Final Pre-Fight Thoughts From Paul Malignaggi

By Kirk Lang


Final Pre-Fight Thoughts From Paul Malignaggi

The flashy and charismatic Paulie "The Magic Man" Malignaggi has always wanted to win a world championship. He’ll be fighting for one Saturday night when he squares off against Lovemore N’dou at Mohegan Sun Resort Casino. Malignaggi plans to defeat N’dou, sleep with his new belt for a month and then go after Ricky Hatton, who returned to the junior welterweight division earlier this year after a one fight visit to the 147-pound ranks last May. Malignaggi reveals more in the following interview.
BT: Paulie, your dream of becoming a world champion may come true Saturday night. Describe what you’re feeling in the days leading up to your bout against IBF junior welterweight champion Lovemore N’dou.
PM: I feel much more prepared [editor’s note: Malignaggi lost a 12 round decision to Miguel Cotto in June 2006 for Cotto’s WBO belt]. I think the experience last year of having fought Miguel Cotto I dealt with the pressure of not just being in the ring with Cotto but also the build-up to a fight of that magnitude. I think ultimately the second time around I can pretty much just concentrate on preparation instead of all the distractions.
BT: And has there been any change in your training for this fight, anything new that you’ve added to your training regimen?
PM: Me and [former world champion] Buddy [McGirt] have worked on new things this time around. I think we’ve actually been able to put a lot of them to use instead of just working on them like the last camp, which was my first camp with Buddy, so it was more just trying new things out this time around. I think we’re going to put them into use and you’ll see a more complete fighter. I’m always striving to improve so I think I’ll show a couple of new wrinkles this fight. Either way expect me to be 100 percent prepared for N’dou Saturday.
BT: Being that you came up short in your challenge of Cotto, does that make you more focused this time around for this IBF title fight? Does it make you appreciate all the more the opportunity that you have before you?
PM: Yes, I definitely appreciate the opportunity. I definitely feel more prepared and the experience [against Cotto] definitely helped me, but this time around I definitely feel that, like I said, due to last year’s experience, I’m much more prepared and definitely feel more confident this time around.
BT: Correct me if I’m wrong but wasn’t N’dou given Ricky Hatton’s old title?
PM: Well, Ricky Hatton didn’t want to fight him. He’s choosing to fight Jose Luis Castillo. Ricky vacated the IBF title to give it to N’Dou, yes. Hatton made the Castillo fight, which, in my opinion, is a waste of time because Diego Corrales and Castillo have shown they’re not the same fighters they once were after they fought each other and I think it showed with Corrales not winning any more fights and Castillo barely escaping against a guy (Herman Ngoudjo) no one’s heard of before. Now it shows you the guy was a nobody because last Friday Ngoudjo fought again and barely got away with a decision against Randall Bailey. In fact, I don’t even think he won, so the fact Castillo barely got a decision against that guy shows you where Castillo stands. I think it’s more Ricky Hatton picking and choosing his spots more than anything else, you know what I’m saying? I think I wound up with a tougher fight in Lovemore N’dou but it’s a less publicized fight cause people love Ricky Hatton’s a*s at the end of the day. I think you’re going to see June 23 Hatton-Castillo is not as good of a fight as it could have been three or four years ago. I think me and Lovemore are going to put on a good fight and I just expect to be much more prepared than N’dou.
BT: Some people might say, if you win the title on Saturday, that you didn’t beat a real champion. What do you have to say to those critics?
