Paulie Malignaggi respects the extreme competitor within Deontay Wilder.
Malignaggi remembers how difficult it was to accept his first professional loss – a physically grueling, unanimous-decision defeat to Miguel Cotto in June 2006 at Madison Square Garden. The former two-division champion’s pride hurt as much back then as the facial fractures he suffered while legitimizing himself as a top junior welterweight contender in that memorable bout.
Wilder still lost Malignaggi when he used his heavy costume as an excuse for his seventh-round, technical-knockout defeat to Tyson Fury in their WBC heavyweight championship rematch February 22 at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. Malignaggi contended during Tuesday’s “Ak And Barak Show” on SiriusXM that Wilder should’ve kept his feelings about how his outfit affected his performance to himself.
“Deontay, in the ring, he said, ‘I’m not gonna make no excuses,’ ” Malignaggi, an analyst for Showtime, said. “And then he made 40 of them. You know what I mean? And he’s not the first guy to do that – not to say he is. But again, from a competitive standpoint, I totally am with him in that you don’t accept a loss. You figure out a reason why that happened.”
The retired Malignaggi actually has more of an issue with Wilder’s reaction to criticism of his performance in his first fight against Fury. Malignaggi expressed during Showtime Pay-Per-View’s telecast of Wilder-Fury I that Fury deserved the victory in that 12-round fight in December 2018 at Staples Center in Los Angeles.
According to Malignaggi, Wilder attempted after that fight to have him and fellow broadcaster Steve Farhood removed from their Showtime positions. Farhood, a longtime Showtime commentator, unofficially scored their first fight for Fury during the network’s telecast.
“Here’s the problem I have, and this is I think where Deontay’s had a problem in the last couple years,” Malignaggi explained. “Nobody around him is honest anymore, in my opinion. OK? Because when you say certain things publicly, you’ve already said them in your circle. You don’t just randomly say stuff publicly that you have not said in your circle, even in passing. OK? So, starting from the first Fury fight, somebody [should’ve] been like, ‘Yo, playa, you didn’t win that fight. We got away with it. Just run with it and say, yo, I’m gonna make this even better the next time. I got the knockdowns.’ Say you even feel like the result wasn’t a robbery. But don’t go saying like people were out of their minds to think you lost the first fight, when you got out-classed in the first fight.
“Because that was my issue with the whole thing. He tried to get me fired from Showtime and all this other stuff. You know? He was trying to have me and Farhood removed and all this other stuff. So, I have sort of an issue with that, because I don’t have an issue with you being competitive and you even not liking the criticism. I don’t have an issue with that, because you are not supposed to accept that that easily. But when it’s constructive, you also have to, when you calm down, because in the moment of course you’re not calm. But when you calm down, you have to be able to understand the difference between constructive criticism and hating criticism. You know? And so, you have to be able to take the constructive criticism and build yourself and get better.”
England’s Fury parted ways with former trainer Ben Davison just two months before facing Wilder again and replaced him with Javan Steward, the late Emanuel Steward’s nephew. By following Steward’s game plan, an aggressive, bullish Fury fought differently throughout their rematch than he did during their first fight, in which Wilder dropped him twice.
Fury floored Wilder twice and was way ahead on the scorecards when Wilder’s assistant trainer, Mark Breland, threw in the towel during the seventh round.
“I don’t feel there were many adjustments made [by Wilder] in the second fight,” Malignaggi said. “Fury made all the adjustments, I think. Fury made all the adjustments. Wilder didn’t really look so different. You know, actually, he looked worse because Fury made the adjustments to make him worse. But now you fast forward to after this fight, again, just like the first fight, where you said you got robbed and everybody’s cheering you on, that you got robbed, now you’re saying after this fight, ‘Yo, that thing was heavy. Man, that outfit was heavy.’ Not one of your team has the balls to say [anything about it]. … See, I always had my best friend [around me]. He was always real. He would be like, ‘Yo, bro, shut the eff up. What are you saying right now?’ You know what I mean? And as a best friend, you’re not gonna throw him out of your circle just for being honest. You always need that real guy, at least one real guy.
“Because if everybody’s just agreeing with you, a bunch of yes men, you start to lose track of reality. And I feel like Deontay putting out that excuse is just another sign, another clue, to say there’s too many yes men around this guy. Because somebody in his team should’ve been like, ‘Yo, you are gonna look like an idiot if you put that out there. Don’t say that.’ Just say, ‘Yo, we got the rematch clause. I’m gonna run it back, and I’ll make this right. You know what, my fans? I’m back.’ Whatever he just said there [in his Instagram video], ‘I’m gonna be back. You can believe in me. I’ll make this right.’ You know what I mean? ‘I didn’t do it right.’ Whatever. If you say, ‘I didn’t feel right on fight night,’ say that. Don’t say it was the outfit, though. Don’t go with the outfit.”
The 34-year-old Wilder (42-1-1, 41 KOs) has exercised his contractual right to a third fight with Fury (30-0-1, 21 KOs). It is tentatively scheduled for July 18 in Las Vegas.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.