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Thursday, March 4, 2010

Malignaggi: ‘Pacquiao doesn’t exist without the help of performance enhancers'

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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 it’s 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 you’ve fought so I don’t really count Amir’s level of opposition against him. I’ve seen him on video, and yeah—he can fight. So I’m going have to come prepared on May 15, but having said that, I believe we’re putting a good game plan in place and we’ll 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 they’re making a mistake?

A: Yeah. Oh, obviously I would have to think that if that’s the mindset, yeah, that would be a mistake because obviously I wouldn’t like to think of myself as a guy Khan’s going to beat. But having said that, I just think anytime in boxing that somebody can punch—automatically they get crowned as a superstar or they get crowned as a king before really getting on the throne and you’ve 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 knockouts—he’s 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 that’s going to catch up with you. Yeah, it’s 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 me—especially now. I really felt like the missing link was having a trainer like Sharif Younan in my corner. I think ever since I’ve gotten with Sharif I’ve proven my point. I’ve 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 doesn’t bode well for any opponents who fight me at this point in my career, but at the same time, it probably doesn’t bode too well for me because it probably means I won’t 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: It’s actually really exciting, man. I’ve got a lot of support in New York. I’m born in Brooklyn, I’m a New Yorker. I’ve 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, it’s always exciting to fight in front of a New York crowd—it’s 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 wouldn’t take that chance and they might not take that chance. Ricky Hatton, for example, didn’t 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 he’s 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 he’s been supported very well in England and this is going to be the first time that he’s really going to have a crowd that’s not supporting him.

Q: This will also be Khan’s first fight in America. Do you think that the added pressure of that and the fact that you’re fighting in your hometown in New York might have an impact on his performance?

A: I’d like to think he’s a real pro in every way so it won’t impact him, but I do believe this will be the first time he’s fighting in front of a crowd that’s not pro-Khan. I mean, but then again, as a professional with almost 25 fights he should already understand and that shouldn’t affect him mentally in any way. Of course, you never know. I can only speak for myself. I’ll come in prepared mentally and physically for the fight, I can’t really speak for how Amir Khan is going to show up. The only thing I am sure of is he’s not going to be fighting in front of a pro-Khan crowd.

Q: When we last had you “On the Ropes”, you mentioned a strong desire to face Ricky Hatton again. If you beat Khan, is this a fight you’re still interested in having?

A: Yeah, absolutely—without 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 years—no ifs, ands, or buts about it—and I think every performance I’ve had since the Ricky Hatton fight with a new trainer proves my point more and more. It has nothing to do with Ricky Hatton’s punch power because he has none. He’s 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 already—the work in the gym, the lack of being sharp, the lack of getting me sharp—in two years of training that way, you’re going to be destroyed as a fighter. I think it’s 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 that—Ricky wasn’t too anything, actually. Ricky wasn’t 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 again—every time I mention Ricky Hatton I don’t want it to be brought out there that maybe I’m disrespecting him, because I’m 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, I’m speaking from a competitive standpoint and from a competitive standpoint, that’s how I feel.

Q: Changing things up a bit Paulie, I’m curious, what are your thoughts on the upcoming fight between Nate Campbell and Victor Ortiz?

A: That’s a real, real barnburner, I’ll tell you, man. I think maybe they’re putting Victor in tough a little too soon for his own good. It’s really going to test Victor mentally and physically in that fight and I don’t know if he’s 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 who’s very blessed in a lot of ways. He’s a good fighter, a lot of power, good speed, all that stuff, but you really can’t 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 shouldn’t have reacted that way. Obviously, you know, it’s easy to stand in other people shoes and take a look from the outside and really not be able to put yourself in somebody’s shoes and just judge him, but I’m speaking as a fighter. He really almost reminded me of a kid who didn’t want to be there, who was being bullied the night he fought Maidana. I’m 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 I’m not sure if they’re 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. He’s in a tough fight. Having said that, Victor has a lot of gifts like I said—speed, power, all that—so I think that makes the fight a real barnburner, a real good fight. I’m 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 “top dog” in the 140 pound division?

A: Who’s the top dog? I guess you have to give Bradley that moniker as the “top dog” at 140 pounds. I mean I really feel that I’m 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 I’m coming into my own and I’m 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 he’s a top 140 pounder.

Q: Now if you beat Khan, would you prefer to fight Bradley or Hatton?

A: I’d prefer to fight Hatton, First of all, Hatton is the most important thing to me because it’s a loss that shouldn’t 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 wouldn’t be close. The fight wouldn’t be competitive at all. Having said that, Tim Bradley’s a solid fighter and anything will be possible.

Q: What are your thoughts on Shane Mosley taking on Floyd Mayweather?

A: I think that’s a solid, great fight between two elite fighters. I lean slightly towards Floyd, but it wouldn’t surprise me if Shane Mosley won the fight. Floyd hasn’t been beaten. Floyd’s stepping up to the challenge and he’s got to be given credit for that, as well as Shane Mosley being given credit for stepping up to the challenge. I think it’s 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 that—I think it’s 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 can’t pick against him. I know Joshua is an awesome fighter. He’s a great fighter. He doesn’t get quite the credit he deserves but it’s not going to be his night in March and I just explained why.

Q: You’ve 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, it’s nice to believe in Superman and it’s nice to believe in fairy tales and that’s what they want to believe in, but in the world of reality and the world that we live in—something like Manny Pacquiao doesn’t 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 guy’s not that good but if I’m sparring an elite middleweight, it’s a little too much weight to deal with. This guy came up from 108 pounds, or we’ll say more recently from 122 pounds –because 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, it’s nice to believe in fairy tales and it’s nice to believe in comic book heroes, but in the world of reality—we know what’s real and what’s not. As fighters we do and I think plenty of fighters know what’s going on with Manny Pacquiao. I know for sure they do because I’ve spoken to many fighters. Even if they won’t go on the record like I do, plenty of fighters are on the same page as I am.

Q: Paulie, it’s been a pleasure to speak with you. For my final question I’d like to ask you, is there anything else you’d 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 it’s 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, don’t ever think it’s not appreciated because it is very much appreciated. Having said that, there’s going to be a big “kiss my ass” to everybody out there after I beat Amir Khan because plenty of people have been really dissing Amir for fighting me and while they’re doing that they’re dissing me, because basically everybody’s saying I’m not of the caliber fighter that he should be fighting and stuff like that, and I know once I beat him they’re just going to say oh he wasn’t that good to begin with. I still won’t get my credit. So to all those people, kiss my ass! I’m going to keep making money, I’m going to keep sticking around until I don’t feel like sticking around, and then when I feel like going, I’ll just go.

Q: Great. Paulie, I wish you luck in your upcoming fight and thank you for the conversation.

A: Thanks, Geoff, it’s always a pleasure.


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