Paul Malignaggi is getting closer to that point when his gameface is affixed on his visage 24/7. He meets fellow Brooklyn native Zab Judah on Dec. 7 at Barclays Center, in a welterweight tussle dubbed "The Battle of Brooklyn."
But on Thursday evening, Malignaggi (32-5 with 7 KOs), the 32-year-old from Bensonhurst who stands on the short list of improbable two-time titleists, being that he needs to rely hugely on finesse and guile to get his W's, because tender hands leave his power supply on the low side, broke into grins frequently.Adam Pantozzi
Paul Malignaggi with his newest fans.The boxer interacted with young fans, and made a bunch of new ones, as he spoke to 70 kids in the 40/40 Club & Restaurant at Barclays Center in Prospect Heights during the second annual Thanksgiving celebration for Brooklyn students and their parents, guardians and mentors.
The kids chowed on a solid spread, including turkey and copious sides, and ate up Malignaggi's call to let it soak in that they can achieve their desires in life. "You can do what you want, believe me, I'm living proof," he told the kids. "Don't make excuses when those road-bumps come. Get over those humps. You guys can achieve what you want to achieve."
"It was good to get away from the gym," the fighter told me later, "and talk to the kids, with a positive message, where they can see for themselves someone who has excelled." Paulie's message: Be stubborn and keep on hustling even when reality smacks you upside the head.
Malignaggi earned a new hardcore fan in eight-year-old Hannah Hawkins, a fourth grader who attends Cultural Arts Academy in East New York. "He's nice," she told me, and I suspect the pugilist may have overtaken WWE's John Cena as her favorite sports entertainer. Nine-year-old Sydney Godfrey, who attends PS 73 in Brownsville, told me she knows who Malignaggi is because she watches boxing with her dad. She deftly shortstopped my query when I asked her if she'd be rooting for Brownsville's Judah on Dec. 7.
Some of the Brooklynettes strolled around the room, and said hi to the kids, who also seemed to dig the presence of the Brooklyn Nets Super Hero BrooklKnight, and the LIU Brooklyn Blackbird. I joked with Nets communication manager Mandy Gutmann that I'd leave the event super pleased as long as she didn't request that I dress up in a Santa suit...
Everyone grooved on a performance from the song-dance troupe Regime, and then the partygoers, which included reps from the Project Mentor Development Council and the Put Down the Guns Foundation (P.S. 161 chapter), filed into the arena to check out a performance of Disney on Ice.
And indeed, I left happy, seeing the kids, many of whom live in neighborhoods that don't get the coddling that a Park Slope, say, does, getting the royal treatment, and also because nobody asked me to dress up as Santa.