Thursday, Nov. 20, 2008 | 4 a.m.
- Mayweather's Boxing Rap (WARNING: Explicit Language)
- Main Event: Ricky Hatton (44-1, 31 KO's) vs. Paulie Malignaggi (25-1, 5 KO's)
- At Stake: Hatton's Ring Magazine Junior Welterweight Title
- Date/Site: Sat., Nov. 22, 7 p.m. PT at the MGM Grand Garden Arena
- Tickets: $150-$1,000, mgmgrand.com
- TV: HBO Sports
When Paulie Malignaggi was a youngster growing up in the Bay Ridge neighborhood of Brooklyn, there were few fights that he backed down from.
That aggressive attitude would later serve the “Magic Man” well in his chosen profession as a boxer, but at the time it presented nothing but trouble.
“When he was a kid he was a little knucklehead,” said best friend Peter Sferrazza.
“He don’t go looking for trouble a lot of times, but he’s not going to walk away from it, either. He definitely can’t walk away, that’s for sure. But he’s matured a lot and turned his life around.”
The 27-year-old junior welterweight admits the sport likely saved him from continuing down a wrong path.
“Not necessarily a bad kid, just a little misguided. You live and you learn though,” said Malignaggi, who was kicked out of high school and also received probation for an assault.
“I’ve tried to turn all my negatives into positives through boxing. It’s given me some positive goals to stride for.
“A lot of kids dream about it, but most kids don’t get to do it. I feel fortunate. I know I’ve worked hard, so it’s not just luck. But I definitely feel fortunate to do it for a living.”
Saturday night his dream continues with the biggest fight of his career when he takes on Britain’s Ricky Hatton in a 12-round title fight at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
It wasn’t hard for Malignaggi to get pumped up for the mega fight either. He gave up the IBF title he earned in 2007 by defeating Lovemore N'dou.
“Paulie has wanted this fight his whole life,” his promoter, Lou DiBella, said. “Since he turned pro there were two names he mentioned to me. Miguel Cotto, which we had the opportunity to fight. It was a classic fight that he lost, but I think he gained the respect of the boxing world in that fight.
“The other name he also mentioned out of respect is Ricky Hatton. Paulie wants to fight the best, and Ricky is the best. But Paulie’s style is probably the toughest style for Ricky to go against, and that shows what kind of champion Ricky Hatton is. I thank Ricky and his team for that.”
DiBella joked that he had heard all the rumors of Hatton being out of shape and overweight, insisting that a fighter under Mayweather Sr. would always be prepared.
“The guy’s got an 8-pack. He doesn’t smell like lager. He’s got grand-master Mayweather in his corner, which believe me is not a drop off from anybody,” DiBella said.
“He’s ready for this fight, he’s in the best shape he’s going to be and that’s what I want. On Saturday night when Paulie Malignaggi beats him, he’s going to beat Ricky Hatton at his best.”
Hatton laughed off the comment, and said come Saturday night the world would see an improved Ricky Hatton.
"Saturday night, and as God as my judge, you'll see the best Ricky Hatton and I'll need to be because I'm fighting the nearest rival in the division and I need to be my best and I will be my best," Hatton said.
Mayweather Sr. — the father of Floyd Mayweather Jr., the only boxer to ever defeat Hatton — wasn't as jovial, scoffing at the idea that Malignaggi, a minus 260 underdog at Las Vegas sports books, had a realistic chance at beating Hatton.
The legendary trainer made his point with a freestyle poem/rap, calling out the Brooklyn boxer.
“He caught a broken jaw, it took time to recoup. When the ‘Hitman’ finished, you’ll be sucking on soup,” Mayweather Sr., recited.
A smiling Malignaggi reminded Mayweather Sr. of a past conversation they had, where he told him some day one of his fighters would fight the best.
“Who knew that Floyd Mayweather missed his calling? You should have wrote children’s poems man, what are you doing in boxing?” Malignaggi said.
“I’m gonna let you know when it’s over, ‘I’m the best.’”
As a round of laughter rang out from the Hatton camp, Malignaggi just sat and smiled. He later reflected on his training camp in Las Vegas that started the first week in October.
"It's been great. I had great sparring partners. I didn't have any of the distractions I would normally have had if I was at home," said Malignaggi, who was able to start training in August with the right hand he fractured in his split decision victory over N'Dou last May in Manchester on the same card he shared with Hatton.
While the British boxer no doubt will be the fan favorite, with possibly as many as 8,000 countrymen coming to the U.S. from overseas, Malignaggi said he's used to the role as underdog.
"I've been booed my whole career, so it's something that I'm use to," Malignaggi said. "I play the bad guy role and a lot of times people think that's the real me. They don't get to meet the real me, but that's fine. I've made a living off that, because I realize that draws a reaction from the crowd and gets you more attention in some ways. I relish it, I tend to get a kick out of all the emotion people have towards me. I feed off of it."