Boxing has been pretty darned good to Paul Malignaggi. Having known him for a couple years, and having come to respect his intelligence, his street smarts and his hustle, I'm pretty sure no matter what he went after, vocationally, he would have had success. But boxing has been a good fit for Malignaggi, the Bensonhurst-bred welterweight who defends his WBA 147-pound crown against Pablo Cano on Saturday night at the Barclays Center.
Materially, the fight game has been a pocket-filler for the 31-year-old. The Mercedes E350, with his nickname, "Magic Man" stamped on the rear, next to the license plate, spoke to his standing while parked on the street next to Brooklyn Bridge Park, where Malignaggi and most of the other fighters on the Oct. 20 Barclays/Golden Boy card convened Monday for a media gathering.
I asked Malignaggi if the stresses pre-fight were different, and perhaps more draining, because he will be fighting so close to where he grew up. "There is an anxiety," he admitted. "There is a lot of yanking on me. Usually, before a fight, I get into a vegetative state, stay at the hotel, sometimes even train in my room," he said. "This week, I've got to run all over the place. But I am a professional." With the constant texts and tweets and calls, many from folks looking for a free pair of tickets, he admits that he does have to remember to take that extra deep breath every so often, and pose the question to himself, Am I doing too much of this "extra" stuff?
I watched Malignaggi (31-4) as he posed for a pic with a "dirty water" dog, a hot dog from a street vendor. Will he eat the dog, I mused, or hand it off, because he is a few pounds from making weight, and he can't take a chance on that 200-calorie, fat-laden, nitrate- and sodium-filled meat vessel?
"Can someone take this before I eat it?" he said, and handed it off to a fight writer happy to scarf the snack, answering my question. He said he was 153.4 on the scale that AM, comfortably within distance of 147 pounds.
There will be some fruit salad for lunch, and some salmon, and spinach for dinner, Malignaggi said. He can indulge in a few dirty water dogs if and when he gets the W over Cano, a 23-year-old Mexican hitter with a 21-1-1 record.