With a tongue that moves almost as fast as his hands and a professorial knowledge of what it takes to pick apart another man with his fists for a living, Paulie Malignaggi has quickly distinguished himself as a fan favorite among boxing commentators.
Now, Malignaggi is going from calling Premier Boxing Champions fights—among many others—to actually being in one.
After a yearlong layoff, Paulie Malignaggi returns to the ring against Danny O’Connor on May 29 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, with the fight airing live on Spike TV at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT.
“I was always kind of torn about fighting or not fighting again, but I think seeing the [PBC] events live, seeing the setup and just how cool it was, it made me want to be a part of it,” Malignaggi says during a recent morning walk in Miami, where he’s flown in to check out a condo that he may purchase. “It made me say, ‘You know what? I actually have a chance to be a part of this if I can motivate myself to train hard and get back in there.’”
Malignaggi last fought in April 2014, when he lost to Shawn Porter by a fourth-round technical knockout.
Since then, he’s been traveling steadily as part of his gig as an in-demand color commentator for the sport.
But around Christmas, Malignaggi began to hit the gym more seriously, and the allure of the gym—yes, there is such a thing, if you’ve spent much of your adult life there, honing your skills until they afford you the bank to shop for property in South Beach—began to hit him right back.
“I started getting back in the gym little by little before the new year,” Malignaggi says, “and every time I was in the gym, I just started missing it a little bit.”
As Malignaggi gradually got himself back in fighting shape, he started sparring with contenders such as Luis Collazo and Saddam Ali, helping them prep for fights, which only made him want to land a fight of his own that much more.
"I was feeling good in sparring and I was sparring high-level fighters, so I felt like, ‘I still got it. I’ve got something to work with here,’” he says. “And so PBC started coming into my mind, because I went to PBC fights. It made the desire grow.”
Ultimately, it all resulted in a showdown with O’Connor. In a serendipitous twist, Malignaggi actually called the Massachusetts native's fourth-round TKO of Andrew Farmer in October.
“I would have never thought at that time, ‘I’m going to fight this guy in less than a year,’” Malignaggi acknowledged with a chuckle.
As such, Malignaggi feels like he has a solid, firsthand perspective on the type of fighter O’Connor is.
“He had a really good amateur career, and anytime you’ve had a good amateur career, you’re dreaming of professional stardom,” Malignaggi said. “The fact that it kind of never came to him, and he’s been teetering on that fringe contender/fringe prospect level, I think it’s left him hungry and motivated.”
Hungry and motivated: Malignaggi could be describing himself these days as much as his opponent.
“It’s been a long time coming for him, but at the same time, it’s been a long time coming for me, because this past year, I’ve had a lot of emotional ups and downs and I’ve been torn about all this stuff,” Malignaggi says. “But it’s funny, because when you think of the ring, you don’t really think of being at peace. But the ring is my place where I’m at peace.”
- Paul Malignaggi