Paulie Malignaggi has every intention of showing up for work on July 30 as a boxing analyst for Showtime. But, hey, stuff happens, especially when one has a job earlier on the same night that involves being punched in the head.
“If things go a little bit, um, not good, then they understand that maybe I won’t work,” he said. “I’ll be out.”
Such are the vagaries of a schedule that has Malignaggi fighting Gabriel Bracero in a 10-round welterweight bout at Barclays Center at about 8 p.m. on Showtime Extreme, then showering, dressing and grabbing a mic for as much of the Showtime portion of the card as he can make, including the main event between Leo Santa Cruz and Carl Frampton.
“Even if I win a rough fight or if I have a cut and need stitches, I think I can get the stitches inside the arena,” he said. “Barring a really bad injury where I would need a hospital stay I think I would be fine, or if I broke my hand and had to go to the hospital for that. Then they’d understand.”
Malignaggi knows he can pull off the unusual double, because he did it for his last fight, in London in December. He beat Antonio Moscatiello in a 12-round decision, cleaned himself up and worked later fights for Sky Sports.
“When the whole night was over and the broadcasting was done, I thought, ‘Man, I am kind of tired,’” he said. “But it didn’t dawn on me when I was doing it, because it’s something that I enjoy and really have fun doing.”
Stephen Espinoza, executive vice president of Showtime Sports, said it comes as no surprise that Malignaggi was up for a double shift. “That is who Paulie is,” he said. “He wants to do anything and everything.”
Espinoza said that even if Malignaggi emerges uninjured, there could be another factor that comes into play. “Every fighter has a delay because they’re so dehydrated at the postfight urine test,” he said.
Soon what began four years ago as a lark will become Malignaggi’s primary job. He turns 36 in November and plans to stop boxing later this year or early in 2017.
Good thing he has received positive reviews for his TV work. He knows and loves the sport and has a passion for translating its nuances for viewers in fast-paced Brooklynese. (He also speaks Italian and Spanish.)
“If I didn’t love it so much I wouldn’t be so hyped up about it,” he said. “But the reason is I love the sport. It’s given me so much. And I love the Xs and Os of it. I love breaking action down for people in ways they don’t notice it, subtle ways that a fighter of my experience can give people that a regular analyst cannot.
“I get kind of a high off people getting to enjoy a fight a little more because I’ve broken down the action for them.”
The goal is to speak as he does when talking boxing with friends over a beer. “Minus, you can’t curse,” he said.
But he is not quite ready to give up boxing himself, in part because the money is good and in part because of the thrill of the contest.
“I still lust for that competitive atmosphere in the arena on fight night,” said Malignaggi, who is 35-7 as a pro and is a former IBF junior welterweight and WBA welterweight champ.
That, combined with his personality, his varied interests (how many boxing champions are knowledgeable hockey fans?) and a compelling life story (an early childhood in Italy, a complex family life, troubled teenage years) – led him to believe he might become a bigger star, “the next Oscar De La Hoya.”
“I thought I was a very marketable fighter,” he said. “I still sometimes think boxing missed the boat with me . . . I felt like I had crossover stardom potential, but it didn’t go the way I wanted it to.”
Still, he was visible enough to get a shot as a guest analyst for Showtime in 2012 and confirmed what people had been telling him for years: That he can talk.
“As soon as we went off the air the guys came out of the (production) truck and said, ‘When are you going to stop boxing and work for us?’” he said. “I was blown away.”
Said Espinoza, “None of us knew he would take to it like a fish to water. We knew he was articulate and opinionated and open and candid, but we didn’t know the mechanics of the announcer skills would be so natural to him.”
Malignaggi splits time between Brooklyn and a home he bought in Island Park in 2013. There he relishes the peace and quiet of a dead-end street and proximity to the beach.
“It’s kind of my nook where I can go to when I want to get away,” he said. “It’s my house that when I walk into it I can take a deep breath . . . I don’t get that feeling very many places I go to. It’s really cool.”
There will be no quiet on a long, busy night in Brooklyn that Saturday. That’s cool, too, for a former boxing champion who now champions boxing.
“I love the sport,” he said, “but I also want other people to love it.”
Barring a really bad injury where I would need a hospital stay I think I would be fine.”
— Paul Malignaggi