously I wouldnít like to think of myself as a guy Khanís going to beat. But having said that, I just think anytime in boxing that somebody can punchóautomatically they get crowned as a superstar or they get crowned as a king before really getting on the throne and youíve seen it over and over and time and time again. You saw it a few years back with Francisco Bojado. He was getting a bunch of knockouts and everybody made like he was the next heir to the throne and we saw what happened there. We saw it recently with Victor Ortiz getting a bunch of knockouts, he was the next heir to the throne, and we saw what happened there. Now Marcos Maidana, a bunch of knockoutsóheís the next heir to the throne. The one common denominator in all of this is that every time these guys can punch they have nothing else to back themselves up with, and when you have nothing else to back yourself up with eventually thatís going to catch up with you. Yeah, itís nice to have a big punch, and yeah, a big punch gets you out of a lot of bad situations and can win you a lot of fights but ultimately, to become an elite fighter you need more than just a big punch. You need multiple weapons. Yeah, I may not have the big punch but I have multiple weapons at my disposal and I believe I got what it takes to beat Amir Khan, Marcos Maidana, and whoever else they put in front of meóespecially now. I really felt like the missing link was having a trainer like Sharif Younan in my corner. I think ever since Iíve gotten with Sharif Iíve proven my point. Iíve proven my point, and the point was that me and Buddy McGirt were not a good mix. I think that was the final link and the final piece to the puzzle. Unfortunately I may have found it later in my career. So that doesnít bode well for any opponents who fight me at this point in my career, but at the same time, it probably doesnít bode too well for me because it probably means I wonít ever get the respect I deserve and the respect that my skills command.
Q: This fight is scheduled to take place at Madison Square Garden and this will be your first fight in New York since you beat Edner Cherry there over three years ago. How does it feel for you to be fighting in New York again?
A: Itís actually really exciting, man. Iíve got a lot of support in New York. Iím born in Brooklyn, Iím a New Yorker. Iíve been spending my time between New York and Florida in the past couple of years, but I still have a lot of family and supportive friends in New York and I came back and train in New York now being the Sharif, my trainer, is from New York. Having said that, itís always exciting to fight in front of a New York crowdóitís always exciting to fight at Madison Square Garden, more than anything and I got the opportunity to do that. I got to really give Khan credit there because he really wanted to come to New York and fight me and a lot of fighters wouldnít take that chance and they might not take that chance. Ricky Hatton, for example, didnít take that chance when he was supposed to fight me a couple of years ago. He had the option of fighting me at the Garden but he chose to fight me in Vegas so I got to really give Amir props and credit for coming to New York and taking me on. Obviously, like I said before, I believe heís making the wrong choice in fighting me, but having said that, he still deserves credit for coming to New York and taking me on because heís been supported very well in England and this is going to be the first time that heís really going to have a crowd thatís not supporting him.
Q: This will also be Khanís first fight in America. Do you think that the added pressure of that and the fact that youíre fighting in your hometown in New York might have an impact on his performance?
A: Iíd like to think heís a real pro in every way so it wonít impact him, but I do believe this will be the first time heís fighting in front of a crowd thatís not pro-Khan. I mean, but then again, as a professional with almost 25 fights he should already understand and that shouldnít affect him mentally in any way. Of course, you never know. I can only speak for myself. Iíll come in prepared mentally and physically for the fight, I canít really speak for how Amir Khan is going to show up. The only thing I am sure of is heís not going to be fighting in front of a pro-Khan crowd.
Q: When we last had you ďOn the RopesĒ, you mentioned a strong desire to face Ricky Hatton again. If you beat Khan, is this a fight youíre still interested in having?
A: Yeah, absolutelyówithout a shadow of a doubt. I know why Ricky Hatton beat me. Ricky Hatton beat me because I was with the wrong trainer for two yearsóno ifs, ands, or buts about itóand I think every performance Iíve had since the Ricky Hatton fight with a new trainer proves my point more and more. It has nothing to do with Ricky Hattonís punch power because he has none. Heís an average 140 pound puncher. It has nothing to do with anything else but the fact that I had the wrong trainer training me for two years. By that point, it was the culmination of a two year ride where I had been disintegrated to nothing as a fighter. Even if I had fought Ricky earlier in my tenure with Buddy I would have beaten Ricky, but by two years, everything had affected me alreadyóthe work in the gym, the lack of being sharp, the lack of getting me sharpóin two years of training that way, youíre going to be destroyed as a fighter. I think itís pretty obvious that the performances were slipping little by little every time I fought with Buddy but nobody wants to really admit to that. Everybody just wants to say oh, Ricky was too strong, Ricky was too this, Ricky was too thatóRicky wasnít too anything, actually. Ricky wasnít too anything at all.
Ricky Hatton should send a Christmas card to Buddy McGirt every single year blessing him for the fact that he got to fight Manny Pacquiao and make that last payday, because he should have never been in that fight because he should have never beaten me. But having said that, yeah againóevery time I mention Ricky Hatton I donít want it to be brought out there that maybe Iím disrespecting him, because Iím really speaking as a competitor more than anything because competition sometimes could get ugly, but at the end of the day, I really respect Ricky, his family, his team, and everything. He was always a good person to me and he was always a standup guy, but having said that, Iím speaking from a competitive standpoint and from a competitive standpoint, thatís how I feel.
Q: Changing things up a bit Paulie, Iím curious, what are your thoughts on the upcoming fight between Nate Campbell and Victor Ortiz?
