Tuesday, February 14, 2012
Paulie Malignaggi setting his own terms
By Dan Rafael
Although former junior welterweight titleholder Paulie Malignaggi is the mandatory challenger for welterweight titlist Vyacheslav Senchenko, he has passed on the opportunity and instead turned his attention to Robert Guerrero, whom he has had fun trash-talking about a potential fight.
Some might question why Malignaggi would reject a title shot, especially with no other big fight sitting there for him. But I can see where he's coming from.
Malignaggi would have made $250,002.50 for the title fight -- his 25 percent share of the $1,000,010 winning purse bid made by Senchenko's promoter, Union Boxing Promotions -- and would also have had to travel to Senchenko's home country of Ukraine for the bout.
But he didn't want to do that. And although $250,000 is a lot of money to most people, Malignaggi is steadfast about the fact that he has done well with the money he has earned -- and remember, he has had some pretty big fights, against Ricky Hatton, Amir Khan and Miguel Cotto, and has appeared numerous times on HBO and Showtime.
When I spoke with Malignaggi the other day, he didn't sound the least bit upset about declining the title opportunity.
"If I don't get something to my liking, I won't fight; it's pretty simple," he said. "I love to compete and want to fight, but business is business. It has to be the right deal or I won't fight. I'm lucky. I don't have to fight if I don't want to."
Golden Boy, Malignaggi's promoter, bid only $250,000 on the fight with Senchenko (32-0, 21 KOs), but Malignaggi (30-4, 6 KOs) wasn't upset by the low bid.
"Golden Boy made the effort, and I can't fault them," he said. "They couldn't get a TV date for the fight. It's not their fault, and I appreciate their efforts."
He said Senchenko's camp originally offered Golden Boy $275,000 for the fight and that Golden Boy told him it thought it could negotiate the sum up to $300,000. But Malignaggi didn't want to be stuck paying taxes in Ukraine, and he wanted first-class air travel and for Union Boxing to cover the sanctioning fees.
But Malignaggi said Union wouldn't budge, although to help make the fight, he said Golden Boy would have let him keep its percentage.
"I wasn't going to fly 10 hours in coach the week of the fight. I didn't think that was right," Malignaggi said. "And there were some other things I wanted. The Senchenko people said no, so I said we should take our chances in the purse bid. So you saw what the purse bid was. I didn't turn down [what could have been] $300,000 to take $250,000 and still be stuck paying Ukrainian taxes, be stuck in coach and not get anything for training expenses. So it is what it is.
"I have no hard feelings to anyone. It's whatever. At the end of the day, I didn't anticipate a deal to be made. I wanted $500,000, so I wasn't going to take $250,000. If we could have worked out those few things, I would have taken the fight for $300,000, but we didn't. This was [Union Boxing's] chance to get the biggest name on Senchenko's résumé. They had their chance to take me to Ukraine and rob me of the fight on a decision. I prefer to fight because I love the rush of boxing at the high level, but I won't take a deal that I don't like. I'm done with that."
Malignaggi, who said he is running three days a week to stay in shape, hopes Golden Boy can line up something that is to his liking.
With the Senchenko fight off the table, Malignaggi and fellow Golden Boy fighter Guerrero, who is recovering from shoulder surgery (and has called out just about everyone in recent weeks other than Wladimir Klitschko), have engaged in some trash talk.
They dogged each other on Twitter and traded press releases to try to drum up interest in a fight. (I have to say, as much as I like both guys, I don't have much interest in that match. I'd like to see them fight, but against different opponents.)
"For the past three months, you and your team have attempted to trick the media and boxing public into believing that you were on a short list to fight the best fighter in the world, Floyd Mayweather," Malignaggi said in his release. "You also called out every Golden Boy Promotions boxer you could between 135 to 147 pounds, proclaiming your health after shoulder surgery and your readiness to step into the ring in a big fight on May 5. Every time you had a big bowel movement, your publicist sent an email blast about it."
Malignaggi went on to say that Golden Boy had offered them the chance to fight on May 5 on the Mayweather-Miguel Cotto pay-per-view undercard and that he immediately accepted.
"Robert, I accepted the challenge to fight you within two hours of being offered the fight," Malignaggi said in his missive. "But I have been informed by our promoter that you have categorically refused to fight me. This news was absolutely shocking to me because I have seen you transform yourself from a cute, soft-spoken, California kid to, well, someone like me. I give you props for trying to wake up the old boxing farts with sound bites like telling Mayweather to 'Step up, punk' or telling Victor Ortiz that 'If you're really a true warrior, you'll step in the ring with me.'
"But take it from an older and wiser 'Magic Man' that has never needed to hide behind a publicist and has always backed up his words by stepping into the ring with the best fighters in the world -- if you start talking the way you have been talking, you better be ready to accept whatever challenges come your way."
Malignaggi went on to further torch Guerrero over his competition level and the low-rent credibility of his various belts -- a series of interim titles.
"If you think you deserve to fight the elite boxers in this world, you need to earn it with more than just a trigger-happy publicist," Malignaggi said. "You are a paper champion that has never fought anyone in the top 100 of boxing. Beating a geriatric Joel Casamayor or the Australian punching bag that is Michael Katsidis does not earn you the right to call out Floyd Mayweather, Amir Khan and Victor Ortiz. Beating me on May 5 might get you one step closer to that honor. So come on, Robert. Don't become a big joke. Listen to your own words and step up, punk. If you're really a true warrior, and not just some Internet loudmouth, you'll step in the ring with me on May 5. What are you afraid of?"
Guerrero's email-happy publicist fired back this response on Guerrero's behalf: "Look at the facts, Paulie, why did I turn you down? You're a tremendous puncher? No! You make for fan-friendly fights? No! You are an HBO- or Showtime-approved fighter? No! Fact is, Eric Gomez at Golden Boy said you wouldn't be approved to fight on a date that isn't a pay-per-view. So if our promoter can convince a network that you are worthy enough to be on your own date, then let's rumble."
Can't say I'm disappointed that the fight won't take place, but the press release banter was a fun diversion.