By ALEX ELLEFSON
Former boxing champion Paulie Malignaggi said on Tuesday that it was important for him to win his upcoming match against fellow Brooklyn native Zab Judah to earn bragging rights as king of the borough.
“It’s a big deal,” said Malignaggi. “Usually, when a guy leaves town after a fight, you don’t have to see him again around your home.”
On Saturday, The two former junior welterweight and welterweight champions will face each other for the first time in the Barclays Center in a fight that has been promoted as the Battle of Brooklyn.
“This is not a world championship fight but it still has the same championship vibe,” said Malignaggi, who lost his welterweight title at Barclays last June against Adrien Broner. “It’s going to be a divided crowd. Zab will have his supporters and I have my supporters.”
Both Malignaggi (32-5, 7 knockouts) and Judah (42-8, 29 knockouts) are coming off tough losses in their hometown. Judah lost a bloody battle against then-junior welterweight titleholder Danny Garcia at the Barclays Center in April. Malignaggi lost to Broner in a split decision.
“In this sport, one or two losses can quickly demote you to a second or third level. Me and Zab are both coming off competitive losses,” said Maglinaggi. “At the end of the day, we both want to win real bad.”
Besides earning hometown bragging rights, the winner will likely get a chance to fight for the welterweight title.
Malignaggi and Judah made headlines for trash talking during the weeks before their last fights, but both men have expressed mutual respect for each other in the lead up to Saturday’s fight. However, Malignaggi said that the competition would be fierce inside the ring and he expected a battle.
“I trained for the best Zab Judah and I expect a tough fight,” he said. “Any time the bell rings, you put your feelings aside even if you have respect for each other.”
Malignaggi made his comments during a showcase training session at legendary Gleason’s Gym in Brooklyn, which was organized by the fight’s promoter, Golden Boy Productions.
For Malignaggi, the event at Gleason’s was a bit of a homecoming.
“I started training at Gleason’s. It has a special place in my heart,” he said. “I wouldn’t be the fighter I am without Gleason’s.”
Interim junior middleweight titlist Erislandy Lara (18-1-2, 12 knockouts) was also present at Gleason’s for the showcase. Lara will fight former champion Austin Trout (26-1, 14 knockouts) in the co-feature of Saturday’s event at the arena.
Lara and Trout already exchanged verbal jabs at a press conference last month, where Trout said his opponent “lacks in heart.”
At Tuesday’s showcase in Gleason’s, Lara said that he will prove that he is the better fighter in the ring and added that he expects to win the fight by knockout.
“I will prove I am the best 154 lb fighter in the world,” said Lara. “This will be my fifth straight fight against a top 10 fighter. [Trout] couldn’t beat the second best fighter, how is he going to beat the first?”
Photo by Alex Ellefson of Paulie Malignaggi.