A: Thatís a real, real barnburner, Iíll tell you, man. I think maybe theyíre putting Victor in tough a little too soon for his own good. Itís really going to test Victor mentally and physically in that fight and I donít know if heís really recovered from the Maidana fight in terms of the psychological battle that he has to fight within himself to really overcome certain adversities because Victor seems like the kind of fighter whoís very blessed in a lot of ways. Heís a good fighter, a lot of power, good speed, all that stuff, but you really canít teach heart and really, you got to develop that really attitude of a man so to speak. He almost acted like a little kid when he fought Maidana, and he shouldnít have reacted that way. Obviously, you know, itís easy to stand in other people shoes and take a look from the outside and really not be able to put yourself in somebodyís shoes and just judge him, but Iím speaking as a fighter. He really almost reminded me of a kid who didnít want to be there, who was being bullied the night he fought Maidana. Iím not sure if that mental attitude can change so fast as one year later. I think you got to grow into that, you got to slowly become a man, and Iím not sure if theyíre throwing in Victor a little too soon for his own good, because Nate Campbell is going to rough him up. Nate Campbell is a solid veteran, very good body puncher, knows how to be dirty when he has to be and get in the trenches. Heís in a tough fight. Having said that, Victor has a lot of gifts like I saidóspeed, power, all thatóso I think that makes the fight a real barnburner, a real good fight. Iím not too sure if Victor is being put in a little too soon with the sharks again.
Q: In your opinion right now, who do you consider the ďtop dogĒ in the 140 pound division?
A: Whoís the top dog? I guess you have to give Bradley that moniker as the ďtop dogĒ at 140 pounds. I mean I really feel that Iím the best 140 pounder in the world and I can beat every single 140 pounder out there, like I said, especially at this point in my career. I feel like Iím coming into my own and Iím getting better and better, but if we look at from straight up from results only, I think obviously you have to give Tim Bradley that credit and heís a top 140 pounder.
Q: Now if you beat Khan, would you prefer to fight Bradley or Hatton?
A: Iíd prefer to fight Hatton, First of all, Hatton is the most important thing to me because itís a loss that shouldnít be on my record so Hatton is the most important fight to me out of any possible fight out there. Not only do I feel like I beat Hatton, I feel like I beat Hatton very, very, very impressively in a very solid way. The fight wouldnít be close. The fight wouldnít be competitive at all. Having said that, Tim Bradleyís a solid fighter and anything will be possible.
Q: What are your thoughts on Shane Mosley taking on Floyd Mayweather?
A: I think thatís a solid, great fight between two elite fighters. I lean slightly towards Floyd, but it wouldnít surprise me if Shane Mosley won the fight. Floyd hasnít been beaten. Floydís stepping up to the challenge and heís got to be given credit for that, as well as Shane Mosley being given credit for stepping up to the challenge. I think itís a great fight for themselves, for the fans, and for boxing in general. And you know what? Shane Mosley agreed to take those random tests so everybody and their mothers know that this fight will be between two clean elite fighters, unlike Manny Pacquiao, so when we put it like thatóI think itís a great night for boxing.
Q: Now speaking of Pacquiao that was the other fight I wanted to ask you about. What do you think about his upcoming fight with Joshua Clottey?
A: Until I see Manny Pacquiao randomly drug tested and accepting a drug test that will catch him cheating, I canít pick against him. I know Joshua is an awesome fighter. Heís a great fighter. He doesnít get quite the credit he deserves but itís not going to be his night in March and I just explained why.
Q: Youíve been very vocal about Pacquiao with the random testing and stuff like that, and a lot of fans have been critical of you over your criticisms towards Pacquiao. What would you have to say to those fans that are critical of you?
A: Honestly, itís nice to believe in Superman and itís nice to believe in fairy tales and thatís what they want to believe in, but in the world of reality and the world that we live inósomething like Manny Pacquiao doesnít exist, not without the help of performance enhancers. I do this as a living, okay? I can tell you just from sparring. I can spar with welterweights, I can spar with junior middleweights, but as soon as I start stepping up to middleweight level and stuff like that, yeah I can handle that stuff if the guyís not that good but if Iím sparring an elite middleweight, itís a little too much weight to deal with. This guy came up from 108 pounds, or weíll say more recently from 122 pounds Ėbecause he was a man at 122 pounds. From 122 to 147 he never had a problem with the weight, the size, the skill of anybody. Like I said, itís nice to believe in fairy tales and itís nice to believe in comic book heroes, but in the world of realityówe know whatís real and whatís not. As fighters we do and I think plenty of fighters know whatís going on with Manny Pacquiao. I know for sure they do because Iíve spoken to many fighters. Even if they wonít go on the record like I do, plenty of fighters are on the same page as I am.
Q: Paulie, itís been a pleasure to speak with you. For my final question Iíd like to ask you, is there anything else youíd like to say to all your fans out at East Side Boxing?
A: Yeah, I want to thank everybody for the support, man. I know itís not always easy being a Paulie Malignaggi fan. I know people get a lot of hell and criticism. I know I get a lot of hell and criticism so I can imagine the people that support me, but I always try to make it worth it and all my fans, donít ever think itís not appreciated because it is very much appreciated. Having said that, thereís going to be a big ďkiss my assĒ to everybody out there after I beat Amir Khan because plenty of people have been really dissing Amir for fighting me and while theyíre doing that theyíre dissing me, because basically everybodyís saying Iím not of the caliber fighter that he should be fighting and stuff like that, and I know once I beat him theyíre just going to say oh he wasnít that good to begin with. I still wonít get my credit. So to all those people, kiss my ass! Iím going to keep making money, Iím going to keep sticking around until I donít feel like sticking around, and then when I feel like going, Iíll just go.
Q: Great. Paulie, I wish you luck in your upcoming fight and thank you for the conversation.
A: Thanks, Geoff, itís always a pleasure.
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