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Malignaggi targets welters in return

Story by Rick Scharmberg
Photos by Chris Cozzone

Former IBF light welterweight champion Paulie “The Magic Man” Malignaggi (27-4, 5 KOs) makes his return to the ring Saturday night at the Pepsi Coliseum in Quebec City, Quebec against Michael Lozada (36-6-1, 29 KOs), in one of the main support bouts on a card featuring Bernard Hopkins versus Jean Pascal for Pascal’s WBC light heavyweight title.

Besides invading the welterweights for the first time, Malignaggi has a new trainer, a new gym, and a new promoter in Golden Boy Promotions.

“I am confident they can build me up again for one last shot at the title, maybe next year,” he said.

In 2006, Paul Malignaggi, then 21-0, could be seen and heard at ringside in Atlantic City and New York telling everyone how bad he wanted to face then-unbeaten WBO light welterweight champion Miguel Cotto.

Sometimes, you get what you ask for, and the bout was made for June 10, 2006.

In front of a packed Madision Square Garden crowd, on the eve of the Puerto Rican Day parade in New York City, Malignaggi proved to everyone that he was an elite fighter. He didn’t win that fight, but made scores of new fans with his gutsy performance against one of the most feared fighters in the sport.

On June 16, 2007, Malignaggi became a world champion when he took the IBF light welterweight belt from defending champion Lovemore N’dou at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Connecticut.

After two successful defenses, Malignaggi’s star was shining bright. He gave up his belt in order to fight Ricky Hatton in Las Vegas. Many people gave Paulie a good chance, but Hatton ended up stopping him in eleven rounds. Paulie wanted complained bitterly to then-trainer Buddy McGirt for stopping it.

He would go on to drop a close and disputed decision to former world champion Juan “Baby Bull” Diaz in Houston, Texas. After the bout, Paulie took the microphone and told the crowd what he thought of the judging.

Malignaggi would redeem himself in the rematch, easily out-pointing Diaz in Chicago, Illinois.

The roller coaster would continue, though. In his most recent bout, he was stopped in eleven rounds by WBA light welterweight champion Amir “King” Khan. The bout took place in New York in front of his hometown fans, which only added salt to the wound.

After the Khan bout, Malignaggi was classy in defeat, and said that he had to think long and hard bout what he would do next.

Malignaggi seemed to disappear for a while, but when he resurfaced, he had managed to sign with Golden Boy Promotions.

“Once we started talking, it wasn’t that difficult. It was easy and simple. They outlined their game plan for me, and that was it. I am very pleased and happy with how it went,” he said.

“They get a lot of TV dates, and can get me the fights and opportunities I need to become a champion again. I am confident they can boost my career and maximize my potential to make one last run. I have a good mind set, and a promoter to put me in position to get big fights. I am really focused on 2011. We will step it up a notch after this fight on Saturday,” he continued.

This fight against journeyman Michael Lozada, of Tijuana, Mexico will be a ten round welterweight fight.

“I am staying at welterweight,” stated Paulie. “I am sick of struggling to make weight at 140. I’ve been doing that for eight years.”

“I don’t know too much about him,” said Malignaggi of his opponent. “I do know that he is a boxer-puncher who has been stopped every time he stepped up, and I am in that class where he has to step up. I not only want to win, but make a statement. I want to win impressively and then go on to bigger fights at 147.”

Helping prepare Malignaggi now is new trainer Eric Brown, and they trained together at Freddie Roach’s Wild Card Gym in Los Angeles.

“I moved on to L.A. now for my training,” said Paulie. “It is working out really well. They treat me like family, and even had a birthday cake on my birthday.”

“Freddie was great, and Eric is a great trainer in his own right. I’ve only been with him four or five weeks, but we are starting to mesh. I don’t know how much it will show in this fight, but give us a couple of camps. Eric doesn’t try to change me, but adds to what I have. He will show me some things and tells me to take what I want. I appreciate that,” he said.

“The Wild Card is a fighter’s gym,” continued Paulie. “It reminds me of Gleason’s Gym in New York. There are not many gyms like that on the East Coast. Maybe Shuler’s Gym in Philly was like that when I was there. It is a down and dirty fighters gym. You can get all the work you need there.”

Malignaggi has a plan for the last stage of what has to be called a pretty good career. He has surrounded himself with a proven team that gives him his best chance at success.

“I am fighting for myself now. In the past I tried to hard to make other’s happy. I’m scared too, because I’m 30-years-old and know there are not many opportunities left in this sport. I love the sport so much. I am so glad I have boxing.”

It’s all right for Paulie to admit that he is scared, because as the great trainer Cus D’Amato used to say, a scared fighter is the most dangerous fighter.

Saturday’s card is promoted by Golden Boy Promotions and GYM Promotions, and will be televised by SHOWTIME.

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