“Zab is somebody who, when I was an amateur, he was a hotshot in New York and he was being looked up to by a lot of guys, including me. I can remember … saying, ‘Hey, man, one of these days, I’d like to be where Zab is,’” said Malignaggi, who, like Judah, has won titles at 140 and 147 pounds.
“It was like, ‘Well, Zab comes from Brooklyn, and I want to be where Zab is right now.’ This was me, basically, talking to myself around the year 2000 or 1999. I remember doing that and I remember saying that. So, you know, Zab is somebody that I respect a lot. Now, to come full circle, and to know me and Zab can fight each other? Yeah, that can happen, but only if the situation is right, you know?”
If Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer gets his way, Malignaggi could be matched on Dec. 7 at the Brooklyn-based Barclays Center, where each fighter suffered defeat in his most recent bout.
Judah (42-8, 29 knockouts), who turns 36 in October, was last in the ring for a spirited unanimous decision loss to RING junior welterweight champion Danny Garcia.
Malignaggi (32-5, 7 KOs), 32, is coming off June’s split-decision loss to Adrien Broner, who dethroned him as WBA 147-pound titleholder.
“Am I interested in the Zab Judah fight? Of course I’m interested in the Zab Judah fight.It’s a fight that interests me, because on a personal level, I have a lot of respect for Zab. On a business level, of course, man, me against Zab Judah in Brooklyn, who wouldn’t be interested in that fight?” said Malignaggi.
“What boxing fans wouldn’t be interested in that fight in the New York area? It’s the battle for Brooklyn supremacy, like, ‘Who is the best fighter from Brooklyn of this generation?’ We just happen to be in similar weight classes, so why don’t we fight? The motivation has to be right, and it would be right if I chose to fight Zab.”
Part of the “motivation,” said Malignaggi, would mean that the price would have to be right.
“You know, everything has it’s price. I’m not looking to fight unless it’s totally worth it for me to bust my ass and to go to training camp, eventually. I’m sure that there still is a piece of me that still has that hunger to compete, and to fight … But there is also a piece of me that has kind of turned off of everything that goes on in boxing,” said Malignaggi, who also works as a commentator for Showtime and The Golden Boy Live series.
Another potential sticking point could be Malignaggi’s desire to be in the main event on a card Schaefer said could include welterweight Devon Alexander in defense of his IBF belt against Amir Khan, as well as a third bout featuring former beltholder Victor Ortiz.
“I’d like to fight in a main event, but from what I’m hearing, I wouldn’t be the main event. I’m kind of not in the business of doing somebody else a favor and selling a main event that’s not going to sell that much in Barclays arena. I think that Alexander-Khan should be in St. Louis, where Devon Alexander is from, and where he’s the champion and where he sells a lot. Khan is definitely a notable opponent who, while he hasn’t done great lately, he’s fighting for the title,” said Malignaggi.
“So I don’t see why Alexander-Khan has to come to New York, and Malignaggi-Judah has to be a co-main event to that, because I don’t see Alexander and Khan selling a lot in New York as much as it would sell in St. Louis. So, basically, me and Judah would be doing them a favor and selling the fight. That’s who would sell the tickets, would be me and Judah. I feel like getting paid like a main event fighter would. So I think that from that perspective, that we would need to keep that in mind.”
Prior to facing Broner, Malignaggi had not lost since May of 2010, when he was knocked out in the 11th round by Khan in a failed bid to earn the WBA’s 140-pound belt.
Malignaggi rose to welterweight, where he appeared to be stronger and more energized, winning five straight bouts including a ninth-round knockout of former titleholder Vyacheslav Senchenko in April of last year.
“I’ve got one split-decision loss in three years, and I feel like, just like in my last fight, that if I’m going to compete, I’ve proven that I can compete at the highest level. I should be paid like I can compete at the highest level,” said Malignaggi, who won a split-decision victory over Mexico City’s Pablo Cesar Cano at Barclays last October.
“My loss to Broner was in a fight that was controversial in a lot of ways to a fighter that everybody sees as having a big future in boxing. I think that if you compare how certain fighters are being paid coming off of losses anyway, then I think that I should be paid just as much if not more coming off of the loss that I’m coming off of. I should also be given that exposure at the very highest level.”
But just how long Malignaggi can compete at the “highest level” remains to be seen, given his success as a commentator.
“It gets difficult because I’ve got a lot of stuff going on outside of boxing. So another training camp would put me in that situation again, where I have to put everything on the back burner and try not to worry about all of the things that I have going on. I have things going on that are good for me right now, including the commentating, but not limited to the commentating,” said Malignaggi.
“I’m at a point in my life where the window still is open. Maybe it’s closing, but it’s still open for me right now. Once the door closes, it never opens up again. But one day, you’re going to be too old and you’re not going to be able to fight anymore and you won’t have these options and the opportunity to fight at a high level anymore. So, for now, if things can be worked out, and I can fight a guy like Zab Judah, and the rivalry with Brooklyn would make it a big, big fight, then I think that it’s a good time to do it. Hopefully, everything works out right.”
Photos by Naoki Fukuda; Al Bello-GBP/Gettyimages
Lem Satterfield can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org