Welterweight Paulie Malignaggi (33-7, 7 KO’s) was in a reflective mood when he spoke to iFL TV at the Macklin’s Gym in Marbella recently.
He made the trip over to Spain in support of Matthew Macklin’s upcoming bout at the head of his promotional outfit’s maiden event, and after applauding both the facilities in the gym and the nightlife in the town, he cast his thoughts back to his most recent fight.
On the first day of August, Malignaggi took on undefeated former 140 lb. champion Danny Garcia (31-0, 18 KO’s) in his first outing as a fully-fledged welterweight. It was a one-sided contest waved off by referee Arthur Mercante Jr. In the ninth round as he shouted in Malignaggi’s ear, “I’ve seen enough, I’ve seen enough!” The fighter looked dejected and was cut under his right eye as well as reddened around the torso.
He displayed humility when speaking about Garcia and the fight.
“I give Danny Garcia a lot of credit he’s a solid fighter, he’s a good fighter, and there’s no excuses there, I think I lost to a classy guy both as a fighter and as a human being. I wouldn’t have it any other way if that was gonna be the result. Having said that it probably wasn’t the smartest thing to do to take it [the fight] off a long layoff.”
Leading into the Garcia fight Malignaggi was out of competitive action for nearly a year and a half following the first stoppage loss of his career to Shawn Porter. Not ideal preparation.
In relaying his thoughts about how he felt as the fight was going on Malignaggi began to sound like one of those old-time fighters reflecting on a bout fought at the tail-end of his career, way past his best; seeing the openings but not being able to throw the punches he wanted.
“I think while I was in the fight, some of the things that I was thinking, I just couldn’t find the offensive distance, couldn’t find the offensive rhythm and at times I think I should have. At times, I felt Danny was waiting too long, and I knew he was taking too long, but it was something in me that was just not pulling the trigger.”
“I don’t believe it’s all that ‘ah you get old, and you can’t pull the trigger’ stuff, I don’t believe that. I think eventually that does come, but I don’t think it’s something like that.”
And so he had another theory to explain his hesitancy against Garcia.
“You’re just out of the ring a long time, and maybe you just lose that fight in you, you know, you lose that spark in you. I was training very well. I had a pretty good training camp, and I liked the way I felt, and I was confident going into the fight.”
“But looking back I could probably have used a tune-up fight, which we always had scheduled, but I got cut in camp for the [Danny]O’Connor fight back in May.”
“One thing I learned: you don’t take on a top five guy after 16 months off. It’s not just for the ring rust; that’s pretty basic anyone can figure that out. But it’s also that killed instinct. You have that fight in you and if you’re outside of the ring for a long time, it starts to wear off a little bit, so you kind of have to cultivate it and develop it by staying busy and keeping busy.”
His blades were blunted then from his time away from the battlefield. It makes sense. Most marquee names in the sport fight at least twice a year to keep an acute hunger about them as well as their profile relevant, even more so for the young guns on the rise.
Perhaps it was a combination of his absence and his age. Malignaggi at his best is a speed demon; he throws never-ending clusters of punches with flitting footwork to match his twitchy upper body movements. His has always been a style that required high maintenance, a constant tuning through sparring, pad work and the eventual fight itself. At 34 years old he never gave himself a chance to be at his best against Garcia after his preparatory fight fell through.
In the press conference directly following the Garcia loss Malignaggi said, “This is probably my last fight. I don’t think I have it in me to get back into training camp and make weight. I don’t think I wanna start over.”
With a new career in punditry already a success he doesn’t have to, and judging from his comments, the spark that made him such a great, watchable fighter in his prime may just have died down.