Tim Smith

Paul Malignaggi’s skill takes the thrill out of Brooklyn brawl with Zab Judah

Click here for the Judah-Malignaggi photo gallery.


BROOKLYN, N.Y. – Only in Brooklyn in a fight between two Brooklyn fighters would the threat of a fight break out after the fight. That was about the only jolt of excitement in the “Brawl for Brooklyn” between Paulie Malignaggi of Bensonhurst and Zab Judah of Brownsville.

Malignaggi, the busier of the two boxers, scored a unanimous 12-round decision over Judah before a disappointed crowd of 9,363 at the Barclays Center on Saturday night. Judge Michael Pernick scored it 116-111 and judges Adelaide Byrd and Max DeLuca scored it 117-111 for Malignaggi. THE RING scored it 116-111 for Malignaggi.

This was not the knock down drag out battle that many of the fans, who were booing in the last three rounds because of the lack of action, had hoped to see. Judah’s power never materialized and Malignaggi (33-5, 7 knockouts) used his jab to outwork Judah, who seemed more sluggish as the rounds wore on. His corner was massaging his calves between rounds, suggesting that he may have been suffering cramps.

“Paulie wasn’t tougher. He didn’t want to engage,” said Judah, whose record dropped to 42-9 with 29 KOs. “He stayed outside a lot. It was different than I thought. He kept working his jab and he stayed on the outside. It just wasn’t there.”

He added: “I wanted to be the King of Brooklyn. I have to go back and put it all together.”

That coronation was left for Malignaggi, who at 33-years old felt his career was re-invigorated with the victory.

“This is an emotional win for me. It definitely allows me to continue boxing,” Malignaggi said. “With a loss I don’t know if I would have wanted to continue. This big win puts me in the right spot to fight in the talented welterweight division.”

The challenges will be a lot stiffer than the 36-year-old Judah posed for Malignaggi on Saturday night.

Judah, a five-time world titleholder and former undisputed welterweight champion, got the largest cheer from the crowd when he was introduced. They were showing appreciation for what he once was. Before the night was over they were booing him, leaving his future at the top of the welterweight division in jeopardy.

“Walking to the ring was surreal. As a teenager I saw Zab fighting on TV,” Malignaggi said. “For me it was surreal that I was walking into the ring to fight him.”

In the first couple of rounds it looked like Judah’s power would overcome Malignaggi’s speed. Judah scored a flash knockdown in the second round, catching Malignaggi with a short right when Malignaggi was off balance. Malignaggi didn’t hit the canvas, but he braced his fall with his left glove, which was enough for referee Mike Ortega to score it a knockdown. Malignaggi protested the knockdown, arguing that Judah stepped on his foot. The Showtime replay did show that their feet got tangled just as Judah’s punch landed.

A clash of heads opened a cut along the side of Malignaggi’s left eye in the third round. But it didn’t appear to be in a spot that was causing Malignaggi many problems. The bigger trouble for Malignaggi was handling Judah’s southpaw stance. Judah did not present any easy targets for Malignaggi to hit. And when Malignaggi tried to reach around to land the right to the body, there was the problem of the clashing heads. But it didn’t frustrate Malignaggi, who continued to outwork Judah.

Judah fell into the same pattern that he had against Danny Garcia – the dreaded slow start. He allowed Malignaggi to set the tempo as the aggressor on offense with his jab. But as the fight worn on, Judah just couldn’t pull the trigger.

Ortega had to stop the action early in the seventh round to talk to both boxers about trying to get away with dirty tactics. It was the first time that the two boxers showed any kind of nastiness. The last thing Ortega wanted was ugliness in the ring to spill out into the stands and create a real Brooklyn brawl.

Yoel Judah, Zab’s father, was working his corner again – just like the old days. And between rounds he stood in front of his son demonstrating the combinations that he wanted him to land on Malignaggi. But Judah could not easily execute his father’s plan as Malignaggi kept circling to his left away from Judah’s power.

A chorus of boos rose from the crowd in the 10th round as the boxers spent more time bouncing and posturing in the ring than throwing punches. As the boos rain down, Malignaggi waved the crowd on. The brawl that Brooklyn had come to see hadn’t materialized and the crowd was beginning to sense that it never would.

Fans had begun streaming out of the exits at the Barclays Center at the end of the 11th round. Some of them didn’t want to stick around for the conclusion. They had no faith that either man could deliver the knockout that they had expected when they filed into the arena earlier in the night. They did get a victory – a less crowded subway car.

The fight was for Brooklyn bragging rights, though it had been a few years since either man made the borough their home. Malignaggi trains and lives in Los Angeles and Judah lives and trains in Las Vegas. But they still lay claim to their Brooklyn roots with Malignaggi drawing from Bensonhurst and Judah pulling in the fans from Brownsville.

It was the kind of neighborhood brawl that was popular in the 1940s and 1950s in New York City, but have become more rare as the crop of boxing talent in the city has dwindle and world champions have been hard to come by. There currently is not a world champion from New York in any division in boxing.

Both men were coming off disappointing losses of their world titles in their last matches at the Barclays Center. Judah lost to junior welterweight champion Danny Garcia and Malignaggi had lost his WBA welterweight title to Adrien Broner.

After beating Judah, Malignaggi said he wants to fight the winner of Broner-Marcos Maidana fight which will take place in San Antonio next Saturday.  If Broner wins, then Malignaggi would be facing a rematch. He thought he won the first fight between the two, so there may be more heat in that match than there was in his all-Brooklyn affair against Judah.



Photos / Naoki Fukuda

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