By John J. Raspanti
How do walk away from something you’ve done all your life? Something that has defined you?
That’s exactly what Paulie Malignaggi did a few days ago.
He retired from boxing.
Paulie is 36 now. Think about that for a minute. That’s young, in society, but not in boxing.
Last Saturday night in London, a wicked left hook to the liver from British fighter Sam Egginton caused Malignaggi to collapse like a limp noodle.
Malignaggi had done pretty well up until the knockout. He was boxing well, but his Achilles heel--a lack of punching power got the better of him near the end of round six.
The much smaller Malignaggi found Eggington’s chin with a dozen punches. The British fighter though stunned, was unmoved. He acknowledged Malignaggi’s success with a smile when the stanza ended.
How demoralizing. But a reality that Malignaggi has faced during his entire boxing career.
Clever as he is, Malignaggi can’t punch. His lack of punching power has hurt him, earning the Brooklyn native only seven knockouts in his 44-fight career.
Still, Malignaggi has captured titles in two weight classes. His dedication, nor his backbone, has never been questioned.
Boxing fans love tough guys, and Malignaggi is one of those guys. Sixty-two years ago, heavyweight champion Rocky Marciano was the baddest man on the planet.
Marciano disregarded pain like a New York cabdriver ignores customers.
A cut eye was like a walk in the park. A heavy punch was nothing more than a nuisance.
In 1954, a slashing Ezzard Charles’ left uppercut added another nostril to Marciano’s nose. Did he say anything? Did Marciano consider quitting?
He knocked out Charles in the eighth round.
Nowadays, no one measures up to Marciano. In 2007, Malignaggi ignored a broken bone in his cheek. He was also bleeding from his nose, mouth, and eye.
He lost the fight, but Ring magazine recognized him as the “Comeback Fighter of the Year”
Malignaggi isn’t gifted, like a David Lemieux or Gennady Golovkin, with fight-turning power. He’s a courageous fighter, who has to box because, that’s all he’s got.
Many boxing pundits were shocked when Malignaggi captured the welterweight championship in 2013. He lost it to Adrien Broner in his first defense.
A year later, he was brutally stopped by Shawn Porter, and pounded by Danny Garcia.
Retire was the chorus. Nope, said Malignaggi, who has parlayed his boxing experience into a rewarding position as a color commentator for Showtime Championship Boxing.
In 2015, he captured the European welterweight title. He could have retired then,
Fast forward to last Saturday. After being stopped, Maliginaggi announced that he was most likely finished as an active fighter. It took him 72 hours to make the announcement official.
A couple of years ago, Malignaggi wrote an article for www.theplayerstribune.com explaining why it’s so hard to walk away from boxing.
“Knowing that only a small percentage of people in this world will ever get to feel that kind of adrenaline, (in the ring) and you’re one of them,” wrote Malignaggi. “You get to feel it. You crave it — it’s like a drug. That’s what draws you.”
Like a drug, makes sense.
Malignaggi should be very proud of what he’s accomplished in the brutal world of boxing.
Mocked for years, due to his individualism, he won two world titles and competed with some of the best boxers in the world. He achieved all of this with little power, brass balls, and the guts of a super hero.
Hold your head high, Paulie Maliginaggi.
Pickup a copy of Intimate Warfare: The true story of the Arturo Gatti and Micky Ward boxing trilogy by Dennis Taylor and John J. Raspanti.