Friends will become foes when the bell rings to begin Saturday night’s welterweight clash between Paulie Malignaggi and Zab Judah, a pair of aging warriors and multi-title belt winners in the junior welterweight and welterweight divisions.
A year after having served as a cornerman for an 18-year-old Malignaggi in New York’s Empire State Games, Judah won the IBF junior welterweight belt with a fourth-round stoppage of Jan Piet Bergman in February of 2000.
But Malignaggi turned 33 on Nov. 23, and fellow Brooklyn native, Judah, 36, in October. And when two of boxing’s elder statesmen face off at Barclays Center on Showtime, they will do so realizing that a loss could be disastrous for their careers.
Malignaggi (32-5, 7 knockouts) is trying to restore the magic in his career by rebounding from June’s split-decision loss to Adrien Broner, a fighter who turned 24 in July after having dethroned Malignaggi as WBA 147-pound beltholder.
Malignaggi had won the belt in April of 2012 with a ninth-round stoppage of previously unbeaten Ukrainian Vyacheslav Senchenko, who represented Malignaggi’s fifth straight victory as a welterweight during a run that had included two knockout wins.
Before facing Broner, Malignaggi had earned a split-decision victory over Mexico City’s Pablo Cesar Cano at Barclays Center in October of 2012. Broner represented Malignaggi’s first loss since falling by 11th-round knockout to Amir Khan to as a junior welterweight at New York’s Madison Square Garden in May of 2010.
Judah (42-8, 29 KOs) hammered previously undefeated Vernon Paris on the way to a ninth-round TKO victory in March of 2012 before rising from an eighth-round knockdown against Danny Garcia this past April prior to losing a close unanimous decision to RING, WBA and WBC 140-pound champion at Barclays Center.
Judah’s other losses were to Joshua Clottey, Kostya Tszyu, Miguel Cotto, Carlos Baldomir, Cory Spinks and Floyd Mayweather Jr., with all but the ones against Khan and Tszyu taking place in the welterweight division.
Below are the results of 16 boxing insiders polled by RingTV.com as to what will transpire in Judah-Malignaggi.
Paulie Malignaggi, SD 12 Zab Judah: Zab Judah is a quick-starter; Paulie Malignaggi is a quick-thinker. The thinker wins, but not by much in a points victory that might be controversial despite the admiration these Brooklyn fighters have for each other.
Judah’s lethal left uppercut puts Malignaggi in danger early. But Malignaggi knows it’s there. Knows it’s coming. Malignaggi and a little bit of knowledge are a dangerous combination.
Malignaggi, the ringside analyst, will stay out of Judah’s target zone in the beginning, increase the pace midway and score at a busy rate in the final rounds for a photo-finish victory on the scorecards.
Record: 27-9 [Kovalev KO 6 Sillakh]
Paulie Malignaggi W 12 Zab Judah - No bad blood in Brooklyn. Just boxing. If that’s how it’s going to be, I favor Paulie Malignaggi. On the outside chance that these two fight it out like dogs after promoting their bout like buddies back on the block, it becomes advantage Zab Judah.
The real trick for the Magic Man then will be to keep things cordial throughout the contest while piling up points with his jab. You could make the case that both of these boxers fight better when there’s a beef to be settled or some injustice to be railed against.
Judah showed this recently against junior welterweight champion Danny Garcia and Malignaggi demonstrated it against a prime Adrien Broner last June. Still, I think Malignaggi will be the one who benefits most from this surprisingly civil promotion.
At 33, Malignaggi is younger and fresher. Defensively, he is better and more capable of making himself disappear in the ring. This should offset the actual advantages that Judah has in terms of power and overall talent. In a friendly boxing match, Malignaggi wins a close but relatively dull unanimous decision.
Record: 23-10 [Kovalev TKO 6 Sillakh]
Paulie Malignaggi SD 12 Zab Judah: If this fight went down three or four years ago, I would have picked Zab Judah with confidence. But at this point in time, I think Paulie Malignaggi has more left in the tank.
I expect “The Magic Man” to work harder over the 12-round distance to claim a disputed verdict over his old friend, and he might have to get off the floor to do it.
Record: 16-9 [Kovalev TKO 5 Sillakh]
Zab Judah UD 12 Paulie Malignaggi: This is one of those very tough fights to pick considering that both fighters are considered to be well past their respective primes, but have shown a little something in their previous bouts.
Zab Judah has always been the more naturally gifted athlete, but his mentality has always been an issue. Paulie Malignaggi is a solid boxer, but has never had the pop to deter his opponents. I’m going to have to go here with Judah, who I believe can overcome any fighter who doesn’t have the power to offset his game plan.
If you can’t rock Judah, chances are you won’t be able to take him out of his zone, and he can outbox his opponent. It will be close, but Judah should pull this one out in the battle for Brooklyn.
Record: 13-1 [Kovalev TKO 9 Sillakh]
Zab Judah SD 12 Paulie Malignaggi: Though Paulie Malignaggi’s legs aren’t a strength anymore, he’ll use his jab and vast experience against top opposition to make this all-Brooklyn battle a very competitive fight.
Zab Judah proved against Danny Garcia that, even at 36, he still can compete at the highest level. He isn’t able to move the way he once did, either, but Judah will land the more noticeable blows, maybe buzz Malignaggi a time or two and edge Malignaggi on the scorecards.
Record: 22-6 [Kovalev KO 5 Sillakh]
Paulie Malignaggi SD Zab Judah: This one is a really hard call between two Brooklyn guys on the other side of the hill, but still possessing enough to make it very interesting.
