BROOKLYN, N.Y. — Trash-talking between usually effusive two-division titlewinners Zab Judah and Paulie Malignaggi had been at a minimum prior to Wednesday’s final press conference, where the welterweight Brooklyn natives turned up the heat in advance of Saturday’s clash at Barclays Center.
“First and foremost, I want to thank Paulie Malignaggi and Team Malignaggi for taking this opportunity… First of all, you guys, welcome to my office,” said Judah, who turned 36 in October, referring to Barclays Center.
“This is my office. 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 is a special opportunity for me.”
Before signing with Golden Boy in August, Judah (42-8, 29 knockouts) had appeared to restore the “Super” in his career with his past two performances. Judah scored a ninth-round TKO previously unbeaten Vernon Paris in March of 2012 before rising from an eighth-round knockdown against Danny Garcia this past April during 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.
The winner of Judah-Malignaggi will be awarded an official, first-ever City Championship of Brooklyn belt.
“This really has nothing to do with my man, Paulie, it’s just the opportunity of crowning yourself the king of your city,” said Judah. “My mind frame is like the old Roman days, and everybody knows that back in the old, Roman days, there was only one king. One king, and that’s it, and I’m taking it back to that.”
A 33-year-old, Malignaggi (32-5, 7 KOs) was last in the ring for June’s split-decision WBA welterweight title loss to Adrien Broner, which marked Malignaggi’s second straight appearance at Barclays Center.
Malignaggi had won the belt in April of 2012 with a ninth-round stoppage of previously unbeaten Vyacheslav Senchenko on Ukrainian soil, representing Malignaggi’s fifth straight victory as a welterweight during a run that had included two knockout wins.
Before falling to Broner, Malignaggi had earned a split-decision victory over Mexico City’s Pablo Cesar Cano at Barclays Center in October of 2012.
“Camp has been hard, and I’m very motivated. There’s a lot of motivation even without a world championship being on the line. Obviously, there’s a lot of pride here, like Zab was saying. There’s only one king, also, this is an opportunity that beating Zab Judah bring to the table. He’s a multiple-time world champion, and beating Zab Judah leads to a world title, I have no doubt about it. So the rewards of winning a fight like this is motivation in and of itself. It reminds me of those gladiators days,” said Malignaggi, who is nicknamed, “The Magic Man.”
“Back in the Roman times, you never knew who you fought, but you fought to the death. Sometimes, you probably did have to fight your friend, and it was either him or you. Like Zab said, it’s not personal for him, and it’s not personal for me, either, but it’s me or him. Somebody has to win, and somebody has to lose on Saturday night. I’ve prepared very well. Once the bell rings, you have to be a different person. I know that I’m a different person when the bell rings. 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. So that’s just the mentality we have as fighters. So on Saturday night, yeah, there’s only going to be one king, and I plan on that being me.”
In addition, junior middleweights Austin Trout (26-1, 14 KOs) and Erislandy Lara (18-1-2, 12 KOs) will meet in a clash of left-handers, and WBC super middleweight titleholder Sakio Bika (32-5-2, 21 KOs) will defend against Anthony Dirrell (26-0, 22 KOs).
“I was blown away by being the main event on such a special card, top to bottom, that Showtime has put on. When I got word that me and Zab would be the main event, and I saw the co-features that are on the televised card, I was amazed that they made me and Zab the main event with all of the great fighters on the show,” said Malignaggi.
“It humbles me and it blows me away that I’m still fighting amongst these top level athletes, and a lot of them younger than me, after all of these years. Me and Zab had had a lot of longevity over our careers. I’ve been a pro for 12 years, he’s been a pro for 18 years, so the fact that we’re still at this level speaks volumes about our skills, determination and our ring savvy.”
PORTER ‘TAKING NOTHING AWAY FROM ALEXANDER…BUT THE BELT’
Porter is coming off September’s unanimous decision over ex-beltholder Julio Diaz that made up for the draw they had in December of 2012. In between, Diaz dropped Amir Khan in the fourth round of a unanimous decision loss in April.
“It’s Showtime. What time is it? Showtime Shawn Porter is in the building. I’m 22-0, and I’m about to get my first world title. I’m ready to do it. I’ve worked extremely hard in this camp,” said Porter, who a 26-year-old who is trained by his father, Kenny Porter.
“I’m taking nothing from Devon Alexander, except his belt. I know what he’s got to bring, and I’m ready for it. He’s bringing the belt for me and he’s bringing some speed and a little bit of this and a little bit of that. But we’re going to handle it, and I’m going home with that belt.”
ALEXANDER TO ‘PROVE TO PEOPLE THAT I’M AN ELITE FIGHTER’
The victory over Purdy represented Alexander’s fourth straight victory since falling to current WBO 147-pound beltholder Tim Bradley by 10th-round technical decision in January of 2011.
