Last week native Brooklynite Paulie Malignaggi (31-4, 7 KOs) spoke to the media about defending his WBA welterweight championship against Pablo Cesar Cano on Saturday’s huge inaugural night of boxing from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Here are some highlights:
Your last fight was probably the most aggressive fight in your entire career. You came out there and you had a knockout. Do you have that same sense going into that fight as well?
You know, the last fight I didn’t really look to go for the knockout, it kind of just came. But that’s how I approach every fight. We’ve been working on a little bit more aggression in the gym with Eric Brown. I’ve always been a guy that had good legs and has been able to use my legs, but also develop an arsenal as far as things we can do to come forward as well and it will make me that much more of a well-rounded fighter. I just felt like I was able to step on the gas a little better when I needed to I can box when I need to, but if I need to come forward, if I start seeing my opponent weakening and I need to come forward, we can do that as well, or if there’s a lack of aggression on my opponent’s part I’ll be the one to come forward. I like to just be well-rounded. I like to have options. And the things we’ve been working on in the gym really give me those options, I can fight going forward and I can fight going backward and it’s a good thing for me.
How does it feel to come back home?
It feels great. It feels great, man. This is one of the main reasons I was happy to sign with Golden Boy two years ago, that I could be a part of this show and I could be a part of this event on a big stage in a big fight. And I was glad I did my job and Golden Boy did a tremendous job bringing me back, and now the moment is here and I’m ecstatic for it.
Can you talk about what all is going on positive in your life as opposed to some of the down times in your career.
Yes, you know it’s funny when you surround yourself with positive people and you have a positive vibe around you and positive energy, so to speak, positive things happen. I haven’t always surrounded myself with the best people, at least the best people for me, and I’m not just talking about business, I’m talking on a personal level, you know, I haven’t always had such great people around me all the time. And I think that that black cloud can follow you around in the energy you surround yourself with.
I’ve just had a positive base for the past couple of years. After I lost to Amir Khan, it’s funny because the negative people, they eliminate themselves, you know. When you have a big loss like that you find out that negativity just kind of leaves you on its own because they don’t want to be around you unless they can grub off you, so it’s funny how they eliminated themselves and then things started turning around for me. And it feels really good that things are turning around for me, it feels really good that there’s a lot of positive things going on for me inside the ring and outside the ring. And it’s also funny when those same negative people try to squeeze their way back in the circle, and you kick them in their ass and kick them right back out.
What does it say to you about you, personally to yourself and to your fans, that you went to another country in a high risk fight, where a lot of people counted you out, and you scored an uncharacteristic knockout with a referee who uncharacteristically had to stop the fight?
Yes. I think a lot of the talk about me being finished was overrated. A lot of the things that people say about me, the negative press is that I’m overrated, but in the end I think if you look, since I lost the Ricky Hatton fight I’ve had one bad performance in four years, and that was when I lost to Amir Khan. In the four years since I lost to Ricky Hatton one bad performance. The year I lost, Ricky Hatton had three bad performances, all in the same year. And I told everybody, do you know what, I just need to make a change and I’m going to be all right. And you know what, four years have passed and I’ve had one bad performance in four years. That’s not too bad.
I think the only thing that was overrated was what people were saying about me being finished and not having a bright future left and having my better days behind me and whatnot, because if you look at since the Ricky Hatton fight, beside that Amir Khan fight I barely lost any rounds. And I’m continuing to be dominant and I think it’s a testament to my mental strength, my mental fortitude and to my stubbornness, even.
Are you a hungry fighter now, that’s number one. And are you a better fighter now than perhaps you have been in your career, and if so, in what way?
I think I’m a better fighter because I’ve learned a lot of things and I’ve got a great team. And I think that makes me a better fighter. When you learn from your mistakes and … yourself with a great team and great people around you, I think that makes you a better fighter. The one regret is I didn’t have it around me when I was 25 or 26, because I think I would have been a monster, and I think I underachieved in that way. Better late than never, and even if I am 31, almost 32, I feel really good, and a lot of it has to do with the team I have around me and the people I have around me. They are positive and everybody working and doing their job, and I can do my job with less headaches. It really is a testament, again, to my stubbornness and to my mental fortitude.
I’d say I’m hungry, because I have a lot to prove, not so much to anybody else but more to myself. I feel like I underachieved a lot so I need to prove a lot more to myself. And as a world champion you have to stay hungry, because there are people coming for you, and I know my opponent is very hungry, he’s young and he’s got a bright future in front of him, but in order to make title defenses against a guy like this, you have to remain hungry yourself, and I’m very hungry.
Why are you still fighting?
I’ll tell you what, I don’t plan on fighting that much longer, but the reason I’m still fighting is because, again, like I said on the last question, I have a lot to prove to myself. I feel like I underachieved during my prime years. And even though it may not be my prime years, I feel like I have the best team around me and I’m surrounding myself with the best people around me, and so that gives me the chance to do the best that I can do right now. And I’m curious to see just what I can do when I have this great support system around me so that I can work so hard and know that my hard work will pay dividends, and that everybody else’s hard work is paying dividends.
I continue to fight because I stay hungry. I stay hungry because I have a lot to prove to myself because I didn’t achieve what I wanted to achieve. I’m a two-time World Champion, but I had so many more goals that I had set out for myself when I turned pro, and I’m probably not going to achieve them all, because there’s just too many and there’s not enough time, but I just want to achieve as much as I can before I call it a night.
You’ve had now a couple fights how do you think moving up to welterweight, has that affected your game in a positive way or maybe in a negative way?
Oh, I don’t think there’s really been any negatives. I don’t think I had a choice, really. I couldn’t make 140 pounds anymore. I could make it, but at the expense of having energy to fight, so really what would be the point? I think there’s only been positives, because there was nothing left. I mean, remaining at 140 pounds, I was a skeleton of myself. So the only option was to move up to Welterweight, the next weight class up from Junior Welterweight. I may not be the biggest Welterweight, but at the same time there was no other option, really.
Are you looking for a possibility of you and Ricky Hatton having a rematch?
Well, obviously you can’t help but think about that kind of stuff when you get called about it, people calling you and asking you questions about it, so obviously how can I say the fight wouldn’t interest me? But again, like I said before, if I don’t get by Cano none of that’s possible, so the focus remains, from here until next Saturday, on Pablo Cesar Cano and then more discussions can follow about Ricky Hatton and so on and so forth. But really I’m motivated and totally focused on Pablo Cesar Cano at the moment.