PM: I think he got a title because Ricky Hatton didn’t want to fight him and Ricky Hatton knew what he was in for should he fight a fighter like Lovemore N’dou. I think N’dou at this point in time is a tougher fight than Jose Luis Castillo and me and N’dou are going to get it on and show the people the winner of this fight deserves to be a champion. At the same time, I can’t force Ricky Hatton to get in the ring with me. If Ricky Hatton doesn’t want to get in the ring with me then nobody can make him go do that. That’s why they do things like the IBF did and strip guys like Ricky Hatton because they don’t want to fight certain fighters. You know what I’m saying? If you’re going to be a champion you’ve got to be a champion to prove your worth. If the guy doesn’t want to get in the ring with me there’s nothing I can do about it so if people want to continue to kiss his a*s even though he’s going to pick and choose his opponents, talk to them, that’s going to be their prerogative. Me, I look at things in real ways. I’m in a reality world. Ricky Hatton’s picking and choosing his opponents. He fought Kostya Tszyu as the right time and had he known how good Luis Collazo was when he fought him, he would have never fought him. He thought Luis Collazo was an obscure champion. He fought Juan Urango and now he’s fighting Castillo because Castillo is a shot fighter.
BT: Let’s get back to you. How does it feel to go through the years from the amateurs to the pros, from local prospect to title challenger to world champion if all goes well Saturday night?
PM: It feels good. It shows you that my hard work is paying off. I think little by little I’ve grown as a person and as a fighter and my experiences have taught me well and I think people have seen the improvements over the course of the years and I think people are going to continue to see improvements. I’m very happy. I think I could have been a lot further had I not been injured so much early in my career but I’m happy where my career is going now and this week I’ll make one of my dreams come true and become a world champion.
BT: How many surgeries have you had on your hands over the years?
PM: I’ve had three surgeries on my right hand and then I had a surgery on my orbital bone after the Cotto fight. I’ve had four surgeries since I’ve been a pro and those do take some time to heal up and the layoffs obviously cost me a lot of time.
BT: Who have you sparred with in preparation for N’dou?
PM: I sparred a lot of fighters, from pro fighters to amateur fighters. Names that people might recognize, Edner Cherry, my last opponent, was brought in. David Estrada, a welterweight from Miami. James McGirt, Jr. because N’dou does turn southpaw. I sparred McGirt a little bit to get some lefty work but these are the names people that people might recognize.
BT: And after you win the title, you obviously want to fight the bigger names. Who are you targeting?
PM: I want Ricky Hatton. I can’t make the guy get in the ring with me if he doesn’t want to but I want Hatton.
BT: And if Ricky Hatton avoids you, who is next on your list?
PM: I think I have to fight the mandatory, which is Herman Ngoudjo, who won against Randall Bailey on Friday, so I guess I would have to fight him. I think the guy’s worthless but I’m going to take it one step at a time and care of N’dou first. I don’t want to overlook the guy I’m fighting Saturday night but again, I think Ngoudjo is being given a little too much credit for beating a guy who was past his prime in January and now he was given a chance to fight an eliminator against another guy that was past his prime and can barely beat that guy. So I don’t think Ngoudjo deserves to be where he’s at. He’s only got 16, 17 fights and I think he’s got a lot of work to do before he fights fighters of my caliber but yet, he’ll be the mandatory once I beat N’dou so I’ll have to take care of him. And like I said, I want big name guys. If I can get Hatton, anybody else up there, you know, eventually I want to move up to welterweight and challenge Cotto again, if that’s possible and if that can be made, but obviously, that’s down the line. I have a lot of work to do before that. It’s not more so on my style, it’s more so that, for people to draw interest in the fight, I need to beat more names.
BT: And come Sunday, when you return to Brooklyn, is there a big party planned for you?
PM: Oh yeah, we’re going to get it on man. Actually, Sunday I’ve got my grandparents’ 50th anniversary party I have to go to. So I look forward to going there as a world champion and my family should be very happy with me. That’s a daytime party on Sunday.
BT: What’s nighttime?
PM: Nighttime is a night out. It might be the whole entire week we’re going out after that, celebrating winning a world championship.
BT: And after you win the title, where are you going to keep the belt? In a safe?
PM: Yeah, I’m going to eventually do that but I think I might sleep with it for the first month. I still live in Brooklyn but I’ll keep it safe. Like I said, I might sleep with it for the first month. I might give it its own pillow and everything.


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