By Martin Rogers
Paulie Malignaggi was getting busy again early on Saturday, getting fired up, putting in the hard graft. But not in a boxing ring, or a gym, or even on television, but on Twitter, where most of his recent business seems to get done.
It was a now-familiar show and it lasted about an hour. A bunch of Conor McGregor-supporting Ultimate Fighting Championship fans threw out some shade, some of it amusingly cheeky, much of it infantile and boorish. And Malignaggi couldn’t help but hurl back some social media jabs in return.
Three months on from Malignaggi’s brief stint in McGregor’s training camp ahead of the mixed martial artist’s boxing clash with Floyd Mayweather, and yes, this is what we are still talking about.
It is time it stopped. And it almost certainly won’t, not soon.
For while there is a near-universal feeling within boxing that Malignaggi should let things rest and quit talking about McGregor, there are plenty of reasons why he’s going to keep jawing. Or typing with his thumbs.
It is not a surprising sentiment that people in boxing want Malignaggi to quieten down. What we learned about the boxing public and its capacity for tolerance this summer, is that it will put up with a circus and perhaps even enjoy it as long as certain criteria are met.
It put up with Mayweather-McGregor because it slotted into a relatively barren spot in the calendar, because it was different enough to have a certain appeal of curiosity, because it featured two protagonists who are as polarizing as can be and because it was a brief interlude before the fight game could get back to normal.
That last point is perhaps the most important one. Like it or not, with some exceptions, boxing fans did want to watch a fight between an all-time great and a boxing novice. Many of them also lapped up the promotional mayhem surrounding it. But that doesn’t mean they want it all the time.
The Conor and Paulie double act also served its purpose at that moment. Mayweather, after reeling off a bunch of cuss words on the promotional tour, didn’t do a whole lot more to hype the fight in the weeks that followed. The entrance of Malignaggi into the Irishman’s camp and the ruckus that ensued offered no shortage of chat, debate and Tweet-worthy fodder to keep the build-up broiling.
It was kind of fun. The footage that was released by a member of McGregor’s camp, appearing to show McGregor recording a knockdown, got to the root of the discussion taking place ahead of the Mayweather fight about if the MMA fighter could possibly be competitive.
The fuss that followed the video only made it better. Malignaggi claimed, and is still claiming, that the editing was doctored and that he had dominated their sparring session. McGregor laughed him off and talked up his own abilities. Malignaggi left camp. The pair faced off and spouted at each other during fight week. And then, inevitably, there was talk of a future fight between the two. All good entertainment. And all past its use-by date now.
Yet here we are with November approaching and it is time for McGregor to solidify his future options. If Malignaggi was indeed the set-up guy that McGregor used to create an illusion and sell more pay per views, the boxer may be a pawn again. Right now, McGregor is seeking to set up the impression that he has multiple options to maximize his negotiating leverage with Dana White and the UFC. With every Tweet Malignaggi sends out, McGregor is laughing his way to the bank.
Yet while Malignaggi’s intent is clear, luring his nemesis into a boxing match is something that’s seriously unlikely to happen, unless McGregor sincerely believes he is suddenly an elite level boxer based on the evidence of those first three rounds against Mayweather when his opponent scarcely threw a punch.
Chances are that Malignaggi knows he won’t get McGregor to fight him, especially if his own assertions of sparring dominance are true. But he still can’t let it go.
This is a man who lives a significant portion of his life on Twitter, posting an average of 31 times a day since joining the site nine years ago. And sure enough, every day, the McGregor saga – plus occasionally some political talking points surrounding President Donald Trump - is all anyone wants to talk to him about.
McGregor fans will never get sick of baiting him about the supposed knockdown. And because Paulie is Paulie, no jab can be left unanswered. As much as we might like him to stop, and draw a line under the whole circus, he’s probably not going to.