When Gabriel Bracero looks across the ring Saturday night, he will see Paulie Malignaggi, a peer and a friend, who has accomplished all that for which Bracero longs.
In Malignaggi, Bracero sees success, fame and stability. The first step for Bracero to attain it all is by defeating him.
Bracero and Malignaggi, both from Brooklyn, meet in a 10-round welterweight fight Saturday night at Barclays Center. It is the main event of the Showtime Extreme broadcast, which starts at 7. The card is topped by Leo Santa Cruz defending his featherweight title against Carl Frampton. That bout will be televised by Showtime.
“Paulie is straight in life,” Bracero said. “I’m trying to get straight in life. He has a job. He’s a champion. He doesn’t have to worry about winning. I have to worry about winning. Boxing is my future.”
Bracero (24-2) has had his promising boxing career interrupted by trouble with the law. He didn’t fight from 2002 to 2009 after serving time for a pair of shootings, one in New York and the other in New Jersey. He also was arrested earlier this year for fighting with a New York City police officer. Bracero was charged with assault, criminal possession of a weapon, obstructing government administration and resisting arrest.
“I’ve made mistakes in life,” said Bracero, 35. “I was away from this sport for a while. Boxing was always my dream though. I stayed focused so that I can come out and do what I’m doing now. Not too many people can bounce back from a situation like that. I want to thank Tommy Gallagher, my trainer. He always stood by my side and always believed in me. No matter what the critics said. It’s because of him that I’m standing here now.”
Malignaggi (35-7), a two-time former world champion, is pulling double duty on fight night. He is more a full-time broadcaster and part-time fighter these days and both of those skills will be on display Saturday. He will box Bracero and then return to ringside for the main event to take his regular spot among the Showtime broadcast team and call the fight.
When Bracero was asked if Malignaggi could be distracted by his dual role as boxer and broadcaster, Bracero laughed and said, “Let’s see if he makes it back for the commentating job.”
Bracero knows time is running out on his dream of becoming a world champion.
“I’m really thankful that Paulie gave me this opportunity,” he said. “I always followed his career and his successes. It was a dream of mine to come out here and have the same success he had. I looked up to him. It’s a blessing to be able to fight in my hometown, in front of my family and friends. I am going to make the most of this. This fight means everything.”