By Chris Robinson
At the moment former champion Paulie Malignaggi is enjoying some free time in his second home of Italy, having a ball with friends and family in the city of Sicily. Still recovering from a right hand injury that he suffered in his unanimous decision victory over Jose Miguel Cotto in April inside of the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Malignaggi figured what better time than now to visit those close to him overseas and to rekindle his love for his roots.
But just because he’s relaxing, that surely doesn’t mean that the ‘Magic Man’ isn’t without his share of quips while thousands of miles away.
The latest saga that Malignaggi has been caught up in is an apparent feud with former junior lightweight champion Devon Alexander, who himself is coming off of a questionable points win over rugged Argentinean Lucas Matthyse last weekend and who is also moving up to the welterweight class where Malignaggi now resides. Alexander’s trainer and manager Kevin Cunningham has been taking some shots at Malignaggi in recent days while also sizing him up as an ideal foe for his 24-year old charge’s first fight at 147 pounds.
Malignaggi had some harsh words towards Alexander after he elected not continue in the 10th round of his fight against champion Timothy Bradley after suffering a horrendous gash over his right eye from a head-butt. But while many assume Malignaggi was attempting to fire shots at Alexander out of the blue, the 30-year old reveals that he was only returning the salvo that has been issued months prior following Paulie's late TKO loss to Amir Khan last May.
“I’m interested, definitely,” Malignaggi told me late Sunday night and early morning Italian time of a possible fight with Alexander. “I’ve been presented with some options and I think Devon is actually one of the better ones. It’s a fight that interests me. Devon said something a while back. People where wondering why I was acting the way I did and about a month there was a video where they asked him to say the first thing that came to his mind. The reporter asked him ‘Malignaggi? What word would you use?’ and he said something along the lines of a 'Bum' but I just took that one. Then, after the Bradley fight I went at him and basically put him in his place. People didn’t understand why I attacked Alexander the way I did after the Bradley fight.”
Malignaggi also addressed Cunningham, who himself has gone as to far as saying that Team Alexander doesn't lose to fighters who were skirts in the ring in a recent BoxingScene.com interview with Rick Reeno.
“It’s not a beef that I started but easily one that I could finish,” stated Paulie. “Kevin Cunningham has been the one doing a lot of talking but Kevin Cunningham doesn’t have to get in the ring with me. Kevin Cunningham should be his own man, because when push came to shove and I was down and out, it was him who said those first words and took those shots.”
It’s unclear whether a move up in weight is needed from Alexander but his last three fights in the junior welterweight class have left us asking many questions of the St. Louis, Missouri fighter. Alexander struggled to pull out a decision over former WBA boss Andriy Kotelnik last August, was clearly behind on all cards at the time the Bradley fight was halted, and although Malignaggi didn’t catch the Matthyse struggle he heard that the reviews weren’t so glowing.
“I didn’t see the Lucas Matthyse fight, they didn’t show it here in Italy,” Malignaggi continued. “But I heard it was the same thing as his last couple of fights; another dull performance from Devon, another questionable performance from Devon and another performance where the outcome was definitely in doubt and it may have been a hometown decision just like the Andriy Kotelnik fight last year.”
For a fighter like Malignaggi, who has a few years up on Alexander in the fight game, he knows all too well the type of territory Alexander is marching into.
“Devon’s not enjoying his best moments right now and he’s learning that at the high level they aren’t as forgiving anymore. Now that he’s fighting at an elite level where you are in a position to get beat every time you step in the ring, it’s no longer the coming up process of a prospect. Now that you are at an elite level the chances of you getting beat increase and I think Devon is learning that. The grass isn’t greener on this side, even though you might make more money,” said Malignaggi.
As our conversation came to a close, Malignaggi revealed that he had actually ventured north for a quick break to take in the heavily-hyped Wladimir Klitschko-David Haye heavyweight title affair in Hamburg. Klitschko would end up winning a clear decision over Haye in a fight that has left many questioning the desire of Haye, who appeared inactive for long stretches of the fight.
Instead of taking a barb at Haye, Malignaggi instead was quick to defend the flamboyant Brit.
“I just got back from Germany yesterday. It was a big event, but the fight was a little dull. I actually thought David Haye gave a good effort, I don’t know what they wanted the guy to do. He was trying to set Klitschko up and trying to get Klitschko to commit. Klitschko’s very good at what he does; he’s very disciplined and he won’t come out of his own shell. David tried to set him up in all kinds of ways; I don’t know what people where watching. I saw the fight live, with my own eyes, and David was trying to set him up in all kinds of ways it just wasn’t working. It’s more so you have to commend Wladimir Klitschko."