Brooklyn State of Mind

By Robert Ecksel on December 7, 2013
Brooklyn State of Mind
“Even if my mother is across the ring from me,” said Paulie, “I'll punch her in the mouth.”

Tonight at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, Zab Judah and Paulie Malignaggi fight for the NABF and NABO welterweight titles…

“I didn’t appreciate Brooklyn until I left it.”—Rosie Perez

Tonight at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, two of Brooklyn’s finest, Zab Judah (42-8, 29 KOs) and Paulie Malignaggi (32-5, 7 KOs), fight for the NABF and NABO welterweight titles. Given the relative value of those belts, this fight is for nothing less than the Championship of Brooklyn. That no such title actually exists is irrelevant. What is not irrelevant is that these two fighters have surprised us before, and they just might surprise us again.

Judah and Malignaggi have known each other for a long time. Both learned the ropes at Gleason’s Gym in Brooklyn and kept a close eye on the other’s career.

“This fight came about after the Garcia fight,” said Judah on a recent teleconference call. “In my preparation for moving forward to do what I do they said ‘Paulie’ and I said, ‘Paulie? Nah, Paulie is my homeboy.’ But I was like, ‘Hey, you know this is an opportunity that you’ve got to take for boxing.’ So I guess we’re here now. Like I said, this is a fight where there’s no animosity or anything like that. It’s just us going in there and representing for our city.”

“I’d like to echo the same sentiments as Zab,” said Malignaggi. “For a lot of years I came up behind Zab and he kind of laid the building blocks for my generation. He was kind of the guy to look up to and to try to match his accomplishments. It really didn’t come to mind, we were in different weight classes and at different places in our career, but people started mentioning it and talking around Brooklyn the past year or two. But I still didn’t think the fight had any chance of happening because we were still in different weight classes and kind of had different goals for our careers. We each took a competitive loss in our last fight and it’s kind of a situation where you have to take a step back in a way from world title fights. But this isn’t such a step back because we’re still world-class even with no world title on the line.”

It would be a mistake to call this a do-or-die fight. These guys have more lives than a couple of cats. For them, it ain’t over until they say it’s over.

“My motivation comes from the opportunity,” said Zab. “The opportunity of still being here 18 years strong, to be competitive against young fighters like Paulie Malignaggi and Danny Garcia, and to still be competing at a high level of boxing. I mean, to be crowned the kings of BK, that’s a very big accomplishment coming from Brooklyn. There’s one thing a lot of people will tell you—there’s a pride about being from Brooklyn. Now we’ve got the opportunity in a sport that I’ve been in for the last 18 years of my life to be called the king of it.”

Not to be outdone, Malignaggi said, “The competition drives us all. That’s the reason we do this and get up in the morning and train hard for each fight. You need different things to drive you. The competition always is the driving force. The competitor in me is driven by winning. Winning means everything to me. It’s a really emotional fight. You want to be king of Brooklyn. It’s the kind of fight you get up for because there are a lot big fights in your career but there is a lot of extra emotion being able to represent your borough and being able to be the king of Brooklyn.”

At 36 and 33 respectively, neither Judah nor Malignaggi is a spring chicken. When asked the highs and lows of their careers, both fighters had different takes on the question and their trajectories.

“I would probably say my Micky Ward fight,” Judah said. “I was 15-0 and I was highly motivated. Micky Ward had like 34 or something fights. He was known as a killer at that time, he was stopping guys with body shots. Everyone was like, ‘Zab, that’s not a fight you should take, it’s going to mess your career up.’ And we went in there and we trained very hard and won the fight.

“The first half of the Mayweather fight I was super sharp. It’s different times. Even in my last Danny Garcia fight I came on very strong at the end. I don’t look at one particular fight and say this was the best fight because every night is special to me. Every time you step in the ring you’ve got different things that happen, you’ve got to weather through them.”

Malignaggi said, “I’d say there have been a couple different times in my career when I was at an elite level or getting there. There was a moment in 2003 and 2004 where I thought I was really coming into my own, starting to win fights and starting to look impressive. I was getting to fight high level contenders and then I had a real bad hand injury. My hand was shattered and it set me back a lot and hindered a lot of my progress. I always wonder how I would have kept progressing if I didn’t have those injuries. You have a lot of youthful enthusiasm at that point in your career. I can pick nights where I’ve been sharper than others but I can’t pick one night where I’ve been my best.”

In the spirit of beating a dead horse, someone else asked about Judah about his age.

“My age is great,” he said. “I’m highly motivated. You’ve got one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world, Floyd Mayweather, he’s older than me. You’ve got Juan Manuel Marquez. He just knocked out Manny Pacquiao with one punch. He’s older than me. You’ve got Bernard Hopkins, one of the baddest fighters of today’s era, he’s my grandfather. So when you say old, what do you mean by old?”

For two such notable trash talkers, there’s a bit of a mutual admiration society going on between the fighters.