“I want to thank Barclays for letting me come into your building and allowing me to display my talents again,” said Alexander, who soundly defeated Porter when they were young amateurs not yet in their teens.
“As far as the fight, Shawn, I’ve already beaten you. So it ain’t going to be no different on Saturday night. Showtime? What does Showtime mean? It’s time to go. I’m ready. I’m 120 percent focused. Shawn is a solid fighter and he’s stepped up to the plate.”
Alexander owns stoppage wins over former titleholders Juan Urango and Junior Witter, route-going wins over ex-beltholders Andriy Kotelnik and DeMarcus “Chop Chop” Corley, and impressive decisions over hard-punching Argentines Lucas Matthysse and Marcos Maidana by split- and unanimous decision, respectively.
Alexander had hoped to land a bout with Khan, who instead may be in line to face Floyd Mayweather Jr. in May.
“You guys know that I was supposed to fight somebody else, but Shawn stepped up to the plate. Now, I’m going to take care of him,” said Alexander. “I’m going to continue to win, and I’m going to continue to prove to people that I’m an elite fighter and I deserve to be at the top. So, come Saturday night, my winning ways will continue.”
LARA SAYS FIGHT WITH TROUT IS ABOUT ‘WHO HAS THE BIGGER HEART AND BIGGER BALLS’
Trout unanimously decisioned Miguel Cotto for a career-defining victory on Dec. 1 of last year at New York’s Madison Square Garden in front of family members, one of whom was his grandmother, Ann Johnson, who passed away in May.
While Trout has dedicated Saturday’s clash to Johnson, he also welcomes relatives such as great grandmother, Dorothy Johnson, who celebrated her 88th birthday the day Trout ended Cotto’s unbeaten mark at The Garden at 7-0. Many of those related to Trout are from New York.
“I’m happy to be here. Happy to bring it back to Brooklyn. A lot of people don’t know that my mother, my grandmother, they were both born and raised here. My grandfather is from here. New York is in my blood,” said Trout, who is coming off a unanimous decision loss to Canelo Alvarez in April.
“Over a year ago, I came back to New York and retained my title against Miguel Cotto, and I’m looking to regain my title because I feel like that’s my belt. I lost to Canelo, but I feel like that has made me a stronger, and better fighter and a stronger man. You are going to see the re-invention of Austin Trout on Saturday night.”
Lara rose from knockdowns in the fourth and ninth rounds of his last bout to score a 10th-round stoppage of Alfredo Angulo in June, which had followed a disputed draw with Vanes Martirosyan in November of 2012.
Although he had engaged in a pre-fight war of words with Trout, Lara had little to say on Wednesday.
“The talk is over now,” said Lara. “On Saturday, we’re going to find out who has got the bigger heart.”
DIRRELL AIMS TO BE THE FIRST TO KNOCK OUT BIKA, WHO QUESTIONS DIRREL’S HIS RESOLVE
In May of last year, Dirrell suffered a broken leg during a motorcycle accident, this, after having been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma shortly after he stopped James Hopkins in December 2006.
“Come Saturday, it’s destiny,” said Dirrell, 29, who did return to the ring until October 2008, when he decisioned Andy Mavros over four rounds.
“I’ve been through a lot. Cancer in 2006. Overcame that. Motorcycle accident. Broke my leg and my hand. Overcame that. So, Sakio Bika can’t overcome me.”
In his last fight in June at Barclays, Bika majority decisioned Mexico’s previously unbeaten Marco Antonio Periban for his current belt at Barclays Center.
Bika-Periban was for the WBC belt formerly held by RING and WBA champion Andre Ward, had followed February’s unanimous decision over previously undefeated Nikola Sjekloca, and represented his fourth straight win during a run that includes two stoppages since falling by unanimous decision to Ward in November of 2010.
“He looks for the knockout, but doesn’t get it every time,” said Dirrell, of Bika. “But this time, it’s going to be me who is looking for the knockout.”
Bika, nevertheless, questioned Dirrell’s resolve.
“He says that he can do it, he says that he can beat me, but I don’t think that he has the balls to do it.”
SADAM ALI, MARCUS BROWNE LOOK TO STAY UNDEFEATED
In other bouts, Brooklyn welterweight Sadam “World Kid” Ali (17-0, 10 KOs) will fight Mexico’s Jesus Selig (16-1-1, 10 KOs), and light heavyweight and 2012 U.S. Olympian Marcus Browne (7-0, 6 KOs) takes on Kevin Engel (20-8, 16 KOs).
In his last fight in September at Barclays, Ali rose from a first-round knockdown and then floored rival Jay Krupp in both the third and final stanzas of an eight-round unanimous decision victory.
Browne was also at Barclays on the Ali-Krupp card, going the distance for the first time in eight-round unanimous decision over Lamont Williams.
Photos / Tom Casino-TOP RANK, Maddie Meyer-Getty Images