The Passion of Paulie Malignaggi Part III: ‘When the teacher talks, you listen’

Paulie Malignaggi looks into the camera for his I-told-you-so moment, firing off rhetorical questions like jabs to an opponent’s jaw.

Paulie Malignaggi

Paulie Malignaggi has strong opinions when it comes to boxing—and he's not afraid to share them.

Editor’s note: This is the finale of a three-part look at former two-division champion Paulie Malignaggi as he prepares to battle unbeaten Danny Garcia in Brooklyn, New York, on Saturday in a bout being televised on ESPN.

“Am I genius or am I biased? Are you guys moronic?” he asks, not waiting for an answer. “When the teacher talks, you listen.”

Class is in session in an emptying MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas after the Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao fight. It’s past midnight and Malignaggi is doing a video interview with boxing site ESNews, wrapped in a blue hoodie and an aura of indignation.

That he’s still hanging around, speaking with whoever wants to speak with him, says plenty about his accessibility, his love of talking and his love of being right.

In the months leading up to the May 2 fight, Malignaggi was vocal about how he thought it would be a one-sided mismatch in Mayweather’s favor, never giving Pacquiao much of a chance to be competitive or even put on much of a fight, which resulted in plenty of angry accusations of pro-Mayweather partisanship from Pacquiao diehards.

Lots of pundits said the same, but not like Paulie: Not only did he offer to bet his $100,000 watch to anyone willing to put their money where their mouth was on Pacquiao, but he was also unflinching in suggesting that Pacquiao once benefitted from the use of performance-enhancing drugs.

“Once you random drug tested him, the guy was never going to stand a chance in hell,” Malignaggi said during the ESNews interview. “And that’s what happened tonight.”

These are not the kind of limbs that sports broadcasters tend to go out on, speculating about rumored controversies on the record in such potentially inflammatory fashion. But this is what Malignaggi does: He says what he thinks, confident that his opinion is an informed one, with little concern about any potential blowback.

In fact, he seems to revel in any challenges to his views on the sport. Just check the guy’s Twitter page, where he has 123,000 followers and the action can get hotter than in some of the fights he calls.

Malignaggi’s a polarizing guy—most outspoken people are. But unlike plenty of other public figures with a sizable audience, Malignaggi doesn’t dismiss negative feedback or personal jabs as something that just comes with the territory, something that he should simply let roll off of him, like he was slipping punches, which he’s adept at.

If the goal is to get Malignaggi’s goat, fine, he’ll play along if the mood strikes, because said goat comes with some pretty sharp horns.

“If I have time to answer a person on Twitter who’s being negative to me, I’m not going to say, ‘I’m above this,’” he says. “Yeah, sometimes you say, ‘OK, you shouldn’t do this because you’re a public figure,’ but there’s a fine line you’re walking there, because if you abstain from everything because you’re a public figure, then you’ve lost who you are.

“I try to be true to myself. If you try to offend me, I’ll try to offend you back. That’s how I always was.”

Malignaggi will sometimes respond to his detractors even when he knows he’s been trolled with the hopes of getting him to say something that might get him in trouble.

“Sometimes people try to bait me, because then I’ll abuse somebody back and they’ll try to link CBS Sports and Showtime to what I said,” he notes. “To me, that’s just like the grade school geek who you used to slap around, then he’d tattletale on you.

“We’re not in grade school any more. That’s not going to work. I’m too good at my job to lose it over me calling you a dork.”

To understand why Paulie isn’t big on just letting things go is to understand what made him get into his line of work in the first place.

He’s a fighter, whether he’s standing inside a boxing ring or not. And so fight, he will.

For now, this means that the 34-year-old Malignaggi will continue to get ready for Danny Garcia on Saturday night (ESPN, 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT), even if he’s not yet sure if he’ll continue on as a fighter afterward.

“I don’t know how long I can keep this grind going,” he acknowledges.

But …

“At the same time, when you get in a big fight and you win it, you hear the crowd, it’s enough to get addicted,” he continues, his voice rising as if mentally imaging himself in the very moment that he’s speaking of. “You forget about all the hard work you went through to get to that point. You’re like, ‘It’s worth it. Forget it.’”

Catch all the action of Garcia vs Malignaggi on our fight page.

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