“Number one, I admire Paulie because he’s from Brooklyn. He stands up with that Brooklyn pride. He represent Brooklyn wherever he goes, he talks about it and keeps it fresh in people’s ears and eyes. Number two, he’s a fighter. I respect that every fighter has the heart and audacity to climb into the ring and take on competitive fights, so you’ve got to respect him as a human being.”

“The admiration I have for Zab came from trying to follow in his footsteps coming up. I saw him accomplish things that I had the goal to accomplish. I watched Zab accomplish each and every one of them before me. It was an admiration and a motivator to see someone from my borough accomplish these things and get some credibility and notoriety doing the same thing that I do. When somebody does it so close to home, they automatically get that admiration. That admiration comes from being that younger fighter looking up to someone like that.”

However much history and admiration they share, when the bell rings, the history and admiration go out the window.

“It’s the situation,” said Judah. “It’s nothing personal against Paulie. It’s something that we’ve got to go in here and do. This is how we feed our family. This is the game that we chose. My greatest motivation in this situation is I just fought a 25-year-old undefeated young fighter, one of the best young 140-pound fighters today and I hung in there. Everybody said if there were 30 more seconds the fight would be different. So that’s where my inspiration and motivation comes from. Just being able to still go toe-to-toe with the young boys like this and just show that when I do step up and when I do focus my mind and focus on getting these guys I just go in there and get them. With that kind of motivation I am the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world.”

“I think with me,” said Malignaggi, “the approach I always take is in boxing you have to have a short memory. No matter how much you’ve accomplished or how low you can go as far as downfalls, you have to forget about them and you have to move on no matter what. I put whatever happened behind me. The Broner fight is done. The opponent now is Zab Judah. As Zab said, there’s nothing personal as far as a competitive aspect is concerned, but that’s the guy in front of me. The game plan is focused on that and nothing else. In reality you can only look forward. The past can’t be changed, only the future can be changed.”

But it’s not all hearts and flowers. When all is said and done, this is boxing, as the fighters finally pointed out.

“This is my office,” said Zab. “They built this building for me. There are two Zabs, in case you didn’t know. There are two of us. I’ve brought back the guy from before. On Saturday night, I’m bringing that old, vicious, young Zab back. This isn’t a game for me. People keep saying this fight is friendly but at the end of the day these are the old Roman days. Only thing different is I can’t behead him, so I’m going to knock him out.”

“Back in the Roman times, you never knew who you fought, but you fought to the death,” added Paulie. “Sometimes, you probably did have to fight your friend and it was either him or you. Like Zab said, it’s not personal, but it’s me or him. At the end of the day, when the bell rings, even if my mother is across the ring from me, I’ll punch her right in the mouth.”

Also on the card, Devon Alexander defends his IBF welterweight title against Shawn Porter, Erislandy Lara defends his interim WBA super welterweight title against Austin Trout, and Sakio Bika defends his WBC super middleweight title against Anthony Dirrell The SHOWTIME telecast begins at 8:00 p.m. ET/ 5:00 p.m. PT.

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  1. Jhonatan 03:19am, 12/12/2013

    glass jaw?  I agree that Khan is not as amazing (right now) as the hype, hoewver I do not point to his jaw as the flaw.Khan got hit with arguably the hardest right hand in the division   and did not go down!  We should not knock Khan for a weak jaw if he survived the 10th and 11th rounds.  Facts are facts   here’s a fact: Khan got hit with Maidana best punch, the best punch in the division, and still survived.  Not many fighters in this division would have survived a 10th round shot like that.Now, IMO, Khan’s flaw is his defense, not his jaw.  Khan got hit with too many clean uppercuts and the overhand right was shown throughout the night.  Khan did not make any adjustments defensively   this is where fighters like Mayweather are special.  I am sure that if Khan adjusted and started rolling away from the ropes more, he would not have been so easily caught by the right.Another point   did anyone notice that Khan seemed to be doing a Manny Pacquiao impression throughout the fight?  1. he covered up and let Maidana beat him on the ropes, exactly how Manny has done with his last few fights.  2. Everytime Khan got hurt, he hit gloves together and put both arms in the air as if to say I am OK ; Manny does this all the time as well.  3. Khan seems to have mastered the 5-6 punch combinations while fading.  Although this one I would have to credit Freddie Roach and not Manny.Not sure if you agree, but Khan looked like a Manny Wanna-bee (not a bad guy to copy), but got hit a bit too much for my taste.  Khan has great talent and very fast hands with good power,m hoewver I would like to see him more reactive on defense and be better equipped to roll and block recurring punches like the overhand right and uppercut (did Maidana throw any other punch   )great article.  0

  2. Darrell 09:40pm, 12/07/2013

    Zab looks like a done fighter…..time to retire.

  3. Darrell 08:38pm, 12/07/2013

    Shawn Porter beat Alexander up good & proper….too physically strong & Alexander didn’t have the pop to keep him off it.  I’m glad about that, there really is no place for the smoke & mirrors style of Alexander in professional boxing, looking to con judges with an amateur points scoring blur of less than impactful blows.  Alexander nearly got away with it though with the 115-113 & 116-112 scores…..disgraceful really.

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