The respect that Brooklyn natives Paulie Malignaggi and Zab Judah have for each other has always been there. That fact was made even more evident during the Thursday press conference for their Saturday night fight at Barclays Center.
Both fighters, normally brash and cocky during press conferences, were complimentary and respectful toward each other in the Barclays Center main entrance on Thursday. Was it an aberration or a trend?
The subdued statements from the podium were no surprise to the 33-year-old Malignaggi (32-5), who will take on Judah (42-8) in a 12-round welterweight bout live on SHOWTIME.
Said Malignaggi: “I’ve known Zab since I was 17. So if Zab started talking trash I’d be like ‘Come on Zab?’…We see through the trash talking layers within each other. We know what we have to do come fight night. I think the trash talk has been set aside because we know each other so well.”
Judah couldn’t help taking at least one shot, however, claiming that Malignaggi, who holds dual citizenship with Italy and the United States, wasn’t born in Brooklyn. It’s a claim Malignaggi denies.
“I was born at Long Island College Hospital, born right down the street, actually,” Malignaggi said. “I don’t know how much more Brooklyn you’re going to get.”
Many have wondered why Judah, an 18-year fight veteran, and Malignaggi, who has been a pro boxer for 12 years, are fighting each other for the first time on Saturday. Both have hovered in the 140 and 147-pound range for most of the careers.
Malignaggi attributed it to the business of boxing.
“There are guys from New York who end up not fighting each other,” Malignaggi said. “Look at Buddy McGirt and Mark Breland. They came around the same time. They never fought and they were around the same weight class.”
Malignaggi wasn’t sure if he would ever fight Judah.
“Before this arena, I didn’t think I’d fight Zab,” Malignaggi said. “But I also didn’t think this arena would be here. But life throws you a lot of surprises.”
As for the fight itself, both boxers view it as an opportunity to be crowned the king of Brooklyn. Barclays Center CEO Brett Yormark, in an effort to make it official, announced that the winner of the fight will be awarded the Champion of Brooklyn Belt.
Said Malignaggi: “It makes a lot of sense for me and Zab to be fighting here and right at this time.”