It is speed versus speed, volume-punching against a more powerful puncher. There are not many pure boxers I really enjoy that much, but I always watch Malignaggi because there’s plenty of punches thrown and he’s a colorful guy.
I have picked Zab to win almost every big fight he’s had this side of Floyd Mayweather, but I think I’m going in the other direction this time. Paulie is going to, as always, move and jab.
Zab will be more economical, but when they exchange, I think Judah will get the better of it. Both fighters will have their moments. There won’t be much to choose between the two but when its over, I think Malignaggi, with the greater volume of punches, will eke out a decision, most likely split.
Record: 22-11 [Pacquiao UD 12 Rios]
Paulie Malignaggi W12 Zab Judah: A few years ago, I would’ve gone with Zab Judah in this battle for the Brooklyn borough.
But as of today, I feel he’s just a step slower — just enough to help Paulie Malignaggi win enough exchanges, and thus, rounds, to edge the decision.
Record: 18-8 [Pacquiao W 12 Rios]
Paulie Malignaggi W 12 Zab Judah: I see this as a battle of pride, bragging rights and staying relevant. Paulie Malignaggi and Zab Judah both lost their last fights.
They were competitive, against Adrian Broner and Danny Garcia respectably, but came up short.
The winner will see bigger paydays while the loser will need to ponder his future. Malignaggi will rally to win the fight by split decision.
Record: 15-5 [Kovalev TKO 10 Sillakh]
Paulie Malignaggi W 12 Zab Judah: This is a tricky fight to pick. It’s a dead-even matchup between two former junior welterweight and welterweight title-holders who have generally come up short in their biggest and most important fights.
The difference, in my view, is that Paulie Malignaggi has essentially sucked the most out of his talent and is easily an overachiever, while Zab Judah has never really lived up to his “Pernell Whitaker with a punch” expectations.
And in a fight like this, it’s going to come down to who wants it more, and I believe that’s Paulie Malignaggi. Let’s say Malignaggi by decision in close, sometimes exciting but mainly tactical matchup.
Record: 24-9 [Pacquiao KO 8 Rios]
Zab Judah W 12 Paulie Malignaggi: I like Zab Judah to edge Pauie Malignaggi in a very close and spirited fight by decision.
Zab has been pushing himself in sparring with a squad of undefeated prospects. and I think he will seize control in the second half of the fight.
Record: 20-6 [Kovalev TKO 8 Sillakh]
Zab Judah W 12 Paulie Malignaggi: Paulie Malignaggi has always struggled to defeat men at a certain level. Zab Judah is a fighter who flirts with that level. While never consistent, Judah has more speed and power and should be too strong for Paulie.
Record: 25-9 [Kovalev KO Sillakh]
Zab Judah W 12 Paulie Malignaggi: I still think Zab Judah has a little something left in the tank for Paulie Malignaggi after seeing how strong he hung with Danny Garcia, who I think everyone has a new found respect for.
Record: 26-5 [Pacquiao KO 12 Rios]
Paulie Malignaggi W 12 Zab Judah: Both fighters looked impressive in their last fights, Paulie Malignaggi in a split-decision loss to undefeated Adrien Broner, and Zab Judah in a loss to undefeated Danny Garcia.
Paulie has made a good living out of outboxing his opponents, and while he seldom has the power to end fights early, his slick moves and ability to stick and move make him a formidable opponent for Judah.
Zab still has power in his left hand and if he’s able to catch Paulie can do some damage, and besides, Paulie has never fought a southpaw of real note. I see Malignaggi moving around well, outworking Judah and getting a narrow decision. Malignaggi by decision.
Record: 20-6 [Pacquiao UD 12 Rios]
Paulie Malignaggi SD 12 Zab Judah: Paulie Malignaggi proved most wrong with a strong showing against his younger and more powerful Adrian Broner. Despite losing a 12-round decision, Malingnaggi demonstrated that he still has enough in the tank to tangle with some of the best welterweights in the world.
Zab Judah aslo displayed a quality of determination in his last fight against the fresher more youthful Danny Garcia, losing a spirited decision which demonstrates that he still a force to be reckoned with.
Now both men understand that this may very well be their up and down careers. At stake are bragging rights as the king of Brooklyn. “The Magic Man” has a few tricks up his sleeve, but nothing Judah hasn’t seen.
Paulie will establish his jab and his role as boxer, at times, befuddling Judah with his movement. Judah will come forward, scoring with lead rights and an occasional left hand to close the gap. Judah may have late success cutting off the ring and scoring to the head and body, possibly dropping him. In the end, however, it will be Malignaggi whose hands will be raised following a disputed split-decision.
Record: 6-2 [Kovalev KO 7 Sillakh]
Zab Judah W 12 Paulie Malignaggi: After several years, we finally get to see who the better man is between these two former two weight world champions.
Record: 16-7 [Kovalev KO Sillakh]
Abe Wiggington, guest/fan, Houston, Texas
In their last two fights, Malignaggi lost to up-and-coming superstar Adrien Broner, and Judah, to Danny Gracia, who followed that up with his unanimous decision over knockout artist Lucas Mattaysse.
This fight is a hard fight to pick because there does not seem much of a gap between the two. I think that Judah should be the favorite, having had to deal with better opponents recently, such as Floyd Mayweather Jr. I think that Judah will get a decision.
By the score of 9-7, the experts give Paulie Malignaggi the edge over southpaw Zab Judah in Saturday’s welterweight battle of Brooklyn.
Photo by Nick Laham, Golden Boy
Photo by BoricuaBoxing.com
Lem Satterfield can be reached at email@example.com