By Sean Crose
Funny how things can change over the course of a single evening. Up until the moment Paulie Malignaggi stepped into the ring at the Barclay Center in Brooklyn on Saturday night, the man was considered, well, washed up. Past his prime. On the downslide. Now, if you visit Twitter, you’ll read that the guy put on the performance of his life in decimating Zab Judah. You’ll see names like Danny Garcia be thrown out there. In short, you’ll realize that the man from Bensonhearst is now being treated like a young up and comer rather than an old man trying to cling to dignity.
Thing is, those who are quick to praise Malignaggi now may well be right. To put it all in the simplest terms possible – age isn’t what it used to be in boxing. Think about it, Joe Louis battled a young Rocky Marciano when he was in his late thirties and looked like he was in his fifties during the fight. The icon ended up battered, humiliated, and a source of sympathy for people around the world.
Now compare Joe Louis to Floyd Mayweather, who’s now in his late thirties himself. Or Lennox Lewis, who was still dominating the heavyweight division when he was pushing forty. Or the Klitschko’s, who are both well into their fourth decades, yet are currently ruling the heavyweights.
And let’s not forget the high priest of agelessness, one Bernard Hopkins. Forget about pushing forty, this dude is pushing fifty and still looks great in the ring. Even when he loses a fight these days, you can’t just lean back in your easy chair and resign yourself to the fact that the guy’s finished. Why? Because you just don’t know if he really is yet. He may go right ahead and pick himself up another title the next time he enters the ring.
Since we’re all the product of aging, and realize there’s no way to stop the process (at least those of us who have our wits about us realize this), it’s easy to cheer on guys like Hopkins, Mayweather and Malignaggi, individuals who give us hope as we start to realize we just aren’t the men and women we were back when we were younger. Yet we still have to view these fighters realistically. Hopkins, amazing though he is, isn’t the same guy who beat Tito Trinidad. Mayweather may still look like he’s in his twenties now, but the harsh reality is he isn’t going to look that way forever. At some point, he’s going to start showing signs that he’s getting older.
Just ask Zab Judah. Fans not only thought he looked his age last night, it seems they thought he actually looked older while in the ring with Malignaggi. If Malignaggi gives up hope, guys like Judah and Antonio Tarver (who looked just like the middle aged man he is in his recent comeback fight) remind us that there’s no turning back the clock.
That doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate those who age well, though. Truth is, these people deserve the credit they get. If Malignaggi can prove he’s not the old man people thought he was, then he should be given another shot at the big leagues. He nearly beat Broner, after all. As for Mayweather and Hopkins, hey, what fight fan doesn’t want to tune in when either of those guys enters the ring?
The reality of the situation is that people, regular, everyday people, are living longer these days. Going past the age of one hundred is still a big deal, but it’s not the big deal it once once. The aging process has been slowing down since man first started walking the earth, really, and it shall continue to slow down as time moves on. That’s good news for everyone. Especially for people like Paulie Malignaggi.
Here’s hoping his next performance is as good as this last one was on Saturday.