Plenty of magic in Malignaggi despite loss in bare knuckle debut
Last night, former two-division champion and current Showtime boxing commentator Paulie Malignaggi tried to do what many former fighters have attempted in the past; turn back the clock and recapture past glory, if even for one night.
Like many before him, he fell short of his goal, falling in a Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship (BKFC) main event to mixed martial arts veteran Artem Lobov by a unanimous decision of 48-47 in front of a pay per view audience in Tampa Bay, Florida.
The difference between Malignaggi’s loss and those of others who attempt comebacks? He wasn’t beaten, or battered or thoroughly outclassed, a fact he proudly expressed in his post fight interview in the ring following the decision.
“I still look pretty? I still look all right?, Malignaggi asked BKFC announcer Ron Cruck following the decision. “Honestly I got hit with one clean punch all night. I thought I pretty much outboxed him the whole way.
“ . . . I was hitting him with a lot of jabs and left hooks but maybe the rules are different here. And maybe, just maybe, this wasn’t meant to be. A lot of boxing people told me this sport was beneath me but I thought, ‘let me give this sport a shot because I think this is a cool sport and there was a built in rivalry people wanted to see.’”
Malignaggi, who I had winning the fight 48-47 behind an effective jab and ring generalship, was upset with the loss, believing that he let down the world of boxing. He 00shouldn’t feel that way. He used his skills in the ring and hype skills outside of it to bring more attention to a sport seeking to fill a void between MMA and traditional boxing - giving the storied sport of bare knuckle boxing arguably its most notable event since the BKFC debuted in June of last year in Cheyenne, Wyoming.
There were moments in the fight where he did little — particularly in the last round where Malignaggi threw few if any punches.
That’s a credit to Lobov (2-0 in BKFC) who was able to close distance as the fight went on, first hitting Malignaggi cleanly with a left in the third round. In the fourth round, Lobov continued his offensive attack pushing Malignaggi to the ropes and bullying him in the clinch. Those punches seemed to stick with Malignaggi as he focused more on his elusiveness for the remainder of the fight.
“It was an emotional fight, so as a result, I came in a little more on the back foot than usual,” Lobov said in his post fight interview. “But I still pressed and was still stalking him. It was a nice decision win for me.”
While disagreeing with the loss, Malignaggi, 36-8 (7 KOs) — 0-1 in BKFC — seemed to understand what many in boxing media — including myself — were asking themselves when they heard he was trying his hand at bare knuckle boxing: Can he really succeed at this sport?’
“Maybe I was wrong,” Malignaggi said. “I’m 38 and I’m too old to start campaigning off of a loss. I would’ve done this again. I didn’t mind the experience. Once I got my feet wet in here it was cool.”
Malignaggi also made his future plans clear when asked if fans can expect to see him competing in Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship in the future.
“No. I’m done, man,” he said, ending the interview once again apologizing to his fans and anyone in the boxing world who he may have embarrassed.
If his career does indeed end in this loss, embarrassment should be the last thing he feels. He’s leaving the sport of boxing a former two-time champion, with his faculties in tact, and he did so in a main event that uplifted a rising combat sports league.
A pretty neat final act for the “Magic Man” if you ask me.
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