Paulie Malignaggi, a fighter for the people, opts to retire

Kevin IoleCombat columnist
Boxing
Former world champion Paulie Malignaggi announced his retirement on Monday, 19 years to the day that he began as an amateur. (The Associated Press)
Former world champion Paulie Malignaggi announced his retirement on Monday, 19 years to the day that he began as an amateur. (The Associated Press)

There are a lot of things that, as a boxer, Paulie Malignaggi was not: He wasn’t particularly powerful. He was far from the fastest or quickest guy in his division. He wasn’t intimidating.

What he was, though, is an example for the many more talented boxers who haven’t gotten nearly as much out of their talent as he got out of his, who fail to seek out challenges, who won’t take a fight if everything doesn’t favor them, who essentially surrender when they don’t have it instead of digging down, using guile and heart and finding a way to win.

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Malignaggi retired from boxing at 36 on Monday with a pedestrian-looking 36-8 mark with just seven knockouts. He was a world champion at both super lightweight and welterweight and fought most of the best fighters of his era.

He announced his retirement via social media on Monday, 19 years to the day after he made his amateur boxing debut.


He first fought for a world title when he met Miguel Cotto for the WBO super lightweight title when Cotto was at his absolute peak. Malignaggi was no match in any way for Cotto, and he was pummeled mercilessly. Observers at ringside were cringing as Cotto caught him with clean, powerful, thudding punches.

Malignaggi, though, had the spirit of a tough street kid from Brooklyn and wouldn’t give up, and kept fighting until the end. He lost a unanimous decision, but impressed a lot of people, including Cotto, with his determination and willingness to compete.

He finally won a world title when he captured the IBF super lightweight belt just over a year later when he defeated Lovemore Ndou on June 16, 2007.

He was stopped in the 11th by Ricky Hatton in a title fight in Las Vegas on Nov. 22, 2008, and it seemed like a good point for him to retire. He was in a loaded division, he’d been beaten badly by both Cotto and Hatton and he’d earned several nice paydays.

But Malignaggi wouldn’t quit, and got seven more years and another world title under his belt, all the while fighting the likes of Juan Diaz, Amir Khan, Adrien Broner, Zab Judah, Shawn Porter and Danny Garcia.

He captured the WBA welterweight belt on Oct. 20, 2012, when he bested Vyacheslav Senchenko, but he lost it to Broner in his second defense.

Malignaggi was smart and extremely ring aware, which is one of the reasons he’s become one of the leading boxing television analysts, working primarily for Showtime.

Paul Malignaggi (second from left) is one of boxing’s best TV analysts. He’s working a fight here with (from left) Virgil Hunter, Kevin Harlan and Steve Farhood. (Getty Images)
Paul Malignaggi (second from left) is one of boxing’s best TV analysts. He’s working a fight here with (from left) Virgil Hunter, Kevin Harlan and Steve Farhood. (Getty Images)

He got the most out of every bit of his talent and is doing the same as an announcer.

He was stopped by a body shot Saturday in England, and it has to hurt his professional pride going out like that.

But Paul Malignaggi is the epitome of what a real fighter is all about: He took on all comers and never gave less than his best effort. Whatever talent he had, he got the most out of it.

He’d be a good example for a lot of young fighters trying to make their way in the sport now. Boxing would be better off for sure if there were a lot more like him.

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