While former two-time boxing world champion Paulie Malignaggi and Artem Lobov, formerly of the UFC, aren't scheduled to fight just yet, they nearly did Tuesday afternoon at Mendez Boxing in New York, during a media day for Bare Knuckle FC.
As the two got in each other's face, Malignaggi, who after a two-year retirement from boxing will be participating in the BKFC, slapped Lobov, who is scheduled to face Jason Knight this weekend in Biloxi, Mississippi.
"You b----, next time is a harder slap. That was a b---- slap for a b----," said Malignaggi, as the two were separated.
"Don't get in my face and make threats, here, OK?," he continued, while he was being restrained. "I got in your face to promote, don't get in my face to make threats here because I'll f--- you up, here, OK?! Next time I'll smack the s--- out of you for real. I smacked you like a little b---- because that's what you are."
Malignaggi, who last fought in March 2017 and retired with a ring record of 36-8 (seven KOs), only got more animated toward Lobov.
"You disrespect boxing you piece of s---, and all the fighters who have been hurt, talking about f---ing pads on our hands. I'm going to put you through what all their families got put through. You piece of s---, I'm going to f---ing kill you, I'm going to kill you."
Later on, a much more subdued Malignaggi explained to ESPN: "We were there to market stuff, it's fight week. I didn't really plan on anything popping up like that. It really wasn't in the cards. They did want me to show up and promote stuff and we got face-to-face, the usual stuff."
Malignaggi, who works as a color analyst for Showtime, felt Lobov crossed the line with some of his statements.
"It was disrespectful to me and I kind of reacted," said Malignaggi. "I didn't go to his face with the intention of anything happening, I wouldn't want to risk his fight on Saturday. But then some of the things he said it just triggered me and I thought I had to smack him and put him in his place."
There is talk that if Lobov wins on Saturday, he and Malignaggi would meet over the summer.
"He's not really a guy who should be taking tune-ups because he's the type of guy who can lose at any given point. So I don't trust him to actually win the fight, but we'll see how it plays off,'' Malignaggi said.
To put context to this would-be rivalry, Lobov is stablemates with Conor McGregor and released unflattering video of McGregor's sparring sessions with Malignaggi as he trained for his 2017 bout versus Floyd Mayweather. It's something that has irked Malignaggi, who has repeatedly challenged the recently retired McGregor to a real boxing match.
When asked if defeating Lobov could eventually lead to him squaring off with the Irish superstar, Malignaggi said, "It could, I guess, that would be at least the lead-in talk. I honestly don't think Conor will ever go near me. You can lie about a lot of things and you can get beat by people and keep your fan base, but if the fan base knows you lied to them, you'll lose them permanently.
"It's hard for fans to forgive lying to them. If he would fight me, I'd make him a liar because the fight would be so one-sided."
Malignaggi has insisted from the very beginning that the footage of their sparring sessions was carefully selected and edited to favor McGregor.
"So I don't see Conor ever happening. If I could get one of his guys -- because to me, it's not just Conor responsible for that mayhem and that false bravado; to me, it was the whole team -- I'm fine with that."