By: Sean Crose
There’s old school fighters, and then there’s really old school fighters. Brooklyn’s own Paulie Malignaggi is now a really old school fighter. For the retired two division belt holder has signed on with an organization called the Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship, the nature of whose business can be found in its very name – bare knuckle fighting. The 36-8 Malignaggi last laced up the gloves for a professional fight in 2017 when he was stopped by Sam Eggington in England. He’ll be fighting again this year, however, just without the gloves. The date of Malignaggi’s first bare knuckle brawl has yet to be announced. Malignaggi, one of the sport’s more colorful individuals, is 38 years of age.
Bare knuckle boxing once dominated the landscape. Figures like John L Sullivan ruled the sporting scene of the late 1800s by engaging in grueling affairs like Sullivan’s seventy-plus round brawl with Jake Kilrain in 1889. After Sullivan was met and bested in September of 1892 by a younger, slicker James J Corbett, in the first heavyweight gloved fight, the bareknuckle era found itself down for the count. Until, apparently, now. Should he prove successful in this endeavor, Malignaggi will arguably be the first well known bare knuckle brawler since Benjamin Harrison was President of the United States. Word has yet to arrive as to whether or not Malignaggi will begin sporting a handlebar moustache.
Best known as a top fighter who prowled the welterweight and junior welterweight divisions, Malignaggi won the IBF junior welterweight title and the WBA welterweight title, respectively. Throughout this ring career, Malignaggi faced off against a who’s who of big name competition. Miguel Cotto, Ricky Hatton, Amir Khan, Adrien Broner, Danny Garcia, Shawn Porter, and Zab Judah were all Malignaggi opponents at one time or other.
Malignaggi has fairly recently earned a reputation as a top level broadcaster for Showtime Boxing and Britain’s Sky Sports, where his in-depth, experienced knowledge of the fight game, coupled with his fast talking, intelligent style have made him a popular figure. Malignaggi engaged in a highly publicized feud with Conor McGregor in 2017 after he agreed to help train the Irishman for his boxing match against Floyd Mayweather, only to find video footage of himself appearing in a less than flattering light made public by McGregor’s team. Since that time, Malignaggi has largely stuck to broadcasting fights, though he recently could be seen working in James DeGale’s corner during the super middleweight’s bout against Chris Eubank Jr.